Official Obituary of

Harry M. Kresky

September 7, 1944 ~ March 11, 2024 (age 79) 79 Years Old

Harry Kresky Obituary

Shushan - Harry Kresky died at home of esophageal cancer on March 11th at age 79 in Shushan, NY, where he lived with his wife Cathy Stewart, a fellow activist and photographer, and their two close friends and colleagues, Gail Peck and Nancy Ross. Kresky was a renowned election law and civil rights attorney, a singular champion of independent political power, a Battenkill fisherman, and a poet.

Kresky grew up in Rockville Centre, New York, the son of Beatrice and Philip Kresky, both physicians. He received his undergraduate degree and JD from Columbia Law School in 1971, where he  graduated in the top ten of his class and served as an editor of the Columbia Law Review. A dedicated and outspoken activist in the 1960’s civil rights and antiwar movements, he went on to become a sought-after attorney who took on cutting edge cases, fighting for the rights of the poor and dispossessed, for prisoners, for independent voters, candidates, and third parties excluded from full participation in the democratic process, and for community groups protecting their neighborhood parks, churches, and other institutions from over-development schemes. Among his most famous cases was his role as co-counsel with William Kunstler representing Salvador Agron, known as the Capeman, who absconded from a prison release program in 1977. The case raised significant concerns about mental health mistreatment in the prison system, and the Agron acquittal made national headlines. In 2007, Kresky was the architect of the successful legal team which included lawyers from Holland and Knight that represented a community coalition that won the fight to preserve the historic St. Brigid's Church on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

As the independent political movement grew, Kresky’s role on the leading edge of political reform grew as well. He was appointed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2002 to the New York City Charter Revision Commission to shift the City’s governance to a nonpartisan system. The effort failed, but Kresky’s role in the quest for full voting rights for independent voters would continue in numerous states around the country. He was chief counsel in a landmark case in South Carolina where an attempt by the SC Republican Party to close the state’s open primaries was defeated. Kresky was the Chair of the Election Law Committee of the New York County Lawyers Association from 2008-2011, and a longstanding member of the Coalition on Free and Open Elections (COFOE). In 1999 and 2000, he served as a member of the National Reform Party’s Presidential Nominations Committee.

Over the years, Kresky served as a trusted advisor to and close colleague of Dr. Fred Newman, the postmodern public philosopher and key architect of the independent political movement, and Jacqueline Salit, President of Independent Voting, where Kresky served as General Counsel. Kresky’s political savvy, contrarian instincts and understanding of complex and novel legal questions made him a singular figure in the tumultuous world of insurgent politics.

For decades, Kresky enjoyed a powerful partnership with Dr. Lenora Fulani, the African American developmental psychologist and co-founder of the All Stars Project, who ran a historic presidential campaign as an independent in 1988 and again in 1992. Working closely with community leaders, like-minded attorneys and grassroots activists, they challenged numerous episodes of police brutality, racial violence, and bias against the poor communities. Together they supported independent candidates, efforts to preserve and upgrade public housing, and reform campaigns for a more inclusive democracy. They regularly defended Black leaders under political attack, both in court and in the public square.

Kresky represented and advocated for a variety of insurgent and independent candidates, including Ralph Nader, Jill Stein, John Hagelin and former NYC Councilman James Davis. Kresky wrote extensively on the issues affecting independent voters and candidates, including his 2019 Touro Law Review article, “Let All Voters Vote: Independents and the Expansion of Voting Rights in the United States,” which he co-authored with attorneys Michael Hardy and Jeremy Gruber.

Though a longtime New York City resident, in 2021 Kresky moved permanently to Shushan, NY where he, his wife and friends had a vacation home since 2015. He took to rural life and fell in love with fly fishing in the beautiful Battenkill River. Inspired by his surroundings, he nurtured his love of poetry through his blog, Poems for Friends. Harry joined a local writers’ group, which became an important part of his everyday life. In 2023, he published a poetry collection,  A Poet's Journey: Life, Love, and the River, in which he documented his struggles with cancer while ruminating on the state of the world, the joys of fishing, and his love for his beloved wife, family and friends.

Harry leaves behind his wife and life partner of 35 years, Cathy Stewart; his sister, Caroline Kresky; his dear friends and housemates, Gail Peck and Nancy Ross; his brothers-in-law, Eric Stewart and his wife Kate Weld; Matthew Stewart and his wife Edith Barnatchez; his sister-in-law Tammy Stewart; and his nieces and nephews: Jeremy Miville, his wife Renee Miville and their children, Riley and Brynn Miville; Courtney Miville Cantillano and her husband, Saul Cantillano; Corey Stewart and his husband Nick Horrocks; Shylee Elizabeth Stewart; Kimberly Ann Hauge, her husband Joshua Hauge, and their son Byrnjar Hauge; and Luther Stewart. He is also survived by his first wife, Carolyn Kresky, who remained a lifelong friend. He is predeceased by his beloved niece, Deborah L. Bernstein, and his brother-in-law, Gary S. Miville.

Harry’s passing has deeply saddened the many, many friends, family and colleagues whose lives he touched with his own. In lieu of flowers, contributions in his memory may be made to The Georgi on the Battenkill (thegeorgi.com), the All Stars Project (allstars.org), or a charity of your choice. A celebration of life will be held on Saturday, April 13th from 1-4 pm in the Community Room at the Georgi in Shushan.

(An earlier version of this obituary contained an error. Harry Kresky was not first in his class at Columbia Law School, he was sixth.)

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The McClellan-Gariepy Funeral Home, Inc. in Salem is assisting the family.

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Celebration of Life
April 13, 2024

1:00 PM to 4:00 PM
The Georgi
28 Adam Lane
Shushan, NY 12873


The Georgi on the Battenkill
Web: http://www.thegeorgi.com

All Stars Project
Web: http://www.allstars.org


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