Friends pay respects to Stuard
SHARON, Pa. – A crowd of hundreds stood in the drizzling rain and wind on Sunday to pay respects to the late Judge John “Jack” Stuard at Sample-O’Donnell Funeral Home.
Stuard, who retired in January from the Trumbull County Common Pleas bench, died Thursday at Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren of a sudden illness. He was 73.
Among the family, friends and co-workers in the long line, which stretched around the block was Central District Judge Tom Campbell.
“I’ve known him since I was a baby, and I grew up right down the street from him,” Campbell said. “He was without a doubt the most passionate and kind and sensitive person you’d ever want to know. I’ve always said he was my favorite person in the whole legal profession, but beyond that, he’s also one of my favorite people ever.”
Stuard’s work in the legal field started with serving as a solicitor for Newton Falls and the Village of Orangeville. He also served as a criminal defense attorney as well as a prosecutor for the City of Warren. In 1983 he was appointed the first judge at the Central District Court in Cortland and later to the Common Pleas bench of Trumbull County.
Campbell, who began his legal career in Akron, noted it was Stuard who made it possible for him to come back to Trumbull County. In 1991, Stuard called Campbell to tell him he’d be vacating his position with the Central District Court.
“He had been sort of a mentor to me. He knew I had missed not being back here, and he let me know that now might be a good time to maybe come home and he would hand over his files to me. He couldn’t give me his clients, but he could hand over his files and that would give me enough to keep my head above water until I got settled.
“I consider him, not just my legal mentor, but a personal mentor in a lot of ways. A more decent person you will never find,” he said.
Michael A. Burnett, Central District Court prosecutor, had worked with Stuard on a daily basis for the past eight years.
“He was completely a gentleman’s gentleman and one of the nicest people that you would ever see. He would go out of his way to do the best that he could in anything that he dealt with. It’s tough to put words together now, because this was so unexpected and it is a real shock that he’s gone.”
Burnett said his father, Charles, had been friends with Stuard so he knew the judge for most of his life.
“My father passed away a couple years ago,” Burnett said. “Jack and I would talk about him passing and different memories he had about my father. That is part of why this is so tough.”
Stuard graduated from Sharon High School in 1957 and continued his education receiving his bachelor’s degree from Thiel College. On Aug. 4, 1962, he married Linda Breakall and they recently marked their 50th wedding anniversary. Stuard went on to earn his law degree from the University of Kentucky’s Law School in 1965.
Longtime friend Lou DeMarco, a retired principal of Mathews High School in Vienna, recalled his first encounter with Stuard.
“We go back to 1958,” DeMarco said. “I met him through a mutual friend, Roy Setterberg. Over the years, we remained in contact. Jack was an outstanding individual. The first time I met him, he came into my home and talked at length with my dad, who was a World War II veteran. He was really interested in history, so he loved talking to him.
“People throw around the word ‘great’ quite a bit. In this case, it applies immensely,” he said.
Attorney Frank R. Bodor explained that Stuard’s interest in history was beneficial when making rulings.
“His being a historian rounded him very well in the Constitution and the laws,” Bodor said. “He looked back at history and interpreted the law accordingly.”
However, despite his renowned work as a judge, Bodor echoed the sentiment of his personality leaving the most lasting impression.
“He was a very caring type of person that appreciated his fellow human beings. He had a great moral compass,” Bodor said.
Stuard is survived by his wife, two children and three grandchildren. A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. today at the funeral home chapel. Burial will take place in Oakwood Cemetery.