Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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John T. Dwyer, the senior judge of the Common Pleas Court, died July 22, 1960, after being stricken in a Connecticut Turnpike restaurant, having that day completed a contested matter on the bench in his summer chambers assignment.
Judge Dwyer was named to the Common Pleas bench on April 23, 1935, by Governor Wilbur L. Cross and had been appointed for a new term commencing November 3, 1960.
He was born in Ansonia, Connecticut, November 7, 1891, and was graduated from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., in 1915. He joined the Norwalk law firm of Keogh and Candee and continued with it until 1932 except for the period of his service in the United States Army at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, in 1918. In 1932, he formed a partnership with Sheldon B. Smith. He ran for state senator in 1930 in the twenty-sixth district, succumbing only to the rural vote in the small towns comprising the district. He surpassed the Republican candidate in Norwalk. He was appointed corporation counsel of Norwalk in the administration of Mayor Harold L. Nash in 1931 but resigned in 1933 when he was appointed judge of the Norwalk City Court, succeeding the late United States Senator Brien McMahon. He was a past exalted ruler of the Norwalk Lodge of Elks and a member of the American, state and local bar associations, the Frank C. Godfrey Post of the American Legion, and the South Norwalk Council of the Knights of Columbus.
Early in his judicial life he suffered a grievous loss in the death of his wife, Kathleen Tracey Dwyer, and was left with the problem, especially difficult for a father, of guiding and directing an only daughter. His daughter was a matter of joy to him, and, as her personality developed, she occupied a conspicuous place in his esteem as well as in his affection. After her marriage to William Dysart of Tulsa, Oklahoma, that became a place of at least an annual visit by the judge. He also undertook, to some extent, travel in the Caribbean and in South America.
While Judge Dwyer was associated with Keogh and Candee, much of the appellate work of the office came into his hands, oftentimes when he had not been present at the trial table. So functioning, he became familiar with the rules of procedure and appellate practice to the extent of becoming expert in the presentation of such matters and in brief writing. It was the legal side of any problem that attracted him. Not that he neglected the facts. Not that he overlooked the practicalities. Most men stop with them. But in his mind, they were the starting point, the springboard from which he took off into the upper air of close reasoning and analysis in which many find it so difficult to breathe. He was at home in this rare atmosphere. He read the law, he understood it and he applied it carefully and deliberately. Perhaps, too deliberately. If he had a weakness, that was it. In this jet age, he sometimes moved slowly. He probably felt that speed is not the answer to all our problems. Could it be that he was right?
His interest in aspiring candidates for the bar, his association with their efforts, his satisfaction and pleasure in their ultimate achievement, his kindly treatment of the younger members of the bar, gave to some of us the sincere impression that his area of effort could have been in elucidation over the teaching desk. He found his relaxation in the study of governmental and political affairs. He went daily to the newspapers as some men go to poetry or novels or mystery stories. He read them exhaustively and little of significance escaped him. He went further. For many years he received and read the "Congressional Record." One suspects that in his daydreams he was a senator longing to move others with his logic and his eloquence, although, in fact, he had little aptitude for that sort of life.
He had a great capacity for human companionship. He enjoyed good food, good drink and good fellowship. He was not loud or assertive or arrogant, but he could keep the ball of conversation bouncing back and forth with lively interest and good humor. His wit was sometimes sharp like a needle but never heavy like a sword.
He has left behind him life's greatest wealth - a host of friends who loved him and will miss him.