Jerry Tuthill, a co-owner of Claudio’s restaurant, the waterfront’s popular clam bar and Crabby Jerry’s in Greenport, died Saturday night, family members confirmed. He was 69.
Mr. Tuthill, after whom Crabby Jerry’s was named, came up with the idea for the Claudio’s clam bar and marina and helped oversee its success.
“Before the clam bar, there was just a set of docks out there and an empty building,” said co-owner and brother-in-law Bill Claudio. “There were five of us involved, but Jerry was the guy behind it, who kept pushing.”
“He’ll be missed greatly,” added sister-in-law and fellow co-owner Kathy Claudio-Wyse.
Mr. Tuthill was born and raised in Greenport and married his high school sweetheart, Beatrice Claudio, more than 40 years ago. He was a Suffolk County cop and helped work undercover on drug investigations in the 1980s, said Mr. Claudio.
After retiring from the force, Mr. Tuthill joined up with the other Claudios to buy the famed Claudio’s restaurant from the patriarch of the family, Bill Claudio Sr., in 1989. By the time the property was bought, Mr. Tuthill already had a vision for a bayside bar, Mr. Claudio said.
Within three months, the clam bar was nearly complete, he said.
“He was just very tough on himself and other people to get the job done,” Mr. Claudio said. “But he had a vision and the vision worked out.” The clam bar became packed with customers and tourists, so much so that the owners opened up Crabby Jerry’s nearby to handle the overflow, he said.
“The rest, as they say, is history,” Mr. Claudio said. The clam bar has grown to become one of Long Island’s best known seafood destinations.
“Before, Greenport was a sleeping jewel,” Mr. Tuthill said at a 25th anniversary celebration for the clam shack in 2013. “People only knew about the Hamptons, Sag Harbor and Montauk. I thought we had the same attractions to offer here. Greenport grew because of the Clam Bar. It gave the North Fork a destination.”
In addition to being a tireless worker and “gruff when he needed to be,” Mr. Tuthill was beloved for his quick wit and outgoing attitude, Mr. Claudio said.
“You’d find him a very, very charming individual,” he said. “You could find him down at the clam bar at the bar smiling with people. He was really congenial. He really loved what he was doing.”
Mr. Claudio said his brother-in-law had not been feeling well as of late, but family members were stunned that he had passed sometime Saturday night in his sleep.
“This was absolutely not expected this quickly,” he said. “He had a few years to go yet.”
Mr. Tuthill is survived by his wife of 42 years, Beatrice, daughters Jackie Tuthill Sarkis and Erika Tuthill Cabral, as well as four grandchildren.
Visitation will be held at Horton-Mathie Funeral Home in Greenport from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, family members said. A funeral mass will take place Thursday at 10 a.m. at St. Agnes R.C. Church on Front Street.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Southold Police Benevolent Association or the Suffolk County Police Athletic League.
Photo credit: Tuthill family, courtesy