Bishop, colleagues, friends remember deceased Westmoreland Bar Association members

Bishop, colleagues, friends remember deceased Westmoreland Bar Association members

By Melissa Williams Brown
Contributing Writer

GREENSBURG – During his long career as an attorney, the late William Stillwagon, a parishioner of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Greensburg, was devoted to his clientele. But his faith and family came first.

Stillwagon was among those remembered on All Saints’ Day, Nov. 1, at the 57th annual memorial service for deceased members of the Westmoreland Bar Association in Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio’s Courtroom 3, known as the ceremonial courtroom.

Bishop Larry J. Kulick delivered the invocation and Benediction.

“It was an honor and privilege to accept an invitation to be present and participate in the Westmoreland County Bar Association’s annual memorial for deceased members of the Bar,” Bishop Kulick said. “In remembering these practitioners of the law, I was very moved by the tributes paid to them by their friends and colleagues. Their dedication to their families, communities and those they served was inspiring.”

Westmoreland County Senior Judge John Driscoll, a parishioner of Blessed Sacrament Cathedral Parish, Greensburg, spoke about Stillwagon, his longtime colleague and friend.

“Bill was a great example of being Catholic during his 54-year career as an attorney. He was true to his faith and his profession,” Driscoll said.

Also remembered by colleagues and friends at the service were Judge Gilfert Mihalich, Assistant District Attorney Morris F. “Moe” Lewis Jr. and attorneys George Conti Jr., Thomas Godlewski, R. Jerry Little, Margaret “Peggy” Picking and David Robinson. All passed away between 2019 and 2021; the service was canceled last year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

P. Louis DeRose, chairman of the bar association’s historical committee, was master of ceremonies. The welcome was given by Judith Petrush, president of the Westmoreland Bar Association and a parishioner of Mother of Sorrows Parish, Murrysville, who said she was honored that Bishop Kulick agreed to participate.

“I know that his presence meant so much to our members, judges, families and friends of the deceased,” Petrush said.

Attorney Judith Karns Ciszek, a parishioner of Holy Trinity Parish, Ligonier, remembered Picking, one of her best friends and colleagues, who was a Westmoreland County assistant district attorney and an assistant state attorney general for Pennsylvania.

“She loved the law, was always available and was just a good person who was dedicated to truth, justice and respect,” she said.

Senior Judge John Blahovec, a parishioner of St. Benedict Parish, Marguerite, spoke about Mihalich, recipient of the Diocese of Greensburg Award for his longtime dedication to the Church. Mihalich, a parishioner of The Epiphany of Our Lord Parish, Monessen, was a law clerk on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and assistant district attorney for Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas. He served as a Court of Common Pleas judge for three decades. His passions were taking care of his family and appreciation of his Croatian heritage, according to Blahovec.

“He loved his family with a passion and was a man of great faith. I think of him every day,” he said.  

Attorney Denis Zuzik spoke about Conti’s Love of Jeannette, where he was a longtime city solicitor. He was a parishioner of St. Vincent Basilica Parish, Latrobe. 

Attorney Donald Rigone remembered Godlewski and Robinson. Godlewski and Rigone bonded immediately and had law offices across from one another. They shared the same birthday and “he was a friend who would do anything for you,” Rigone said.

He noted that before Robinson, his friend for 50 years, went to law school, he had a Christmas tree farm and a restaurant in Latrobe. He argued his first case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court the day of his admission to the bar. A runner, cyclist, swimmer and rower, he competed in five national championships in the U.S. and five in Canada. On his 80th birthday, he swam 81 laps at the Greensburg YMCA. He was a doting parent to four sons, including triplets.

Lewis Jr. was remembered by attorney Richard Galloway as a man of integrity. Because he had done workers’ compensation cases, he had a “wonderful knowledge of medicine.” A parishioner of Sacred Heart Parish, Jeannette, he was a great man of faith, and his family always came first, Galloway said.

Attorney David Regoli, a parishioner of Mount St. Peter Parish, New Kensington, said Little had a successful law career for 45 years, but what mattered most was his family. Regoli said he lived up to the definition of a “gentleman’s lawyer” with an unblemished career.

President Judge Rita Donovan Hathaway, a parishioner of St. Barbara Parish, Harrison City, said she was honored that Bishop Kulick attended what she called “an important and poignant tradition, but perhaps especially this year, as we gather to remember those members we’ve lost over the last two years.”

Bishop Kulick noted that “Each memorialization was an opportunity to be reminded of how we are all called to give of ourselves in service to those in need, especially the poor, underprivileged and those seeking justice and equity. We pray that God may grant them eternal rest and that He may give the gift of His loving consolations to their family and friends who mourn their loss.”

Echoing the words of those in attendance, Driscoll said Bishop Kulick’s attendance helped ease the pain of losing friends and colleagues.

“People see him as a wonderful example of his faith,” said Driscoll. 


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