Why Van Ingen Drive?

While out playing Pokemon Go, heading to Ridge Park or maybe the library, you may have noticed a small metallic green street sign along Hard Road directing drivers to “Van Ingen Drive”.

Those too young to remember, might ask “Who is this Van Ingen?”

The street is named for Judge Jack Van Ingen who was Webster’s Town Justice for many years. In fact, the court building the road leads to is also named in his honor. You could say the street name also honors Van Ingen’s wife Virginia, as she was at his side during the many weddings he officiated.

Below are two short Associated Press (AP) stories involving Judge Van Ingen that were published in numerous newspapers across the country. The first from 1959, the second from 1961.

No Room for Love on Rt. 104

ROCHESTER (AP) – “There’s no room for love on Route 104.”

That’s what Peace Justice Jack Van Ingen of suburban Webster told motorist John Francis Payment, 18 after Payment’s arrest for driving while his girl friend was sitting on his lap. State Trooper Ralph Wulff charged that Payment and the girl each had a hand on the wheel.

Payment was specifically charged with allowing a passenger to interfere with his control of the vehicle. He was fined $10.

Safety Lesson

WEBSTER, NY (AP) – After Webster Peace Justice Jack Van Ingen sentenced 21 speeders he invited them to watch a demonstration of the distances needed to stop while traveling at various speeds. Oscar, a sawdust-filled dummy was thrown onto a road in front of a car driven by an officer. At 60 mph, it took 253 feet to stop the car.

Patty Orsini’s 1982 article from the Webster Herald tells the Van Ingen story well.

A 1936 Webster High School Yearbook photo of Jack Van Ingen

Webster’s marryin’ judge”

By Patty Orsini
Webster Herald, Wednesday April 7, 1982

Perhaps best known for his prolific work in performing civil marriage ceremonies, Webster Town Justice Jack Van Ingen has done more in his 25 years of service to Webster than uniting thousands of couples.

The ceremonies, however, are just as important as the court aspects I of his elected position. His civil ceremonies are a great source of pride to the 63 year-old judge; and the subject of his best stories.

“Grooms faint more than brides,” says Van Ingen, who, as town justice, performs the majority of the ceremonies in his own home, although He has been known to go from boats to vans to make the weddings the most remembered day of the couples’ lives.

“I had one groom faint three times. I keep smelling salts right here,” he says, pointing to his breast pocket, I finally had to take him out to the porch for air and married him there.”

Van Ingen is being honored this week by his fellow Websterites as the longest serving Democratic official in the county.

He is not a lawyer, but he has had an interest in the law since his work with black ministers for ‘the improvement of conditions of the migrant camps around Rochester in the 1950’s.

Success in his work with the camps led to work with the motor vehicle traffic and safety laws. He was one of the first town justices to speak out for uniform traffic laws between the states.

“It was very different in the early 60’s,” he recalls. “The laws were completely different from state to state, and very confusing for drivers.” His campaign was highlighted by an invitation by then President Dwight Eisenhower to speak at a convention in Florida concerning traffic laws.

He began town service in 1955 as a member of the Planning Board, then in 1957 was elected to the town board and, as it was called then, Justice of the Peace (the title was changed in 1967 to Town Justice).

Throughout his years as town‘ justice he was employed at Kodak, as a development scientist. His work there included developing products for which he holds numerous patents, most recently in the
field of ultrasonic energy. In fact, his 25 years as town justice coincides with his retirement after 45 years with Kodak.

I left February 12 to take six weeks of vacation time, and decided not to go back,” he says, laughing: “It’s the best decision I could have made, both mentally and physically.

“I think I was suffering from burnout,” he admits. “Now, I’m as busy as I ever was, but l’m doing things I want to” do.”

One thing he will be doing is performing more weddings. “It’s never the same thing twice, “that’s Why I enjoy it so much,” he says. He credits his wife, Virginia, for handling the creative aspects of the ceremonies.

She is never far behind when be performs a ceremony — taping the service, greeting the guests, making sure everything is the way the couple wants it.

She is also the reference he refers to most often when he needs to know a name, date, or place. “Ginny wasn’t that…” or Ginny, how many…” is a common response when talking to Van Ingen.

Van Ingen also has some ideas about how he wants to run his court, because, although he has retired from work, he does not plan to retire from public service.

He has received one of the highest ratings from the Justice Court Committee of the Monroe County Bar Association for the efficient way he runs his court.

Van Ingen has witnessed the growth of Webster through the growth in the number of court cases he has handled. In 1957, he says he had about 30 criminal cases and 300 traffic violations. In 1981, he had 2,909 traffic violations and more than 500 criminal cases.

“Things have changed a lot in this town,” he says. “The manner in which criminal acts occur are much more violent than they were 25. years ago. They are more vicious than a straightforward punch in front of a bar.”

The nature of the job has also changed—- from a hands-on, counseling profession to strictly interpreting the law.

“We used to deal a lot with families in the criminal cases,” he says. “Now judges stay strictly in the courtroom. I think it’s the right change. Now there are more agencies that have experience in dealing with problems.”

One of the only things that hasn’t changed about he job is the hours. He still gets calls late at night from the police department requesting immediate arraignments. “I used to sleep well before I took this job,” he says

“But,he’s never grouchy,” adds Virginia, who has been sitting at his side while he speaks. “He may be tired, but I’ve never seen him angry about ‘being woken up,”

“Actually, once I’m up it’s not bad,” he says.

“I just take my time and enjoy the ride to the courtroom. They play the best music at night on the radio anyway.”

The “marryin’ judge” has been at his job for 25 years, longer than any other judge in the county, but that does not mean he has become set in his way of doing‘ things.

“Part of me is always thinking about development. That was my job at Kodak-— trying to find ways to do things better in everything I do, whether it’s weddings or law, I try to find ways to do it

Jack Van Ingen continued as Webster Town Justice until 1987. He and wife Virginia eventually retired to the town of Greece. Jack died in 2002 at the age of 84. Virginia was with us until 2019 and the age of 100.