Howard Meinke devoted the last day of his life to protecting and nurturing the North Fork, where he spent summers fishing, crabbing and swimming.
The 86-year-old Laurel man ambled into Southold Town Hall on Thursday afternoon to inquire about potential environmental effects from a planned Cutchogue condominium project, officials said.
That night, he was fatally struck by a car as he walked with the aid of a cane in a dimly lit crosswalk outside the Soundview Restaurant on Route 48 in Greenport. He was with his wife, Margaret, 84, who wasn't injured.
The couple had just attended a fundraiser for the Eastern Long Island Hospital Auxiliary.
Yesterday, relatives, public officials and environmental advocates hailed Meinke's passion for the North Fork, where he spent weekends as a child in a home his father built in Nassau Point.
"His love for the environment was fostered through living in it," said one of his two daughters, Nancy Morrell, 55, of Bethany, Connecticut.
The Meinkes were married for 62 years. Also in the family are a son, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Howard Meinke worked briefly as a shipbuilder before starting a decades-long career as a contractor who built homes.
On the last day of school, the couple would take their children from their Trumbull, Connecticut, home to Long Island for their annual summer excursions on Peconic Bay.
Meinke was a fixture at Southold Town Hall, always armed with questions, officials said. He also was a past president of the North Fork Environmental Council.
"He shuffled his steps along the way, but when he got up to speak his voice was loud and strong and emotional about what he loved," said council president Bill Toedter.
The fatal accident has renewed calls for improved safety at the Route 48 crossing. At least two other pedestrians have been killed there in the past decade, according to Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley.
Flatley said the driver, Eric Melrose, 41, of Greenport, told investigators Thursday he saw Meinke's wife but did not see Meinke before the 7:45 p.m. collision. Melrose, who remained at the scene, wasn't charged.
"It's very dark; it's a difficult spot," the chief said.
Suffolk Legis. Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) said there are plans to reconfigure the road at the site.
"We need to bring a solution there sooner rather than later," Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said.
Russell said he met with Meinke for a half-hour at Town Hall Thursday to discuss the condo project.
He saw, Russell said, "how communities evolve for better and worse, and made sure Southold was evolving for the better."