When Riverhead Town Supervisor cast his vote jubilantly to approve privatization of the town's animal shelter Tuesday, he did it in memory of Jim Lull.
Lull, who died Sunday at 72 after a long battle with congestive heart failure, left a legacy of giving and dedication in Riverhead.
"He was a wonderful man, a gentle soul," Walter said. Lull, during the eight years he served as a councilman on the Riverhead Town board, was a tireless advocate for animals.
Reflecting on how quickly the privatization deal was struck, after years of discussion, Walter said he couldn't help but think Lull had a hand in the outcome. "Maybe this was Jim at work behind the scenes," he said.
Deeply committed to Riverhead, Lull and his wife Connie were the faces behind the Riverhead Country Fair for 27 years. The couple were integral in setting up the soup kitchen at the where he served as the chairman of the board of deaconry, and Lull was also active in summer theater workshops and the town's summer concert series.
But behind a lifetime of public service was a man deeply cherished by, and devoted to, his family, including his wife Connie and four children, Jim Lull, Cindy Lull Hill, Jason Lull, and Carrie Lull LaCombe, and his grandchildren.
Connie Lull said she and her husband celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Oct. 25. She and her husband, a teacher, met while he attended Colgate University and she was a student at SUNY Cortland.
"Not many people know this story," Connie said. "We met on a blind date, and neither of us wanted to go."
Both Connie, who had been married at 17 and lost her husband in an accident, and Jim, who had lost a fiance to leukemia, were amazed to have found a kindred spirit who had similarly experienced heartbreak so young.
"It gave me chills," Connie said. "Jim told his friend, 'I just met the girl I'm going to marry.' After only one date."
The couple, Connie said, shared a lifetime of love. "I have 50 years of just wonderful memories from this man. I swear, he's the best person, other than Jesus Christ, that ever walked the earth. He was faithful, honest, and kind to everybody. And everyone in his life came first, starting with his family."
As a father, Conniie said Lull would take his children on long walks through the woodlands behind their home, bird watching and teaching them to recognize bird calls. "Even as adults, they say, 'Daddy found my first owl in the woods.'"
Connie, who lived in Riverhead all her life, said she "imported" Lull, who was born in North Wales Pennsylvania and grew up in Cambridge, New York.
"He was my best friend," she said. "Very companionable. He was a smart guy. In our house, if you couldn't figure something out, you asked Dad. He made me feel very secure."
Lull's son Jim Lull, Jr., who took over the reins of the Riverhead Country Fair in recent years with his co-coordinator Patrick Mulcahy, said his father was a "very special person."
Looking back on their life together, shining memories stand out. "The first was him taking me to my first major league baseball game. We saw the Yankees play when I was nine years old. It was a beautiful day and one of my fondest memories."
Another moment forever forged onto his heart, Lull said, took place during the Riverhead Country Fair. "Dad and I went for a ride and he was looking everything over and he turned to me and said, 'It looks really nice.' His very short sentence just validated the whole day for me."
Lull said the outpouring of support after his father's loss from friends and colleagues has been "just incredible." And so many, he said, have taken the time to share memories of his father. "Everyone has a story," he said.
Jason Lull, who lives in Wading River, said he and his sons share a tradition that began when he was a little boy. "We watched 'Jeopardy' together every night as a family," he said. "We used to call him Dictionary Dad. He knew every answer to every question."
His father, Lull said, was a "really dedicated, caring person, who never got mad or flustered. He was just easygoing, nice to everybody. He was a great guy."
Former Riverhead Town Supervisor and current town attorney Robert Kozakiewicz remembered Lull's dedication to the town's animals and quest for a new shelter. "He'll be missed," he said.
Riverhead Town Councilman Jim Wooten said he and Lull were friends for over 30 years. "Jim was a true statesman," he said. "He quietly went about his passion of showing off and promoting what was the best of us as a community. Whether the Country Fair, theater workshops, summer concert series, creation of a soup kitchen -- and his love of the aniimals and the shelter."
Services for Jim Lull will be held on Thursday at the Reginald H. Tuttle Funeral Home in Riverhead. Visitation is from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday. Funeral services will be held at the First Congregational Church of Riverhead on Friday at 11 a.m.