Port Jefferson Village Justice Peter J. Graham, who took the bench in 1983 and was the longest-serving judge in the village's 52-year history, has died.
Graham, who had won a new four-year term in June, died Tuesday from cancer at Stony Brook University Hospital. He was 85.
Village Court was canceled Tuesday night because of Graham's death.
Mayor Margot J. Garant called Graham "the backbone of our criminal justice system." Village officials nicknamed him "Columbo" because of quirky mannerisms reminiscent of the television detective played by Peter Falk, she said.
"He took his work extremely seriously, but he never took himself seriously," Garant said. She said Graham had learned Spanish to better serve the village's Hispanic community.
"I don't think anybody is going to be able to fill his shoes," she said.
Garant said she plans to appoint a judge to replace Graham, one of the village's two judges. Graham's successor will serve through June, and a special election to complete his term will be held next spring.
Graham was born in Brooklyn on July 4, 1930, and graduated from St. Francis College in Brooklyn and St. John's University Law School in Queens.
He had considered becoming a priest, but dropped out of a Franciscan seminary. "My mother used to say he couldn't take the silence," said his daughter, Mary Jane Graham, of Annapolis, Maryland.
After law school, Graham served as an Army private from 1955 to 1957.
He was a private practice attorney for 59 years and lived in Port Jefferson for about as many years, said Mary Ellen Mulligan of Port Jefferson, who said she was Graham's "loving partner" for many years. Graham was separated from his wife Phyllis, of Port Jefferson, his family said.
"He was a fighter," Mulligan said. "He loved life. He loved the village. He loved the law."
In addition to Mulligan, his daughter and his wife, Graham is survived by three sons, Peter Graham Jr. of Irving, Texas, Paul Graham of Westborough, Massachusetts, and Christopher Graham of Annapolis, Maryland; a sister, Maureen Graham of New York City; a brother, Robert Graham of Tampa, Florida; and six grandchildren. Graham also is survived by Mulligan's children, Kim Sloane and Patrick Mulligan, and Mulligan's four grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 6 p.m. Friday at Bryant Funeral Home in East Setauket. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 9 a.m. Saturday at Infant Jesus Roman Catholic Church in Port Jefferson. Burial plans were incomplete.