Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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Judge Frank P. McEvoy, who died June 24, 1945, was born in Waterbury on November 12, 1878, the son of Finton and Mary (Lawlor) McEvoy. Both parents died during his infancy, and he spent much of his early childhood in New Haven with his uncle, the Reverend Patrick P. Lawlor, who was the pastor of St. Mary's Church on Hillhouse Avenue. Later he lived in Waterbury and was graduated from the Waterbury High School and St. Francis Xavier College, New York City.
On June 29, 1909, he married Gertrude G. Guilfoile, of Waterbury, who was the daughter of Michael and Katherine (Lawlor) Guilfoile and who, with an adopted son, Vincent, survives him.
Judge McEvoy was a member of the Mattatuck council of the Boy Scouts of America, the bishop of Hartford's Scout Committee, the advisory board of Albertus Magnus College of New Haven, and the Waterbury Country Club. He was also a member of the Waterbury, State and American Bar Associations. He was a devout member and trustee of the Blessed Sacrament Church of Waterbury, a sponsor and the first chairman of the Boy Scout troop of his parish, and a member and former president of the Holy Name Society.
When a very young man he had been an ardent bicyclist, and his first real business experience was gained when he opened an establishment in Waterbury with his brother Martin for the sale and repair of bicycles. This work cultivated a natural aptitude for mechanical things and was a successful business venture. The automobile, then almost a toy, attracted Judge McEvoy's attention, and about the year 1902 he purchased a Pierce Motorette in Buffalo from the George N. Pierce Company, which subsequently acquired a wide reputation as the manufacturer of the Pierce Arrow car. Garages and automobile repair shops were then unknown, and Judge McEvoy, with characteristic thoroughness, went to Buffalo and spent several weeks working in the Pierce factory, where he acquired a clear understanding of the design, operation, care and repair of the Pierce car. It was his intention at that time to enter the automobile business in Waterbury, but he became ill with typhoid fever. During the several weeks in which he lay prostrated by this sickness, his many activities were necessarily interrupted and he had an opportunity for thought and introspection which ended in his determination to become a lawyer.
Soon after his recovery, he entered the Yale School of Law, and was graduated, the vice president of his class, in 1907. At Yale he was an editor of the Yale Law Journal and a member of the class day committee and belonged to Corbey Court. He passed the bar examinations next after graduation and in July, 1907, began the practice of law in Waterbury. For several years he was associated in practice with Francis P. Guilfoile, who later was corporation counsel of the city of Waterbury and for four terms its mayor. This practice in Waterbury continued until Judge McEvoy's appointment to the Superior Court. On May 23, 1927, Judge McEvoy was appointed a member of the commission to revise the General Statutes of Connecticut, which produced the Revision of 1930. About two years later, on June 25, 1929, he was appointed a member of the charter commission of Waterbury. Again, in 1937, he was appointed by the governor a member of a special commission to study the problem of compulsory financial responsibility for motor vehicle operators. Each of these appointments made heavy demands upon his time and strength.
On June 5, 1930, he was appointed, by a Republican governor, a judge of the Superior Court to fill the vacancy caused by the death, on June 1, 1930, of Judge L. P. Waldo Marvin. On January 30, 1931, he was reappointed for the full term of eight years. His death occurred less than two years before the expiration of his second full term appointment, and he had become the senior judge of the Superior Court in years of service.
From his admission to the bar he manifested the traits of industry, scholarship, careful preparation and facile presentation which were to bring him a steadily increasing business as a lawyer, especially in the field of trial work. His practice had become such that his abandonment of it to become a judge of the Superior Court entailed a real financial sacrifice. But to him judicial office presented an opportunity for added service, from the acceptance of which no mercenary considerations would deter him. At his death he lacked but a few days of fifteen full years as a judge, and the esteem in which he was held approved his choice in taking up a judicial career.
Judge McEvoy was a man of many interests, and his boundless energy impelled him to put all of his time to definite purpose.
His love of his fellow men found expression in his work in connection with the probation system and juvenile delinquency. About ten years prior to his death he was designated by his fellow judges as the supervisor of probation in the Superior Court. This required a great amount of labor in addition to his regular work as a judge, but such was his enthusiasm for and confidence in the system of probation as an instrumentality for the redemption of human beings that he gave generously of his time in carrying out his duties in this connection. The many detailed reports which were required by the efficient system which he organized he eagerly studied and mastered, and under his guidance the system of probation in the Superior Court developed to the efficient service which it is today.
He was also the first judge of the Superior Court to be especially designated to hear appeals from the juvenile court. Here perhaps more than anywhere else was brought to the front his deep love of children and young people, and his sympathy with their problems and those confronting their parents and others charged with their care and training. In blazing the trail in this work, his understanding of young people was, and in the future will continue to be, of incalculable benefit to the people of the state.
The knowledge of tools and mechanical things which he had acquired as a young man remained with him, and he had a well-equipped workshop in his garage. A true handy man, he made all sorts of small repairs and improvements around his residence. This interest was but a small manifestation in a single direction of the great affection for his home and his family which was so obvious to the many friends who were the recipients of his gracious hospitality.
He was sensitive to beauty and to the wonders of nature. He loved the out-of-doors for its own sake and not merely in connection with the pursuit of some specific activity. In his travels through the West, in Canada, and in Europe, he had the companionship of his wife, to whom he was very devoted. Together they greatly enjoyed horseback riding and walking through the beautiful country around Waterbury and the Naugatuck Valley, and both were enthusiastic devotees of golf.
Although he was active in the Democratic party until his ascension to the bench, he neither sought nor accepted public office. When he became a judge he forthwith ceased all political activity, and his political detachment upon assuming judicial office was genuine and sincere.
Partly perhaps as a result of his early life with his uncle in New Haven, but principally because of his innate religious convictions, he was a devout communicant of the Roman Catholic church. He was one of those fortunate persons to whom religion was no mere empty formalism. He felt sure of his religion and found in it not only solace and comfort but also guidance and strength with which to answer the call of duty and meet the buffetings of adversity. It is hardly possible to conceive of a layman more thoroughly imbued with his religion than Judge McEvoy, or more devoted to its principles. And yet he was no bigot. He had no smug self-satisfaction which excluded from his friendship and loyal affection those who had not come to see religion through his eyes or who failed to worship at his church. His hand was outstretched to all to whom he could bring aid or comfort, and he did not pause to inquire the race, faith, creed or political persuasion of anyone whom he thought in need of help which he could give.
It is impossible to draw an adequate word portrait of this earnest, versatile man within the proper limits of a sketch of this type. A summary of his character was attempted in the following excerpt from a resolution adopted by his fellow judges of the Superior Court at their meeting on September 24, 1945: "Be it
Resolved, That the judges of the Superior Court express their deep sorrow at the death of Judge Frank P. McEvoy, of Waterbury, on June 24, 1945. From his appointment to the bench on June 5, 1930, until he was stricken by an illness which but a few days later proved fatal, his indefatigable industry and sound legal scholarship commanded the respect of bench and bar alike, while his sparkling wit, ever tempered by a warm heart, contributed to a delightful personality which won the real affection of all with whom he came in contact.
"Just, patient and humane in his conduct both on and off the bench, in his death Connecticut lost an outstanding judge."