One of them was a police court judge when the headquarters were on Broadway. Another won a Bronze Star in Korea. Another was the son of a wise old editor. All have died, some before their time. All had something else in common: they were lawyers.
The other afternoon, they were among those whose lives and achievements were recounted by family, friends and colleagues during a Superior Court Memorial Session at the Fresno County Courthouse.
Sort of a Dead Lawyers Society, where the quick gathered to pay their respects to the gone.
One by one, associates and family stepped forward to memorialize kith and kin, a phalanx of black-robed judges seated soberly behind them. Some eulogies were brief in their lawyerly fashion, some weren't. But each came from the heart.
"He never disqualified himself," Superior Court Judge Stephen Kane said of Superior Court Judge Milo Popovich, who died last March. When handed up a case, he saw it through to the end.
After service in the Army during WW II, he was elected police judge when the court was located in police headquarters on old Broadway, then, at the age of 37, became, at the time, one of the youngest superior court judges in the state.
John Shelton, said friend Paul Auchard, was the kind of lawyer whose clients became his friends, good and lasting and often lifelong. Even after surviving a stroke that limited his speech, he said, his unique intelligence, wit and humor remained intact.
As the son of Orville "Diz" Shelton, legendary editor of The Bee in the days when it was an afternoon paper and the news of the day stuck to your fingers, John Shelton "inherited a love and respect for the English language," his friends said.
Donald Clinton Thuesen was the son of another local legend, James M. Thuesen, the district attorney in the '30s and '40s whose last surviving staff member, county counsel Bob Wash, attended the remembrances.
"A most honorable man was Don," said Thuesen's eulogizer, Bill Forbes, " a humanitarian without equal."
Don Thuesen fought as a paratrooper in Korea, returning home to follow in the family footsteps. "A student of the law," Forbes called him, who " accepted cases thought to be unwinnable."
He fought with equal vigor for the noble cause, his friends said.
Others, both liberal and conservative both true to the law but gone now, who were honored with Bar Association resolutions were W. Lawrence Kennedy, who was remembered by David Kennedy; Peter Morris, cited by Mario Beltramo; Rene Graham Pugh by Rosemarie Rusca; John Shanafelt by Superior Court Judge Wayne Ellison; and Joan Shankel by Beverly Gabriele.
OLD SCHOOL GUYS: Then there are the old lawyers and judges who never fade away except on the golf course. They just keep teeing it up and swinging away, like George Aye, who received his first birthday card ever from Don Crocker since their days as classmates at the University of California Boalt School of Law in Berkeley a few generations ago.
"Because you are 84 and I am only 83," wrote Federal District Judge Crocker to lawyer Aye, "how do you keep your youthful appearance when you soon will be 90?"
Good question. Must be Virginia laying down the law.
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