Judge Marilyn E. Stavros
May 6, 1939 - July 16, 2015
Eulogy given by Judge Andre G. Janelle on August 15, 2015.
Dino, Peter, Michael, Jonathan and your spouses Jamie and Amy, grandchildren Maggie, Niko, Dino, Charlie and Cy and Marilyn's siblings David and Janet, please accept my condolences and those of York County's magistrates, judges, clerks and members of the bar on Marilyn's passing. She was a wonderful wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother and sibling.
I first met Marilyn in 1986. I was a brand new judge and Marilyn, Anita St. Onge and Claire Julian practiced law in a building just a short distance from this church. Marilyn had started her own practice upon graduation and Anita and Claire joined her later. Forming a firm is a daunting undertaking under any circumstances but Marilyn threw herself into this endeavor body and soul at age of 41 and while raising a large and active family. In 1980, as I recall, the only women practicing law in York County were Assistant DA Pam Lawrason, Deborah Hjort who had an office in Saco (now a teacher), and Dawn Hill in York (now a prominent State Senator) who later also practiced for a time with Jon Levy. In 1980 the climate in legal profession was not as hospitable for women as it is today. Some male lawyers were openly hostile to all women who ventured to practice law. I regret to say that in the 1980s some judges, through their rulings, their conduct and their comments, made it difficult for women to practice law successfully. Against these obstacles Marilyn, Anita and Claire stood their ground and by dint of their perseverance and determination changed attitudes in the legal community and achieved success in the practice of law and in the process became trailblazers for women who entered the practice of law in the following years. The Maine Law School graduating class of 1980 counts among its distinguished graduates a total of five Maine judges, all women, [Marilyn Stavros, Christine Foster, Beth Dobson, Mary Gay Kennedy, Leigh Saufley]. Other notable "Ladies of 80" include the late Sheila Fine who practiced in Ogunquit with Janis Cohen, Nancy Zeigler, Marsha Weeks-Traill (who still practices in western York County) and long-time Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson as well as Anita St. Onge and Claire Julian, Marilyn's law partners.
In 1989 Marilyn joined the Attorney General's Office and prosecuted child abuse and neglect cases representing the Maine Department of Human Services. This is when I really got to know Marilyn since she appeared in District Court for DHS every week and back then I handled virtually all of York County's child protective cases. It was then that I really began to appreciate how good a lawyer Marilyn was. Marilyn was prepared. Marilyn knew the law. Marilyn understood how to manage her client, trial witnesses and opposing counsel. Marilyn understood the art of successful negotiation. Marilyn was tactful when appropriate and plain-spoken and hard as nails when necessary. And my God was Marilyn ever funny. Every week Marilyn had at least one new story or joke to share with the judges. I wish I could share a few of them with you today but I don't feel that's appropriate given the venue and the people in the audience. Let's just say that Marilyn was a talented comic and storyteller who combined the timing of a Jack Benny, the facial expressiveness of a Tina Fey and the vocabulary and the thematic material of an Amy Schumer. On several occasions Marilyn reported to me with great delight Dino's distress when she recounted to him the latest joke she had just told me, Judge Bob Crowley, or Judge Ted Gaulin—"Marilyn, you didn't tell that joke to the judge did you?" Well of course she had.
In 1998 Marilyn became one of Maine's original Family Law Magistrates presiding over family cases in all three of York County's District Courts. At last year's portrait ceremony Judge Levy summarized Marilyn's contributions as follows: "Families not only received justice, they experienced it. Marilyn gets people. She can communicate with people no matter their life circumstances or their level of education." Judge Levy went on to observe that Marilyn became the standard by which all Magistrates came to be judged.
On August 30, 2005 Marilyn became a District Court Judge for York County and retired in May 2009 at age 70. At last year's portrait ceremony Chief Justice Saufley noted that Marilyn was one of the very best judges the state has ever seen. Those of us who worked and appeared before her certainly concur with the Chief's assessment of Marilyn.
Within a few short years of retirement Marilyn's life compressed into a smaller circle due to the progression of her illness. What we all learned from Marilyn then was how much was still left in her after so much had been taken away. Marilyn still kept up phone and e-mail communications with her large network of friends. Marilyn continued to encourage us and to take a genuine interest in our lives and she continued to e-mail stories and jokes to brighten our days.
For me Marilyn was the older sister I never had. Marilyn was always available when I needed to talk something out—be it a work related matter or a personal matter---and after listening carefully to me Marilyn would invariably help me focus my thoughts and guide me to a practical solution. Marilyn was always there to encourage all of her colleagues when we became discouraged with our out of control caseloads or from dealing with the dysfunctional situations that we have to manage on a daily basis or with a difficult problem in our personal lives. Already I miss Marilyn's calming ways, her encouragement and her sage advice. Most of all I miss her infectious joie de vivre and her humor.
Occasionally Marilyn and I would talk about books. I can remember discussing with her my great fondness for Jane Kenyon's poetry. I'd like to close with a reading of one of Jane Kenyon's poems, Let Evening Come, a poem I may have read for Marilyn years ago during one of our discussions. I hope the poem brings you a measure of comfort to during this difficult period.
LET EVENING COME
Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.
Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.
Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.
Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.
To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.
Let it come, as it will, and don't
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.