Lawrence B. Wernick always dreamed of following in the footsteps of his father, Sydney W., a member of the Supreme Judicial Court for 24 years. In 1996, a year after his father's passing, Lawrence Wernick was appointed a justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court.
Judge Wernick, of Longmeadow, who presided over many difficult cases of civil litigation, died Thursday in Massachusetts General Hospital after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 56.
Born in Portland, Maine, Judge Wernick grew up in a family of lawyers.
"His father was a lawyer, his mother was a lawyer, and all of his uncles were lawyers," Judge Wernick's wife of 23 years, Carol (Halpern), said yesterday.
After graduating from Suffield Academy of Suffield, Conn., in 1966, Judge Wernick graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Wesleyan University in 1970. He received his law degree cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1973.
He was an associate of Burns and Levinson in Boston for 10 years and a partner at Craig and Macauley.
After moving to Longmeadow to be closer to his extended family, he became a partner at the Springfield law firm of Cohen Rosenthal, and served as chairman of the merit selection panel for the appointment of the magistrate judge for the US District Court in Western Massachusetts. In 1996, Governor William F. Weld appointed him associate justice of the Superior Court.
"It was a dream that he always had -- he never thought he would be able to become a judge," Carol Wernick said.
"He thought long and hard on his decisions; they were never done lightly. That was part of his personality -- he was very thorough. He appreciated the honor of serving."
She said others also appreciated his service.
"I just know that over the eight years he worked, people would come up to me and say what a great job he did," Carol Wernick said. "Lawyers, too, not just jurors or prospective jurors. He loved it, he truly loved it. His first love was his family, but his second love was the law."
Active in court on many levels, Judge Wernick served on the boards of the Jewish Federation of Greater Springfield and Jewish Family Services. He was also a member of the Supreme Judicial Court steering committee on unrepresented litigants, the Hampden County Bar Association, Massachusetts Defense Lawyers Association, and Supreme Judicial Court Historical Society.
"He was a scholar but never seemed to act that way or admit he was that type of person," said his wife. "Everyone around here would always comment about his demeanor. He was a quiet, refined person."
"He had a great sense of humor, too, that a lot of people probably didn't know," Carol Wernick said. "We were able to use that in the last year-and-a-half, and still have some laughter."
Besides his wife, Judge Wernick leaves three sons, Andrew, Daniel, and Seth, all of Longmeadow; a sister, Judith Gilmore of Chevy Chase, Md.; and four nieces.
Funeral services will be today at 1 p.m. in Temple Beth El in Springfield. Burial will be in West Springfield's Beth El Cemetery.