Well-known artist whose signs adorn north Jersey killed in hit and run

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Toni Yates has the story.

There is new surveillance video in a New Jersey hit and run that claimed the life of a well-known local artist.

A van ran over 59-year-old Matthew BeneduceMcGrath, known for his hand-crafted signs in and around Verona, and never stopped.

And now, a community is in mourning while police search for the suspect.

BeneduceMcGrath's handiwork is everywhere across north Jersey, where he is as known as his signs.

"He was the type of guy that came in late at night...worked early into the morning the next day," Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo said. "And he could never ever meet a deadline. But guess what? We fought, but we still loved each other."

The artist died Friday night just steps away from his basement sign studio along Bloomfield Avenue in Verona.

Authorities have a clear copy of the surveillance video that captures BeneduceMcGrath walking up the sidewalk late at night, and then what turned out to be a fatal attempt to cross the busy highway. He was dodging traffic from both directions when a white van ran him over and kept going.

A memorial now stands now near where he worked and where he died, in a town where it seems everyone loved him.

"Matthew was a just a special person," said Pat Filoso, who owns nearby Hillcrest Farms. "We saw him every day. He came by the store."

The search is on for the van's driver, and authorities are asking for help from anyone who witnessed the accident.

"He's been in the business 30 years, and he will be missed," insurance agent Alexander Druyam said. "He will be missed."

Officials are urging the driver to surrender.

"Whoever is responsible for this, I recommend to them right now to turn themselves in," DiVincenzo said. "Because they will be caught."

When BeneduceMcGrath's signs began to show wear and tear, he would take them down and spruce them up. And his style is so much a part of the face of Essex County that even in his absence, his friends and clients want to make sure these signs will never fade.

"When you see someone every day, you miss them," business owner Jim Stavros said. "We were looking for him. Always wore the orange cap, he always waved, always stopped in."
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