New York Daily News columnist Daly (Under Ground, 1995, etc.), a Pulitzer-Prize finalist for his 9/11 coverage, plumbs the life of the beloved former chaplain of the New York City Fire Department.
Born Robert Emmet Judge to Irish immigrants in Brooklyn, N.Y., Judge had always dreamed of becoming a priest. After the death of his father, he and his sisters (one, his twin) were left in the callous care of his stringent, “fierce” mother Mary Ann and the corporally sadistic teachers at the Catholic school. Ever determined, Judge graduated from life as an altar boy to the Franciscan Friars in his mid-teens. Though living within the celibate, all-male environment bolstered his burgeoning homosexual feelings, Judge quickly progressed to an ordainment of priesthood, a name change and assignments at churches in New Jersey. He began enriching the lives of parishioners and commoners alike with his gracious demeanor and gentle approach. His struggles were few but significant: A battle with alcoholism resulted in subsequent recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous, and differences with a few conventional priests caused problems. Known for his all-encompassing “omnisexuality,” Judge found his calling in HIV advocacy with the development of an AIDS ministry and eventually as chaplain for the FDNY, a physically and emotionally draining post. Though an illicit ongoing nonsexual love affair between Judge and a much-younger Filipino nurse spices up the text, Daly’s professional tact never falters. Judge’s life of tireless pastoral work ceased when the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed, ending his life at age 68. He was the first recorded casualty of 9/11. Using letters, journal entries and commentary from friends and family, Daly imbues his deft, comprehensive tribute with compassion and grace.
A worthy tribute to an inexhaustible humanitarian.