Long after the crowds went home every two years on election night, Judith Jacobs would drive around her district, personally placing thank-you stickers on her political signs, even as night slowly turned into morning.
The gesture, friends recalled Friday, was typical Judith Jacobs, always thinking about others before herself.
Jacobs, 77, an 11-term Democratic Nassau legislator who died Tuesday, was memorialized at a funeral service in Woodbury Friday as both the matriarch of closely knit family and of a politically fractured and fiscally distraught county.
“She was a natural political leader because she was a real and genuine person,” said State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, a longtime friend and colleague.
Jacobs was diagnosed in May with myelodysplastic syndrome, a bone marrow disorder and form of cancer. Weakened by anemia, she fell and hit her head Tuesday morning and died at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, where she worked as the director of community affairs.
A standing-room-only crowd of mourners, estimated by some observers at roughly 1,000, attended the service, pouring out the door of Gutterman’s Funeral Home and onto the sidewalk along Jericho Turnpike. Four Long Island county executives past and present attended the service, as did state and county lawmakers, judges, lawyers and civic leaders.
They told stories of Jacobs’ political prowess as the legislature’s presiding officer, helping win more than $100 million from the state to save a nearly bankrupt county at the turn of the century. Others recalled the time Jacobs pushed her daughter’s baby carriage onto Woodbury Road to block a construction project opposed by many in the community.
The remembrances of the woman fondly known as “grandma Ju-Ju” were often intimate and personal.
Family members recalled food fights on the holidays and practical jokes played on each other during long car rides from New York to Florida. They remembered an infectious laugh that would light up a room and a singing voice that would make others grimace. And they recalled the heartbreak when Jacobs lost her husband, Sidney, to lung cancer in 2004.
Linda Jacobs-Geller of Woodbury said her mother would always try to make her laugh, even as the pain from her disease quietly took its toll on her aching body. “She always put everyone else first,” Jacobs-Geller said.
“She made us all feel so special,” added Jacobs’ oldest granddaughter, Amy.
Democratic Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams of Freeport recalled how Jacobs would fight for the needs of her district, winning over skeptics with kindness, persistence and reason. “She was what every legislator should aspire to become,” Abrahams said.
The affection was bipartisan. At a Nassau Republican leaders meeting Thursday, county GOP Chairman Joseph Mondello called for a moment of silence for Jacobs, calling her “an outstanding public servant and just a very good person.”
Longtime friend and campaign treasurer Chris Wright, now a member of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the county’s fiscal control board, said Jacobs set an example that all elected officials should follow.
“There was never any daylight,” Wright said, “between the right thing to do and what she would do.”
With Celeste Hadrick