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Oct 7, 2008 3:15 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Inmates paint mural for fallen corrections officer

Oct 7, 2008 3:15 PM

The family and friends of the late Andrew Reister say that Mr. Reister left a part of himself with everyone he met.

According to those who knew him, Mr. Reister of Hamptons Bays brought his kindness and concern for others wherever he went, including to work at the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside, where he was a corrections officer. Though Mr. Reister died at 40 years of age on August 9, two days after an altercation with a patron at the Southampton Publick House left him in a coma, he will still have a presence at the jail.

Mr. Reister’s colleagues arranged for two inmates to paint a mural in his memory at the chapel inside the jail’s rehabilitation unit, where Mr. Reister worked. On September 30, the jail unveiled the mural to Stacey Reister, his widow, and she said she was floored by it.

Ms. Reister said when she was told there was a surprise for her at the jail, she was expecting to receive her late husband’s badge mounted on a plaque. The mural came as a complete surprise.

“I walked into the chapel and I lost it. I completely lost it,” Ms. Reister recalled during an interview on Sunday.

The portrait of her husband captured him perfectly, she said.

Behind the portrait of a beaming Mr. Reister are the gates of heaven and an angel carrying him up the stairs. Doves are flying in the sky near an image of Mr. Reister’s corrections officer badge, No. 780, and a passage from a Mary Elizabeth Frye poem: “Of quiet birds in circled flight, I am the soft stars that shine at night. Do not stand at my grave and cry. I am not there: I did not die.”

Inmates Thomas Green and Gregory Roosa painted the mural over the course of two weeks in September, said Lieutenant Darlene McClurkin, Mr. Reister’s commanding officer in the rehabilitation unit. Ms. McClurkin said the inmates are both talented artists who wanted to use their skills to honor Mr. Reister’s memory.

Mr. Green sketched Mr. Reister based on a photograph in the newspaper and Mr. Roosa wanted to paint Mr. Reister on canvas, Ms. McClurkin said. Instead, she got the two together to make something bigger and more permanent.

“After Andy died, we all wanted Andy to still be a part of this unit,” Ms. McClurkin said. “So I asked the warden, ‘Could I have inmates paint a mural of Andy on the wall?’”

The lieutenant said permission for the mural, the only one in the correctional facility, came quickly.

At the unveiling, Ms. Reister was also presented with a $1,155 check. About 80 inmates had donated their meager commissary money to support Ms. Reister and the couple’s children, David, 8, and Mary Grace, 4.

“That just goes to show you, even though somebody screwed up in this world and they end up in jail, they still have a heart,” said James Reister, Mr. Reister’s younger brother.

He said the mural and the donations are a sign of respect from the inmates for someone who made them happy and treated them with respect, even though it was his job to keep them in line.

“The inmates of the jail take this as a crime against them, almost,” said Christopher Dean, Mr. Reister’s brother-in-law and a sergeant at the jail. “They lost someone they know who they see every day and talk to every day.”

Anthony Oddone, the 25-year-old Farmingville man accused of choking Mr. Reister to death, is in jail at Rikers Island in New York City awaiting trial, rather than in the Suffolk County Correctional Facility among Mr. Reister’s colleagues and the inmates he supervised.

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