Friends, family remember Judge Powell

STEUBENVILLE — Family, friends and former colleagues are telling their favorite stories about retired Municipal Court Judge Richard Powell today as they mourn the man described as compassionate and kind with a very quick wit and sense of humor.

Powell, 89, died Friday and his funeral is set for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at First Westminster Presbyterian Church. Viewing is scheduled for 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. today at the Dunlope-Shorac Funeral Home in Wintersville and from 10 a.m. until the funeral Wednesday at the church.

“I have many good memories of the judge. I owe my law career to Judge Powell. I had graduated from college and wanted to go to law school, but was turned down because there were so many kids going to law school in 1974. Judge Powell said he knew the dean and we would take a ride to see him. The dean said the law school was full but he was planning a summer program and I could possibly get into that course,” said Probate and Juvenile Court Judge Joe Corabi.

“By the time we got back to Steubenville I had made up my mind I wasn’t going to law school. I was going to get a job in the mill like my friends from high school had done. Then, a couple of weeks later, the law school dean called me and said five students had dropped out of the law school and I could go there. But I was determined to get a job in the mill until my father, who was an attorney, had a talk with me,” continued Corabi.

“I am the luckiest person in the world and it all stems back to Judge Powell. When I passed the bar exam he took me under his wing and taught me how to be a lawyer. He and I were both appointed to defend a city woman accused of murdering her husband. I was a very, very young lawyer. And, we found out the husband would punch his wife. One night he hit her and broke her glasses and hit her on the head with a bottle of Lestoil,” related Corabi.

“Dick Powell and I drove up to the house on Adams Street. It was a very hot and humid day, and we were there to look for her broken glasses and the bottle of Lestoil. The place was a mess with cockroaches everywhere and the smell of Lestoil in the air. Judge Powell took me outside and told me I was going to learn how to be an attorney. He told me to go back in the house, find the glasses and he was going to the city police station to photograph the woman’s bruises. So, I went back into that house, found the broken glasses and the broken bottle of Lestoil, came back out and Mr. Powell and his car were gone. I had to walk all the way back down Adams Street to the police station where he was talking to Chief Jerry McCartney,” said Corabi.

“We felt pretty good about our case and planned to argue a battered woman defense, but the prosecutor failed to indict her. Dick Powell taught me how to be a good attorney. The first rule was have the ability to get along with people and to have common sense. I owe Judge Powell a lot and I will never forget him. He lived life to the fullest and made everything fun. He even made work fun. If there is a good place, Judge Powell is there,” stated Corabi.

Attorney Frank Bruzzese, who is serving as acting chairman of the Jefferson County Democrat Party, said Powell was a mentor “when I was a young lawyer.”

“He was also a very effective trial lawyer and a professional in the most honorable way. And no one could crack a joke like Judge Powell,” stated Bruzzese.

Current Municipal Court Judge John Mascio recalled his early law career and appearing before Powell.

“He was really a mentor to me as well as a lot of the young attorneys who appeared in his courtroom. Judge Powell would pick out cases and encourage us to ask for a jury trial.

“He gave us all valuable courtroom experience. The judge had a lot of compassion for people. And he loved Jefferson County history. Judge Powell found a number of very old photos of local lawyers in the courtroom attic. He had the photos reproduced and framed and placed them on the courtroom walls,” explained Mascio.

“I once told him I wanted to be municipal court judge someday and he advised me to run before I was 45 years old. ‘No one has ever been elected judge in this county after they passed 45. I attended his retirement dinner at the Williams Country Club and the room was packed. He was very well liked by everyone,” commented Mascio.

Retired Jefferson County Common Pleas Court Judge John J. Mascio Sr. said he would often see Powell at the daily gatherings at the Frank and Jerry’s Furniture and Appliances Store.

“After he retired, Judge Powell became a regular there. I think he enjoyed the conversations and the banter between everyone. And I know he loved his grandchildren,” noted Mascio Sr.

Retired businessman Jerry Barilla described his friend as “having the demeanor of a judge with very quick and witty comments.”

“Our conversations at the coffee gathering revolved around sports, religion and politics. And the judge and I always had a running battle about the Italians and the English. I always kidded him about how the Italians went to England and civilized the country. I admired Judge Powell because he looked the part and acted the part. And he was an ordinary guy on the street,” laughed Barilla.

Bonnie Snyder, who worked for Powell in Municipal Court, remembered him as being very protective.

“He was an awesome boss and a very good family man. Any time you needed something you just had to call him. He had a real dry sense of humor and always had us laughing,” said Snyder.

“Judge Powell was very gracious and helpful when I succeeded him in 2002. He was a true gentleman and always had a wonderful sense of humor,” remarked retired Municipal Court Judge Dan Spahn.

Powell developed a close professional relationship with county Court Judge Michael Bednar, who served as city police prosecutor during Powell’s tenure as judge.

“I have used many of the same things that he did in Municipal Court. He had some novel ways of sentencing people because in his day he had limited jail space and he tried to work with people who appeared before him. Judge Powell helped a lot of people turn their lives around. He always told me, ‘you can’t sentence everyone to jail,'” said Bednar.

Mayor Domenick Mucci said he always respected Powell.

“Judge Powell was a true gentleman 24 hours a day, seven days a week. His memory will always be with us because of the way he handled his job and himself,” said Mucci.

Police Chief Bill McCafferty said he also respected Powell.

“I was a young police officer and had to testify in a case before the judge. The defendant started questioning my answers and the judge said he had known me for some time and believed everything I had testified to. That was the end of that argument,” McCafferty said.

The funeral services Wednesday will be conducted by the Rev. Jason Elliott, who said he will talk about Judge Powell, a “very kind and compassionate and caring individual.”

“Sometimes he was very quiet and he liked to work behind the scenes.

“He was an excellent husband and father and he loved his grandchildren. He also had a quick wit and that little smile when he would tell you something and knew he had got you,” commented Elliott.

“He was a good father and a public servant to the community. He would get calls from people asking if he could help get their son or daughter a job. And, my dad would always say he would do his best. When he ran for Municipal Court judge the entire family went out and knocked on every door in the city,” according to Susan Powell Stewart.

“Even people who had been sentenced to jail or fined in his court wanted to talk to him. They would tell my dad he helped them turn their lives around,” Stewart related.

Powell is survived by his daughters Stewart and Kimberly Hargett of Steubenville; and three grandchildren Justin Hargett of Los Angeles, Travis Hargett of Washington, D.C., and Lucas Powell of Steubenville.