COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF LEHIGH COUNTY
2010 BAR MEMORIALS CEREMONY
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2011
9:00 O'CLOCK A.M.
LEHIGH COUNTY COURTHOUSE
ALLENTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA 18101
HONORABLE CAROL K. MCGINLEY, P.J.
HONORABLE EDWARD D. REIBMAN, J.
HONORABLE WILLIAM E. FORD, J.
HONORABLE ROBERT L. STEINBERG, J.
HONORABLE J. BRIAN JOHNSON, J.
HONORABLE KELLY L. BANACH, J.
HONORABLE JAMES T. ANTHONY, J.
HONORABLE MARIA L. DANTOS, J.
HONORABLE MICHELE A. VARRICCHIO, J.
ERIN ALEXANDER, OFFICIAL COURT REPORTER RPR
MR. WARMKESSEL: Oyez, Oyez, Oyez, all manner of persons having anything to do with the Honorable Judges of the Court of Common Pleas of the County of Lehigh, Pennsylvania, here holden this day, let them come forward and they shall be heard. God save the Commonwealth and this Honorable Court. Please be seated.
PRESIDENT JUDGE MCGINLEY: Good morning. On behalf of my colleagues on the Court and personally, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the annual Bar Ceremony in memory of those members of the Bar who passed away during the previous year.
The Court recognizes Attorney Dan McCarthy, the President Elect of the Bar Association of Lehigh County.
MR. MCCARTHY: Thank you, Your Honor. May it please the Court, the Honorable Judges of the County of Lehigh, other distinguished parties, colleagues, friends, family, on behalf of the Bar Association of Lehigh County, I welcome you.
We gather today for one of our great traditions, the Annual Bar Memorial which dates back to at least the time of the creation of the Bar Association in 1905. The Bar Memorial celebrates the lives of members of our Bar who have passed away this past year. We thank the Court for its continued commitment, for clearing the court calendar to join us and assist as we pay tribute to our members. We would also like to thank Attorney John Baker who has for many years worked diligently and wholeheartedly at organizing this celebration.
It is my honor and my privilege to join with you this morning to celebrate and reflect on the lives and careers of our members who leave a legacy of commitment to the law, to the profession and to the community. They were fine lawyers. They were colleagues, leaders, mentors and friends. They were a credit to the profession and served as role models for younger lawyers to aspire to.
Today we gather to honor the memory of Edward McGee who will be remembered by Stephen Wiener; and Herb Rafner who will be remembered by Joseph Holko; and John McKeever who will be remembered by Margo Wiener, although I think my notes belie accuracy, it will be Margo Wiener who will be honoring Ed McGee today. Having said that, Margo, a few words.
MS. WIENER: Thank you. And I am married to a Steve Wiener, but not that Steve Wiener.
May it please the Court, I am honored to speak about my first mentor and employer Edward Hugh McGee. While women now are present and excel in every aspect of legal life, as recognized by our President Judge and other members of our Bench, there were just a handful of female attorneys when I started. Ed McGee offered me a job, and I worked for him for seven years. In those early years, Ed McGee backed me up, always treated me with respect and made sure that the other attorneys did as well.
I learned the basics of practicing law from Ed, but I believe that I learned more about the benefits of maintaining an intellectual curiosity throughout one's life, being decent and honest with the people that you work with and your clients, maintaining a sense of humor, and, most importantly, treasuring your family.
Ed McGee was born on September 30, 1930, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and died on August 27, 2010, just short of 80 years. His father died when he was only 8 years of age. He grew up poor during the Depression era, but had a large and supportive Irish Catholic family. Ed became an Eagle Scout and was an excellent student. One of his uncles, who was doing well in business, said to him and his brothers and cousins: "Provided you get all A's, I will help you through school," and Ed took him up on it. Ed was able to attend and was graduated from Lehigh University where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
Ed earned his law degree from Yale Law School in 1955. He was drafted into the U.S. Army and served principally in Germany where he learned the language. He returned to Allentown and began his practice working for Butz, Hudders and Tallman. Always the individualist, Ed later started his own practice and remained a solo practitioner for the rest of his career.
Ed was a generalist; the breadth of his practice was so varied: municipal work, insurance defense work, divorce, estates, personal injury, a little bit of criminal. He enjoyed the personal contact with clients and spent a lot of time thinking about solving people's legal problems, whether large or small. He loved being a lawyer and continued working until just two years ago.
Ed was devoted to his wife Helga of 47 years and to his children who are here today, Sean, Helena, Carol, as well as his son Gary; and he was devoted to his grandchildren. Always his intellectual equal, if not superior, Ed met Helga during her year as a Fulbright teacher from Germany.
Ed was extremely active in his children's lives. My first experience with the McGee family was joining them when Sean, Helena and Carol were just kids on a family canoe trip on the Delaware River. This was just one of the many adventures that the McGee Family shared. Ed spent many years traveling with Helga and the children to ski in Switzerland in the winter and to travel around Europe, Canada, Mexico and the U.S. in a Volkswagen camper bus in the summer. These trips were not lavish; I recall Ed explaining to me that they hung a salami out of the window of their hotel room during their ski trips in Switzerland to keep the salami cold for lunches.
Ed and Helga carefully shepherded their children's school careers. Helena and Carol were graduated from Wellesley College and Sean was graduated from Lehigh University. Helena and Carol are lawyers practicing in Washington, D.C. Sean earned an MBA and is a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch. Helena and her husband John McCarthy have three sons, and Sean and his wife Susan have a son and a daughter. Gary has a daughter. The McGees' family life was filled with activity and with joy.
If Ed McGee is going to be described, his sense of humor must be mentioned. In my beginning years, Ed's jokes might now be considered "off color" or "not PC." He was a great storyteller and loved to share his jokes. Through the years, he would call me as my "Uncle Eddie" just to share a joke. After the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Ed did clean up his jokes, at least with me, and I promised that I would never tell anybody the jokes he told me. Sean reports that to the end of his life, Ed continued to tell jokes, even during his last illness in the hospital.
Finally, Ed set personal goals for himself and met them. He learned to ski when he was in his 40's, and I'm told he was a very good skier. He took ten years to complete the Appalachian Trail. Sean accompanied him on some of those trips and they were bonding experiences. In the later years, Ed, Helga and their friends faithfully walked in Trexler Park every day. Ed lived his life to the fullest and that is a tribute.
MR. MCCARTHY: Thank you, Margo.
Herbert Rafner will be remembered by Joseph Holko.
MR. HOLKO: Thank you, Dan. Thank you, John. May it please the Court, President Judge McGinley, the Judges of the Court, friends and colleagues of Herb Rafner.
Herb began practicing law in lower Manhattan in 1949. Those were the days of two martini lunches. Herb said he would have two martinis and a shrimp cocktail for lunch; and if he ever needed to lose weight, he would have to give up the shrimp cocktail. Herb knew a man who continued to lose weight and his tailor kept taking in his trousers until his pockets touched in the back.
Herb graduated from New York University School of Law in 1948 and was on Law Review. He practiced in New York City for many years; and then at the behest of one of his many friends, joined the Lehigh Valley Railroad, headquartered in Bethlehem, and rose to become its vice president and general counsel.
While he was there, he met Richard Stevens and retained Dick to handle a matter for the Railroad. Soon they became close friends, and when Herb retired from the Railroad at the young age of 62, Dick asked him to join him at Butz, Hudders and Tallman.
In the late summer of 1982, Herb moved his many papers, notebooks and smoking pipes into an office on the third floor of 740 Hamilton Mall. For the next 21 years, he worked with Dick and others there, always dressed in a suit or sport coat, always wearing a tie, or an occasional bow tie. He wore overshoes during inclement weather; and when I asked him about it he said once his father stopped paying for his shoes, he started protecting them.
In his early years at Butz Hudders, he joined Dick Stevens, Bill and Jack Hudders, Ed Lentz, Gary Figore, Dennis Feeley, Frank Procyk and me on the third floor. Bob Tallman, Bob Johnson, Jack Johnson, Dick Schaffer, Joe Fitzpatrick, Joe Bubba, Blake Marles, Ollie Foucek, Tom Sadler, Frank Baker, Ed Fedok, Jim Holzinger, Gil Negrete, Mike Loomis, and Bill Fitzgerald were all there too, spread out on the second and fourth floors. Jim Martin, Bob Thornton and Howard and Tim Stevens would join Butz Hudders later. Herb enjoyed the collegial atmosphere and the camaraderie there. Like the character George Bailey played by Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life, Herb changed everyone he met for the better.
Herb loved to go to lunch. Back then Hess's, Zollinger's and Leh's Department Stores were all thriving on Hamilton Mall and there were many lunch places to choose from. There was the A & B Luncheonette, Sal's Spaghetti House, the Linden Hotel, Kenny's, Michael's, the 7th Street Deli and the All American Diner. Later there was Isaac's, The Good Spirit, The Bay Leaf, Pastaficio and a place behind Hess's on Linden Street that had many names but Herb loved them all.
Leon, Herb's son who lives in California, told me that when he would return to Allentown to visit his parents, Herb would point out the sights and all the places he liked to go to lunch, and he would tell Leon about the people here. It was during the many lunches with Herb that we learned the most about him and his life before moving to the Lehigh Valley.
He was born in Passaic, New Jersey, and was raised in Paterson in the same neighborhood where the comedian Lou Costello was growing up. As a kid, Herb saw Babe Ruth play for the Yankees. Herb loved W.C. Fields. Fields said about marriage that "No man is boss in his own home, but he can make up for it, by making a dog play dead."
Herb loved to tell a joke. He loved to tell a story. His wife Wanda, after being married to Herb for over 50 years, remarked that Herb never ceased to amaze her with a joke or a story she had not heard before.
He learned most of his jokes from family outings to vaudeville theaters when he was young accompanied by his father, who was an insurance adjustor, his mother, and his older brother Harold who would later go into the insurance business.
Herb claimed to have dated a woman who later became one of Milton Berle's wives. Apparently, Milton Berle was married something like five times, twice to the same woman. So I'm not sure who Herb dated, but that was like Herb to say something to make you think or ask him about it.
Herb lived an interesting life before coming to the Lehigh Valley. He graduated from Eastside High School at the age of 16. Below his picture in the yearbook was: "He'll do very well if he ever gets serious." He attended New York University and studied economics. After graduation, he went to work at Pratt & Whitney as a propeller inspector.
After Pearl Harbor, he gave up his defense job and enlisted in the Army. At that time, the Signal Corps, the communications, command and control arm of the military, needed quality recruits with high aptitudes and intelligence to operate the sophisticated communications equipment and to train others to do so. The war was to be fought on four continents and across the seas. Communications, weather forecasting and aviation were key to winning the war.
Herb was selected for the Signal Corps because of his intelligence and his experience as a teenager building radios. He had a First Class FCC Radio Engineer License, having passed the test in record time, the examiner couldn't believe he was done. Herb quickly became a sergeant and a Signal Corps instructor at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.
His son Leon, now a nuclear engineer in southern California, after marrying his wife Andrea, found out that Andrea's father this would be Leon's father in law was actually in Herb's Signal Corps class at Fort Monmouth.
Leon told me that as a child growing up, he spent a lot of time with his father learning how to fix radios and TVs, and that experience led Leon to become an engineer and not a lawyer.
When the Army ran out of things to keep Herb busy, they sent him to Drexel University to take some courses there. During the war in Europe, he was sent to England. While he was there, he got to attend the University of Manchester. Later he was placed in charge of a town in Germany in the area occupied by the United States at the end of the war. That was one thing he didn't talk about.
After the war, Herb became interested in studying law. When he went to law school, Ed Koch, who would later become mayor of New York, was in his class at NYU. Herb was a democrat. He called himself a "Yellow Dog Democrat," a term dating back to the late 19th century. He explained to me that if the democrats ran a yellow dog for office, he would vote for a yellow dog before he would ever vote for a republican. There's a rumor that he may have voted for Ronald Reagan the first time. If that was true, that was the only time that he ever voted for a republican.
Herb worked on some of the most complex and interesting cases alongside Dick Stevens from 1982 until 2003. He had an old style notebook and he kept meticulous notes about every case. He could always tell you a lot about New York law, but quickly learned how to use Lexis as a research tool.
Leon told me that his dad didn't talk much about his cases, always maintaining the strictest attorney/client confidentiality; however, Leon recalls two cases in particular that his father shared with him. One involved a products liability case against a contact lens company where Herb and Dick's client had lost sight in one eye and had diminished sight in the other from wearing her contacts while swimming but using goggles over them so she wouldn't lose them. Apparently, the pool water got behind her contacts and caused an infection that led to her blindness, and there was no warning about that provided with the product even though the manufacturer knew about it.
The other case involved a motorcyclist who was seriously injured in an accident with a car that turned in front of him. The automatic headlight feature on the motorcycle had been disabled by the dealer before the motorcycle was sold to the client. The jury found that the daylight accident was caused by not being able to see the motorcycle as well without it.
According to Herb's former secretary, Leona, Herb was a "walking encyclopedia" and always got his own coffee telling Leona: That's not your job. Leona told me that Herb was never rattled by anything except when he attended the deposition of Martin Appel who killed three people and seriously wounded a number of others during a robbery of a branch of the First National Bank of Bath in 1986. Appel told police he had planned the robbery for about a month and planned to kill everyone in the bank in order to leave no witnesses. When Herb came back from that deposition, he was visibly shaken and told Leona that in all of his years he had "never met a man who had no regard for human life until [he] met Martin Appel."
Herb claimed he never lost a "Rule to Show Cause," where you would appear in court just to request a date for a hearing. He also was proud of the fact that he never lost an uncontested motion, although there were a few times where it almost happened.
Frank Procyk recalls a time when Herb was asked by Dick Stevens to go to a district justice hearing to present a case against a party who was representing himself. Herb lost and came back and announced that his winless record against pro se litigants remained intact.
Herb handled an adoption for a client who wanted her husband to adopt her child, fathered after a one night stand during a convention in Chicago years before. The client had forgotten the name of the man she met there; however, she remembered he was from Baltimore.
When Herb was able to obtain a fuzzy copy of the birth certificate, the name appeared to be Peter Ignatius. Herb located nine men with that name living in Baltimore, and diligently tried to determine who the likely father was in order to gain his consent and subpoena him to appear before Judge Coyne. None of them were at the convention and most had never been to Chicago.
When Judge Coyne heard that Herb could not produce the father for the adoption hearing, he told Herb to keep looking. A better copy of the birth certificate indicated that it wasn't Peter Ignatius after all, but "Pater Ignotus," the Latin for "Father Unknown." Thereafter, the adoption went through.
Herb loved reading the law and attending trials. When F. Lee Bailey's partner, Aaron Broder from New York, came to try a case here in Lehigh County, Herb and I went and watched together.
Howard Stevens reminded me of a funny Herb story. This is the way Howard remembers it: "After getting a verdict in his client's favor, the attorney picks up the phone and calls his client and says, 'Justice triumphs!' The client replies, 'Appeal at once!'"
Herb earned his pilot's license after he retired from the Railroad and flew with his son who is also a pilot. According to Herb, obtaining his pilot license was harder than passing the Bar Exam. Herb was the consummate gentleman. He stopped practicing at age 83 to care for his beloved wife. Wanda predeceased him in 2006; they were together for 58 years.
After Wanda died, he moved to California to be closer to his only and, as he always said, his favorite son Leon. Although his many friends had predeceased him, he still received a call every Friday from his good friend Bobby Dresser.
Herb was known for reading the New York Times and driving to Wally's to get the paper on Sunday. He kept up to date with current events and he continued to read the Times until Alzheimer's took its toll. He continued to play "Rabbit" with his son, competing to be the first one to say "Rabbit" to the other on the first day of every month.
Dennis Feeley remembers Herb as always having a smile on his face, never complaining; and although he was years older than most of those he worked with, he never had a problem fitting in and was willing to pitch in. He was a credit to our profession.
Herb was a good listener and loved learning about you and your family. Herb had a terrific memory and a big heart. According to his son, his sense of humor was the last to go. He was still telling stories and jokes Leon had not heard before up until the last couple of weeks.
Herb died on June 25, 2010, at the young age of 90 in Mission Viejo, California. Steve Kreglow, the only person to have signed Herb's Morning Call online obituary summed Herb up succinctly, "A scholar, a worthy opponent, a true gentleman." He was my mentor and my friend.
Leon and Andrea couldn't be here today; but I know that they know how special Herb was as a lawyer, a husband, a father, and a friend. And now you do too. Thank you.
MR. MCCARTHY: Thank you, Joe.
John McKeever will be remembered by Stephen Wiener.
MR. WIENER: Thank you. Judge McGinley, Judges of the Court of Common Pleas, family and friends of John McKeever.
John was born in Allentown in 1925. A graduate of William Allen High School, and then went on to serve in the United States Air Force as a second lieutenant during World War II. He served as a navigator on a B 29. On his return from the war, he graduated from Princeton University, and then went on to the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
Like Ed and our other honoree this morning, he started his legal career, as he said it, with Butz and Hudders in 1952. Shortly thereafter, he joined his father's accounting firm of McKeever, Kershner and Zimmerman. Following that, John decided to open his own practice of law from which he practiced for more than 35 years.
In 2000, John joined Wiener and Wiener in a step towards slowing down his legal career, trying to spend less time practicing law and more time spending his numerous interests outside of law.
John's outside activities and civic interests were as extensive and varied as his legal practice. He was a past president of the Lehigh Valley Club; served as president of First Lehigh Bank; a board member of Lake Harmony Association; a former treasurer and one time solicitor of the borough of Walnutport; a member of numerous clubs in Walnutport and Danielsville; and very proudly among those honored, a member of this Bar Association for over 50 years.
John was also a private pilot for over 40 years and often regaled his friends and colleagues about his annual trip island hopping through the Bahamas and the Caribbean Islands as well as flying to Alaska. He also enjoyed snowmobiling in upstate New York during the wintertime, and when he could, fishing and sailing at Lake Harmony.
I had the privilege of knowing John for most of my legal career and was very much enriched by the five plus years during which he practiced at our firm. John's involvement and his interest in his clients is probably best evidenced by a discussion I had with John about two years after he had joined our firm.
It was late one afternoon, I believe on a Friday. We were discussing John's desire to spend less time in the office and more time on his personal interests and spending time with his wife Helen with whom he had celebrated his 29th anniversary last year. John explained that while it was his plan to spend less time in the office or more time at Lake Harmony or, in the winter, in the Bahamas, he just kept finding it difficult to say no to clients.
He explained that these were clients he had represented for almost 40 years; and many times he handled matters for their parents, their grandparents and their extended families. Not only were many of John's friends his clients, but the clients become long time friends and John a part of their extended family.
Typical of John's quiet demeanor was his decision to retire from the practice of law. One day in December, John came in my office and said that he was headed to the Bahamas to enjoy his annual trip to the islands for his island hopping, but he thought this year he would spend maybe a month or two or maybe a little longer. He explained that he had no definitive plan of where he would be, but he would let us know what was going on.
He made sure that everything was taken care of before he left and reviewed open matters, and was comfortable that I could handle all of the open issues. Unlike many of those who go on vacation today with a cell phone or checking e mail; when John left the office, he left the office. He honestly took a vacation. He didn't call to check in; he relaxed.
It was early spring until John called and said he had returned from the Bahamas, and having given it some more thought, he told us that he had decided it was time to retire. And he'd find some time in the next few weeks to stop in and make it official.
While many have found the transition from retirement after such a lengthy and active legal practice to be difficult, John was thrilled to be able to spend more time with his wife Helen and his family. Working on projects, working at his wood workshop, spending time snowmobiling, and, of course, whenever he got a chance, flying anywhere anyone was interested in going.
His devotion and genuine interest in his clients and his desire to assist them and their family stand out to me the most when I think about John. While his legal career covered a period in which lawyers were essentially sole practitioners, handled a much broader area of practice than we are accustomed today, John's keen business acumen and combination of his accounting background provided him with a varied and extensive business and estate practice.
He leaves our legal community and our entire local community in which he touched and impacted so many better for all that he did and for how long he did it for so well.
MR. MCCARTHY: Thank you, Steve.
I want to thank all of the speakers for taking the time to express their thoughts, their experiences and their memories of their colleagues and contributing to the celebration of their lives. I want to thank the family members for sharing in our tradition, and the audience and our colleagues and friends here present for joining in our tradition.
On behalf of the Association, I invite all of you to stay for refreshments just outside the courtroom. Judge McGinley?
PRESIDENT JUDGE MCGINLEY: Thank you, Mr. McCarthy. We would like to note the presence and recognize the Honorable William H. Platt, Superior Court Senior Judge and also the presence of Senior Judge Lawrence Brenner.
And the Court wishes to express our thanks to the Bar Association for continuing this tradition, to John Baker, Esquire, the chairman of the committee for his hard work in making this and previous bar memorials a success, and to all the speakers who have memorialized our departed colleagues. They have helped to continue a great tradition and allowed us to share in the lives of our departed members and the rich history which our departed members have bequeathed us.
The official court reporter is directed to transcribe the notes of this proceeding and to make a digital copy of the memorial available to the Bar Association of Lehigh County. This has been done since 2002. The Bar Association publishes these transcripts on its home page at lehighbar.org. Anyone interested in a copy will be able to read, print or download it from that site.
I also wish to note that all my colleagues, Judges Reibman, Ford, Steinberg, Johnson, Banach, Anthony, Dantos and Varricchio extend our condolences to the families and the loved ones of our departed colleagues, and we thank you for being here today to remember them.
Mr. Warmkessel, we will adjourn the ceremony and remind everyone that they are invited for social time in memory and respect for our departed colleagues out in the hall.
MR. WARMKESSEL: All rise please. Court is adjourned.
(Whereupon, the memorial ceremony concluded.)
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I hereby certify that the proceedings are contained fully and accurately in the notes taken by me of the above cause, and that this is a correct transcript of the same.
- ERIN ALEXANDER, RPR
The foregoing record of the proceedings in the within matter is directed to be filed.
- CAROL K. MCGINLEY, P.J.