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Aug 14, 2008 3:14 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hundreds mourn death of corrections officer

Aug 14, 2008 3:14 PM

In their dress blues, grays and blacks, hundreds of officers and deputies stood in formation and at attention outside the Church of St. Rosalie in Hampton Bays as the funeral procession for a Suffolk County corrections officer approached.

Throughout the sea of uniforms representing police and sheriff’s agencies from across Long Island and beyond, faces revealed the sorrow the men and women felt for their fallen colleague, Andrew P. Reister, and the family he left behind. Mr. Reister, 40, died on August 9, two days after he was choked by an unruly patron at the Southampton Publick House. Mr. Reister was the father of two young children.

His widow, Stacey, delivered the eulogy. She said that even in death, he still gave selflessly to others, one of the traits she pointed out when describing how loved her husband was. Mr. Reister was an organ donor, and one of his organs, a kidney, has already saved a life, she noted.

“When you get home, I want you to get out a Sharpie and sign the back of your license and become an organ donor,” Ms. Reister told the crowd of several hundred mourners who filled St. Rosalie’s to capacity, and those who listened to the funeral mass over speakers in the parking lot.

Mr. Reister’s colleagues with the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, including corrections officers and sheriff’s deputies, attended the funeral in their dress uniforms, complete with white gloves. “He was extremely proud to wear that uniform,” Ms. Reister said as she delivered the eulogy.

Southampton Town Police closed down a stretch on Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays for the funeral procession, which was led by 16 officers on motorcycles.

Uniformed pallbearers marched in the procession, and Suffolk County Police Emerald Society bagpipers and drummers played as the pallbearers carried the coffin, which had been draped with an American flag.

Ms. Reister had previously asked that men who would not be in uniform to wear golf attire rather than dark suits, saying her husband was an avid golfer and that is the way he would have wanted his family members and friends to remember his funeral.

Mr. Reister was a corrections officer at the Suffolk County Jail for 15 years, but the night Publick House patron Anthony Oddone put him in a chokehold until well after he fell unconscious, causing severe brain damage, Mr. Reister was moonlighting as an ID checker for the microbrewery. Mr. Reister had asked Mr. Oddone to stop dancing on a table, and the patron attacked him, police said.

Mr. Oddone was arraigned last week in Southampton Village Justice Court on a charge of assault in the first degree. Because Mr. Reister died as a result of his injuries, Mr. Oddone was indicted on two charges of murder in the second degree Wednesday in the Suffolk County court system after a grand jury indictment was unsealed.

During the eulogy, Ms. Reister noted that even the inmates at the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside, where Mr. Reister worked, are mourning the loss of her husband. They asked if they could donate their commissary money to a trust fund for Mr. Reister’s two children, David, 8, and Mary Grace, 4, and have started sending her sympathy cards, Ms. Reister said.

Referring to the fact that even the inmates mourned the death of Mr. Reister, Monsignor Edmond Trench said, “I should shut up and go home, because that exactly explains the guy he was,” as he reflected on Mr. Reister’s life following the eulogy. Monsignor Trench, who served as the principal celebrant of the funeral mass, is the pastor-emeritus of Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic Church in Southampton, where Mr. Reister grew up.

The monsignor said that mourners might want to think, “‘Isn’t it nice he’s in heaven.’” But Monsignor Trench admitted that on that particular day most people were probably thinking, “We want him back here.” He assured David and Mary Grace, “For the rest of your life, he’s going to be next to you.”

Monsignor Trench said Mr. Reister was a “gentle giant,” and a man of love and honor.

Ms. Reister said her husband loved her and their two children more than life itself. Each summer, he made sure each child individually had a “Daddy Day” with him at Splish Splash water park, she said.

Following the funeral, Mr. Reister was buried at Good Ground Cemetery 
in Hampton Bays in a private ceremony.

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