Friend of LI TRIO-Longtime Nassau County Legislator, Activist Judy Jacobs Passed Away
Nassau County Legislator and Long Island TRIO guest speaker Judy Jacobs was a great friend of our chapter and she is sorely missed. Our condolences go out to all of her family at this time.
Judy Jacobs’ brother in law received kidney and liver transplants and Judy Jacobs was dedicated to helping to save as many lives as possible by leading many efforts and fights against health issues and challenges such as breast cancer, heart disease, and Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
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.- Robert Brodsky- Newsday
Judith Jacobs, a longtime activist and political force in Nassau County, has died at the age of 77.
As WCBS 880 Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs reported, Democratic officials said Jacobs died Tuesday night after falling and hitting her head at her home in Woodbury.
Her family said she had been feeling weak from anemia, and was recently diagnosed with a bone marrow disorder and a form of cancer.
Nassau County Legislature Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams said the lives of all Nassau County residents are better because of Jacobs.
“At times she’s a community activist, at a times she was legislator to the presiding officer,” Abrahams said. “People grew up with her. People have gotten better lives because of her policies that she’s implemented.”
A former schoolteacher, the 11-term Democrat is probably best known for her commitment to children, education and families, Abrahams said. He said Jacobs leaves a huge void.
“I don’t know how you fill those shoes,” Abrahams said. “This legislator is going to be very tough.”
“She did not tolerate the besmirching of anyone,” said Legis. Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), who served with Jacobs since 1998 and is now presiding officer.
Mangano said Jacobs guided the legislature “with distinction and honor” when she served as its presiding officer.
Mangano in his statement cited her “passion to make Nassau County a wonderful place to live” and her ability to fight hard “for the issues she believed in.”
She had been diagnosed in May with myelodysplastic syndrome, a bone marrow disorder and form of cancer, said her daughter Linda Jacobs-Geller of Woodbury.
The legislator, weakened by anemia, fell and hit her head at about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at her Woodbury home.
“She kept it very secret because she wanted to continue being the crazy working lady that she is,” her daughter said about the disease. “She was mostly dealing with anemia but recently her platelets were at a very low level. When you have no platelets, you just have a very horrible bleed. There was no way to do surgery. There was nothing you could do.”
Typically reluctant to make a fuss, Jacobs had refused to call 911 but was taken by family to Syosset Hospital, where an infusion of platelets was futile, her daughter said.
Jacobs was transported to North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, where she died at 9:30 p.m., not long after she and her other daughter, Jackie Herschander of East Setauket, sang “You Are My Sunshine” to each other, Jacobs-Geller said.
Ginger Lieberman, a friend of Jacobs for 40 years, called her honest and dedicated.
“Judy embodied what every politician should be,” Lieberman said. “She never put herself first. It was always, ‘I need to be someplace.’ ”
Chris Wright, a member of the Nassau County Interim Finance Authority, the county’s fiscal watchdog, called Jacobs his best friend in government and one of the nicest people he knew.
“She was a tireless public servant who always led with ‘is this the right thing to do?’ and she made a tremendous and positive impact on everyone on whose behalf she worked,” Wright said.
Another family friend, Sherry Gutes, said she was stunned by Jacobs’ death.
“I knew her as a grandma and a loving mom,” Gutes said. “Sweet and humble and completely dedicated to her community.”
W. Hubert Keen, president of Nassau Community College, called Jacobs a fierce advocate for his school.
“She was a kind and courageous woman and she will be sorely missed, nowhere more than on this campus,” Keen said.
Jacobs, a former teacher in the Elmont school district, was elected to the legislature in 1996. She quickly took a leadership role on several issues facing the legislature and became its presiding officer in 2000 after Democrats won the majority.
She served as legislative leader through 2008.
Before her election to the legislature, Jacobs had already established herself as a civic leader and community activist in Oyster Bay. She belonged to several community organizations, according to the Nassau County Legislature’s website.
With David M. Schwartz, Candice Ferrette and Robert Brodsky and Paul LaRoccoy
More from Newsday:
Judy Jacobs was calm in the midst of conflict, pols say
On the dais of the Nassau County Legislature, where political spats often devolve into a chaotic crosstalk of insults, Judy Jacobs stood out.
The onetime presiding officer — a Woodbury Democrat who served continuously on the legislature from its first day in 1996 to her death Tuesday, at age 77 — was an even-tempered, almost-nurturing presence: “Grandma Ju Ju” to friends and colleagues.
“She was not a pushover in any way, shape or form, but she conducted herself in a very, very calm manner,” said Bruce Blakeman, a Republican who served as the legislature’s first presiding officer, from 1996 to 1999, working with Jacobs when she was minority leader. “She wasn’t the type to be nasty or vitriolic.”
That assessment was repeated Wednesday by a bipartisan cast of current and former legislators, county executives and political party leaders. They remembered Jacobs as a steady presence who helped bring the county back from the brink of fiscal insolvency in the early 2000s and later championed strict anti-smoking laws.
“She was that mother-earth figure that everybody gravitated to,” said State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, a longtime friend who was the Nassau Democratic leader in 1999 when the party won the legislative majority in an upset and chose Jacobs as presiding officer — a post she held through 2007.
DiNapoli recalled watching election results that year at Papa Razzi restaurant in Westbury, and turning to Jacobs and an aide.
“We looked at each other in one of those ‘Uh-oh’ moments: what do we do now?” DiNapoli recalled. “But one thing we knew for sure is that Judy would be our next presiding officer … she was someone from the grass roots, not from the smoke-filled room in the back.
“We knew she had that ability to work across party lines, and wouldn’t be viewed as a party hack,” DiNapoli said.
Raised in Queens, Jacobs met her husband, Sidney, in the late 1950s. The couple was introduced by their parents, who played cards together. Judy Jacobs graduated from Hunter College in Manhattan in 1960 and was a teacher in Elmont before working at her family’s real estate management company.
The seeds of her political career were planted in 1967, when she and her husband moved to Woodbury. The hamlet was beginning its transformation from a home for cabbage fields to a center for residential and commercial development.
Jacobs, who raised three children, became a civic leader. She advocated for local taxpayers and the environment, taking part in a successful fight against expansion of an area landfill.
Jacobs ran unsuccessfully for Oyster Bay Town Board in 1977 and 1993. She also served as town Democratic leader, and in 1995 ran for a seat on the new 19-member county legislature, which had replaced the board of supervisors.
“It was an experiment that we had to turn into a reality,” said Thomas Gulotta, the Republican county executive from 1987 to 2001.
“There were so many questions that needed to be answered,” Gulotta recalled, and he and Jacobs “developed a very close bond to make it a reality for citizens.”
Gulotta called Jacobs “a person of the highest integrity; her word was her bond.”
When Jacobs became presiding officer in 2000, Nassau was in a budget crisis, with its credit rating downgraded to a step above junk status.
Jacobs pushed for state legislation that created a financial oversight board, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, which delivered $100 million in state aid to balance the county budget.
Jacobs also supported a referendum that authorized the legislature to approve the most-lucrative “personal services” contracts issued by the county executive.
“She was the most consistently responsible voice, Democrat or Republican, for fiscal responsibility, and it was done without bluster and in a very congenial way,” said Thomas Suozzi, the Democratic county executive from 2002 to 2009.
While Suozzi and Jacobs sometimes clashed — and the Democratic majority fractured in Jacobs’ last years as leader over issues including re-appointment of an independent budget office director — she remained easy to work with, Suozzi said.
“She definitely had a viewpoint and political perspective, but unlike the contemporary world, where everything is personal and petty, she never slipped into that,” Suozzi said.
As a legislator, Jacobs helped make Nassau in 2002 the state’s first county to ban smoking in all bars and restaurants, and, in 2006, raise the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 19. In recent years, she tried but failed to get the county to join Suffolk and New York City in raising the age again, to 21.
She often talked about how the issue was personal: her husband, Sidney, a smoker, died of lung cancer in 2004.
County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican who took office in 2010, served with Jacobs on the legislature from 1996 to 2009. Mangano said that while Jacobs was tackling big issues such as tobacco usage, she also was deeply involved in constituent requests to secure new stop signs and traffic signals.
“No issue was too small for Judy Jacobs to advocate for a solution,” said Mangano.
Jacobs is survived by daughters, Jackie Herschander of East Setauket and Linda Jacobs-Geller of Woodbury; a son, Lenny Jacobs, of Commack, and grandchildren.
A funeral service will be held Friday at 1 p.m. at Gutterman’s Funeral home, 8000 Jericho Turnpike., Woodbury.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Jacobs’ name to Variety Learning Center, Syosset.
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