Jerry Tuthill, one of the owners of Greenport’s historic Claudio’s restaurant, died on Sunday. He was 69.
The Tuthill family settled on the North Fork in the 17th century, and Jerry married into another important local family: His wife, Beatrice, was the great-granddaughter of Manuel Claudio, who in 1870 founded the waterfront restaurant then known as Claudio’s Tavern. The business now includes not only the restaurant, but Claudio’s Marina, Claudio’s Clam Bar and Crabby Jerry’s. Tuthill was a partner along with his wife, her sister Kathy Claudio, brother Bill Claudio Jr. and his wife, Janice.
It was Tuthill, said his brother-in-law, who had the idea to expand the business beyond the original two-story, waterside restaurant. “In 1989,” Claudio recalled, “Jerry had retired from the police department — he was a Suffolk County cop who spent a lot of time undercover and was even loaned out to the D.E.A. [United States Drug Enforcement Administration]. He took me to Paddy McGees on the canal in Island Park. ‘This is what we should do in Greenport, a clam bar’ he said. At that point, my father still owned the restaurant but he was ready to sell. We put together the financing, agreed on a number and bought it.”
The clam bar was such a success that the family opened a casual restaurant to handle some of the people waiting on line, Claudio said. “There was a place we used to go all the time in Florida, Crabby Bill’s in Clearwater. Jerry said, ‘Let’s name it Crabby Jerry’s.’ ”
Tuthill could be crabby, said Claudio, “but most of the time he was all smiles, extremely charming and a big jokester.”
Always enthusiastic about Greenport’s potential as a tourist destination, he was a driving force behind the town’s renaissance in the 1990s. In 1996 he told Newsday “What’s very unique about Greenport is it’s not commercial like the South Fork and the Hamptons. This is more of a family setting on the North Fork.”
The five partners struck a deal in 2013 to sell the business, but the arrangement has yet to be finalized, and this summer it is business as usual at Claudio’s — except for Jerry Tuthill’s absence.
Tuthill is survived by his wife of 42 years, Beatrice, daughters Jackie Tuthill Sarkis and Erika Tuthill Cabral, as well as four grandchildren.
Visitation will be held at Horton-Mathie Funeral Home in Greenport from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, family members said. A funeral Mass will be celebrated Thursday at 10 a.m. at St. Agnes R.C. Church at 523 Front St. in Greenport. The family has suggested that memorial donations be made to the Southold PBA or Suffolk PAL. Envelopes will be available at the funeral home.