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Longtime Riverhead Town servant recalled for 'tempering justice with mercy'

Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said she will

Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said she will propose the town board rename a street in honor of Allen M. Smith, whom she described as "a pillar of our communtiy." Credit: James Escher

Friends and colleagues of Allen M. Smith said the longtime Riverhead town justice and former town supervisor, who died July 25, loved his community and was passionate about helping those struggling with substance addiction.

Smith died at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore from a brain aneurysm. He was 77.

Lori M. Hulse, a justice at Riverhead Justice Court, said Wednesday that Smith’s death was “a terrible loss for us, the court staff and the Riverhead community.”

Smith was born in Greenport on June 18, 1943, and was a lifelong Riverhead resident. He was appointed in 1974 as Riverhead’s town attorney and was elected town supervisor in 1975, an office he held from 1976 to 1980. He later served as an assistant district attorney in the Suffolk County DA’s office, and opened his own law practice in Riverhead in 1985 before being appointed Riverhead Town Justice in 2000.

Hulse said Smith was a good man who loved working in Riverhead’s East End Regional Intervention Court — a program Smith co-founded that allowed nonviolent, substance-abusing defendants to voluntarily enter a court-supervised program mandating participation in a drug treatment program. Smith would actively check in on participants through their recovery.

“His approach was tempering justice with mercy,” Hulse said. “He was compassionate. He was just a decent, good guy and it’s really going to be very hard to replace his institutional knowledge. He had so much knowledge of the town and its inner workings and knew so many people, and he was held in such high esteem by the legal profession and the community at large.”

Smith was also a volunteer firefighter with the Riverhead Fire Department.

Harold “Bud” Griffiths, 77, of Orient, a childhood friend of Smith’s, said they became fast friends when they were 10 years old.

“Although we only got together a few times each year, I knew he would drop everything he was doing if I needed him and, on a number of occasions, he did just that,” Griffiths said. “I will miss him more tomorrow than today and eventually we will be reunited to continue our friendship.”

Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said Tuesday that she will propose the town board rename Howell Avenue, or any other Riverhead street, as Honorable Allen M. Smith Way or Justice Allen M. Smith Way. Aguiar said Smith “was a pillar of our community.”

Visitation is Thursday at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the Riverhead Fire Department on Roanoke Avenue.

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