CLEARFIELD – Clearfield County officials have spent recent days reminiscing upon the years of service by the Honorable Judge John K. Reilly Jr., 75, of Clearfield, whom died Monday.
Earlier this week, the commissioners observed a moment of silence in honor of Reilly, who presided as judge for 30 years after serving a decade as district attorney. Commissioner John A. Sobel worked as a law clerk for the judge and also practiced before him.
“He’ll be sincerely missed. I think we all became better attorneys because of him. I think we became a better county because of him,” he said. Both Commissioners Joan Robinson-McMillen and Mark B. McCracken described Reilly as “consistent and fair” and said he’s left a lasting impact on Clearfield County.
According to Solicitor Kim Kesner, it won’t be a matter of missing Reilly; instead, it will be a matter of functioning without him. “He was the epitome of public service. He was his own institution,” he said.
For the Honorable Judge Paul E. Cherry, Reilly was the “finest jurist and person” he’s ever known with the exception of his own father. “I don’t even know where to start. He was a great role model for me, and I had great admiration for him. In the courtroom, he was just so great.
“He listened to both sides and rendered his decision quickly and fairly. After he retired, I looked forward to meeting with him, and unfortunately, those have come to an end. I miss him already. He wasn’t just a great loss to the legal community, but also to the community itself. We have lost a great person.”
Clearfield County District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. concurred, stating: “I am deeply saddened by the death of Judge Reilly, whose leadership and intelligence was an asset to our community. This is a terrible loss for Clearfield County.
“Judge Reilly was an inspiration and role model for every lawyer who practiced before him and his presence on the bench will be sadly missed. My prayers are with his family and loved ones in this very difficult time.”
Reilly was elected district attorney from 1964 to 1974 and was president of the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Association from 1972 to 1973. In 1975, he was elected judge of the Court of Common Pleas and served in that position until his retirement in 2005. Notably, he became the first judge to ever succeed himself in Clearfield County.
He was a member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association for 50 years, in addition to being a member of the Pennsylvania Judicial Conference, where he served on the Ethics Committee for a number of years. He also taught “Introduction to Criminal Law” at the Clearfield campus of Lock Haven University.
Born Oct. 4, 1935 in Windber, he was the son of the late John K. and Winifred (Dowler) Reilly. He was a graduate of the Clearfield Area High School, the Penn State University and the Dickinson School of Law as well as a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserves.
Reilly was elected Potentate of Altoona Jaffa Shrine Club, becoming the first citizen of Clearfield County elected to the position. He belonged to a number of organizations within the Jaffa Shrine, including the International Association Legions of Honor.
He was a member of the Free and Accepted Masons, Clearfield Lodge No. 314 and was director of the Clearfield Shrine Oriental Band for 20 years. He was also a member of the BPOE Lodge #540 for 50 years and the John Lewis Shade Post #6 of the American Legion. He was a life-time member of the Clearfield Fire Department.
Reilly was a member of the Presbyterian Church of Clearfield, where he was a Sunday school teacher and an Elder.
Reilly is survived by his wife, Mary Ann (Wilson), whom he married Aug. 3, 1963; two sons, Thomas John Reilly and his wife, Jennifer of Spring Grove and Daniel John Reilly and his wife, Alyson of Lawrenceville, GA.; three grandchildren, Claire Rose Reilly, John William Reilly and Grace Elizabeth Reilly. He is also survived by a sister, Betsy Lewin and her husband, Ted of Brooklyn, NY.
He was preceded in death by his parents.
A memorial service with a reception to follow will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 at the Presbyterian Church of Clearfield, 119 North Second St., Clearfield, PA 16830, with the Rev. J. Robert Mellgard and Mr. Richard Barkley officiating. Burial will be in the Hillcrest Cemetery.
The family suggests memorial contributions be made to the Shriner’s Hospital for Children, c/o Jaffa Shrine Center, P.O. Box 1984, Altoona, PA 16603, or to the Presbyterian Church of Clearfield, 119 North Second St., Clearfield, PA 16830.