Montgomery judge dies in 1-car crash; funeral arrangements set

David Roepe in this undated photo.

David Roepe in this undated photo. (Credit: News12)

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Funeral arrangements have been set for a longtime Montgomery Village justice who was killed in a car crash Monday afternoon.

Visiting hours for David G. Roepe, a former New City resident and a 1953 graduate of Congers High School, will be held 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Friday at Overhiser Funeral Home in Montgomery, according to the funeral home's website. The funeral will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church in Montgomery.

Roepe, 76, was driving on Route 208 near Coleman Road about 3:50 p.m. on Monday, when his car went off the road and slammed into a tree head-on, Town of Montgomery police said.

He was brought by Town of Montgomery Volunteer Ambulance to St. Luke's Cornwall Hospital in Newburgh, where he was pronounced dead.

A medical condition might have contributed to the crash, police said, adding that the accident remains under investigation. There were no other vehicles involved.

Roepe was born in Brooklyn and raised in New City. He graduated from St. Lawrence University and earned his law degree at Brooklyn Law School in 1962. He worked as an attorney in Rockland and Orange counties for 50 years, also serving since February 1972 as a part-time justice in Montgomery Village Court.

Roepe was "an excellent person to work with," said Montgomery Village Court Clerk Barbara Conroy, who was his colleague for 18 years. "He was 'The People's Judge.' He was always for the community and the people."

Two of his sons remembered a man with a love for justice, government, ethics -- and Janis Joplin music.

Paul Roepe, a science professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., remembered his father as a reserved man who "didn't wear his emotions on his sleeve," so he was surprised one day when he was 9 or 10 years old to find his dad blaring an 8-track tape of Joplin, who had recently died, singing "Me and Bobby McGee."

"He loved that song," Paul Roepe said. "He was singing it at the top of his lungs ... and he wasn't a very good singer," he joked. "A heck of a whistler but not much of a singer. I was just pleased to see him show his joyful side like that."

Paul Roepe said he is involved in malaria research at Georgetown. "To do that, you've got to have ethics and perseverance, and I learned that from my dad.

Andrew Roepe, a Montgomery village trustee, told Newsday the family is "very devastated and shocked" but is "holding up as well as can be expected under the circumstances." He thanked the village government and the community "for their outpouring of support."

Andrew Roepe said love of politics and government runs in the family.

"His father, Edward Roepe, was an attorney in New City who was very involved in politics," Andrew Roepe said. "He took that as an inspiration and became an attorney himself. ... He inspired me to run for village trustee."

Andrew Roepe recalled a father who always had time for his children. "Anytime the kids called and needed something, we were never put on hold. He would stop what he was doing at the drop of a hat to help us, and it wasn't just us, he was like that with the community as well."

He remembered sitting in his father's office as the two tested each other's professional knowledge. "We'd quiz each other on the Constitution or local zoning law or whatever," Roepe said. "Just a playful back and forth between father and son."

Roepe's career suffered one setback in 2001, when he was censured by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct after he was charged with threatening his wife during a domestic dispute, according to commission documents. The charge was later dismissed.

In determining Roepe should keep his judicial post, the panel said it believed the incident was isolated, that he was "cooperative and candid" during the investigation and "appears to be a non-violent, peaceful and decent person."

Roepe is survived by his wife of 54 years, Hazel Ann, seven sons, two daughters, a brother, a sister and 12 grandchildren.

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