Family, colleagues remember retired judge

June 27, 2014
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This photo shows Washington County’s judges in 2003. Front row, from left, are Judge Katherine B. Emery, President Judge David L. Gilmore, Senior Judge Thomas D. Gladden, Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca and Judge Paul Pozonsky; standing, from left, are Senior Judges Thomas J. Terputac and John F. Bell. Order a Print
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Judge Thomas J. Terputac

In his 28 years on the Washington County bench, Judge Thomas J. Terputac made lasting impressions. Those impressions are what loved ones and colleagues clung to Friday as the news of his death spread throughout the community.

Terputac, 87, of South Strabane Township, died Thursday. He spent much of his professional career showing compassion to his fellow man, Washington County Judge Gary Gilman said.

As Gilman and other colleagues reflected on Terputac’s 53-year legal career and his contributions to the profession, they also were taking a moment to remember his influence on their own careers.

Gilman, who was elected to the bench in 2012, credits Terputac with guiding him. For 12 months, in 1998, Gilman served as Terputac’s law clerk.

“We had a good working relationship,” Gilman recalled Friday. “I thought he was a very patient man, very compassionate. He was a terrific guy. He really helped to influence me.”

Terputac stepped away from the bench in 2007 at the age of 80. He was appointed in 1978, elected in 1979 and served as a senior judge after he retired in 1997. Terputac graduated from Duquesne University in 1950 and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 1953, having received the scholastic honors of Order of the Coif and Law Review Board.

During his court tenure, Terputac handled criminal, civil and family law cases.

Retired Judge Thomas D. Gladden, who served with Terputac for 10 years, said Terputac was always conscientious in his rulings.

“He set a high standard for the work he did,” Gladden said. “He was an extremely competent judge.”

Alan Terputac said his father was encouraged to attend law school by his teachers.

“His dad, who was a barber, tried to get him in the barber chair,” Alan Terputac said. “But that was never in his plans.”

He said his father was in poor health following surgery and struggled to recover, but his death took the family by surprise.

“He always wanted to help people be better,” Alan Terputac said.

Gilman agreed.

“He set a very good example. He really was a very good judge.”

Both Gilman and his wife, Washington County Judge Katherine Emery, fondly recalled a book, “A Handbook of English Usage: A Guide for the Bench and Bar,” Terputac wrote in 1989 to help lawyers with their grammar.

“He loved his job,” Emery said.

But his greatest love was for his family, she said. Terputac, originally from Cecil Township, leaves behind his wife of 65 years, Carol, four children, four grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

Alan Terputac said his father spent the last seven years indulging in family activities and reading.

Funeral arrangements have been made at Warco-Falvo Funeral Home in Washington. Visitation is from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday and 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Monday. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Immaculate Conception Church, Washington. Burial will follow in Queen of Heaven Cemetery in McMurray.

Francesca Sacco joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in November 2013, and covers the Washington County Courthouse and education. Prior to working with the Observer-Reporter, Francesca was a staff writer with a Gannett paper in Ohio. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor’s degree in print and broadcast journalism.

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