Justice William S. Brodrick, a longtime Maine Superior Court judge who loved his work so much that he returned to hearing cases part-time after retiring, died this month at his winter home in Sarasota, Florida. He was 81.

Brodrick remained active even after being diagnosed in June with pancreatic cancer, and went for his long daily walks until the day before his death on March 6, said his wife of 56 years, Theresa Brodrick.

“He walked the day before, not well,” his wife said in a phone interview from Florida. “He knew he was going to die from pancreatic cancer, but he thought he had a couple months.”

His wife said her husband died suddenly but peacefully, as he preferred, since he was a self-reliant man who would have struggled with letting others take care of him.

Brodrick was first appointed as a judge on Maine’s District Court bench in 1980. He served as a Superior Court justice from 1981 to 1999.

“He loved his work,” Theresa Brodrick said. “He tried to retire, but he missed it very much.”

After retirement, Justice Brodrick spent winters at his home in Florida and summers at his home in Wells.

But by 2002, he returned to hearing Superior Court cases in Maine after being reconfirmed on an active retired basis.

“It was like he never left. He was right back and very involved,” said Justice Roland Cole, the chief Superior Court judge.

Cole had known Brodrick since their days as prosecutors, then in private practice together in the 1970s, before either of them became judges. The two men and their wives remained friends through the years.

“He was a no-nonsense guy and, in my experience, a great judge,” Cole said.

Brodrick began court promptly at 8:30 each morning and expected everyone to be prepared for the day’s work. But he was as kind and compassionate as he was exacting, Cole said.

“When he found out he had a terminal illness, he said, ‘I’m all done.’ He packed up and he was out of here,” Cole said. “He didn’t want anyone expressing pity toward him.” But when people wrote letters to him, Brodrick wrote eloquent replies to them all. He even wrote one reply note on the day he died, Cole said.

Sally Bourget, the head clerk at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland, said Brodrick was thought of very fondly by the staff at the courthouse.

“We all loved him. We all loved working with him, and we all learned something from him every time we worked with him,” Bourget said.

Brodrick worked as a newspaper reporter before law school and was chief editorial writer at the Boston Herald from 1965 to 1969. He left journalism after a dispute with the publisher over the Vietnam War. He was admitted to the Maine bar in 1972.

“He loved being a journalist, but he loved the law too,” his wife said.

Chief Justice Leigh Saufley, the head of Maine’s Judicial Branch, said she sent a message to the state’s other judges after learning of Brodrick’s death. But many people did not find out until his obituary was published on Thursday, because he was the kind of person who didn’t want a lot of fanfare.

“He’s just an incredibly strong person,” Saufley said.

Saufley described Brodrick as having the best qualities for a judge: He was fair, impartial and listened well.

“Bill was a quiet mentor to a whole host of new judges, including many of us who are serving now in southern Maine,” Saufley said. “It was Bill who would ask if you were floundering in any way.”

Saufley said that even she never stopped learning from Brodrick.

“Bill Brodrick was one of the best judges I have worked with and, in my eyes, a great friend,” Saufley said.

A memorial gathering will be held in Maine this summer.

 


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