Wherever he went, State Supreme Court Justice William L. Underwood Jr. made friends and got involved in his community.
The lifelong Patchogue resident served in the village fire department, which made him honorary chief. He also served as a commissioner for the Davis Park Fire District on Fire Island, joined the Rotary Patchogue, and served on the advisory board for Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center.
And when he bought a farm in upstate Hillsdale, he also supported that community’s fire department, his son Paul Underwood said.
“It was his thing,” Underwood, 62, of Patchogue, told Newsday. “What I learned the most from him was the ability to talk to anyone, to be kind and nice to anyone. [and show] good manners. He was a dignified and honorable guy and he always acted with great humility.
William L. Underwood Jr., who served for more than three decades on the state Supreme Court before retiring in 2004, died Tuesday at Long Island Community Hospital in East Patchogue. He was 94 years old.
His son said Underwood died of double pneumonia and heart disease.
The elder Underwood earned his law degree in 1950 from Brooklyn Law School and was called to the New York bar in 1952.
During his long legal career, he served as an attorney in the Office of the Navy Judge Advocate General in Annapolis, Maryland, Patchogue Justice of the Peace, Suffolk County District Court Judge, and Board of Supervisors attorney. of Suffolk County, precursor to the County Legislature. He was elected to the state bench in 1972 and re-elected 14 years later.
When not on the bench, Underwood sailed his sailboat Narrasketuck out of the Wet Pants Sailing Association in Sayville, ice skated in Patchogue and went skiing and snowmobiling upstate. .
Legal colleagues have sung Underwood’s praises — as a lawyer and as a person.
“He was like a second father,” acting state Supreme Court Justice James Hudson, who served as clerk under Underwood, told Newsday. “He [had] all the qualities that went into making not just a great lawyer, but a great man,” Underwood added, “guided me to be a better lawyer and a better judge. I wouldn’t have the dresses right now if not for Judge Underwood.
Patchogue Village Solicitor Brian Egan, another former Underwood employee, said his former boss “taught me to be humble, proud of where you lived and owe your neighbors get involved in your community”.
Besides his son Paul, Underwood is survived by his wife of 62 years, Barbara Hattemer Underwood, of Patchogue; one sister, Carole Underwood Kennelly, of Bayport; two other sons, Philipp, also of Bayport and David, of Patchogue; one daughter, Barbara Russo, of Bellport, and 10 grandchildren.
Visiting hours will be Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. at the Robertaccio Funeral Home in Patchogue. The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at Patchogue Congregational Church, where Underwood worshiped and held leadership positions, his family said. His body will be cremated and interred at Cedar Grove Cemetery in Patchogue.