By RYAN DUNN
Judge Joe Moorhead’s work ethic and character led to an exemplary career serving the Hancock County justice system, his children and colleagues said.
“I look at his life as a story, and it’s a remarkable story,” said his son, Dr. John Moorhead of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Judge Moorhead was born April 27, 1908, in Liberty Township, and died Saturday at 105 years old. He was believed to be the oldest living retired judge in the state, according to the Ohio Supreme Court news service.
Moorhead spent more than 35 years in public service, including terms as county prosecutor, probate judge and common pleas court judge. He retired as a Hancock County Common Pleas Court judge in 1976.
Moorhead’s children on Monday praised him as a dedicated judge and loving husband.
Moorhead followed his calling into a career of law, said his daughter, Jo Ann Wilson of Findlay.
“He had a strong sense of right and wrong, but was always tempered by mercy and love,” Wilson said.
It was the job’s challenges that appealed to him, John Moorhead said.
“The reason dad loved his work is because it was so difficult, and he loved rising to that occasion,” his son said.
Hancock County Probate/Juvenile Court Judge Allan Davis spent many years alongside Moorhead. Davis graduated with Moorhead’s daughter, and practiced law before Judge Moorhead.
Davis recalled Moorhead presiding over a sequestered jury from a criminal case. Moorhead noticed a beer purchase on the receipt from the jurors’ dinner.
Moorhead paid for the drink himself so taxpayer money would not, Davis said.
“He was always a very fair judge, a great steward of public funds,” Davis said.
In recent years, Davis regularly drove Moorhead to bar association and investment club meetings. Moorhead stayed well-read and sharply discussed current events, Davis said.
“You can tell he was genuinely interested in whatever you were saying,” Davis said.
Moorhead was a member of the Ohio Bar Association for 76 years.
He told fascinating stories about his life as a child, such as growing up with outhouses and gaslights, his son said.
The progress of technology shocked Judge Moorhead, his son said, including speaking online over Skype to his grandson in South America.
Moorhead remained physically active, lifting weights and walking until the last year. He virtually bowled on a Nintendo Wii, his daughter said.
Those who asked him the key to longevity received the same answer, Wilson said.
“He’d always say, ‘Hard work,’ with a twinkle in his eye,” she said.
Moorhead possessed an engaging personality and a long memory of people, John Moorhead said.
Several years ago, Judge Moorhead spoke to a sixth-grade class in McComb. One young girl identified herself before asking him a question.
Moorhead replied with a story of purchasing candy in 1913 from her great-great-grandfather, his son said.
Moorhead also deeply believed in his faith and in helping others, John Moorhead said.
He adored his wife of 63 years, Jean Elizabeth, his children said. She died in 2004.
John Moorhead said he noticed a more tender and compassionate side of his father as her health waned.
“He revealed what his heart was. It was there all along, of course,” his son said.
Their walks together were like a Norman Rockwell painting, his daughter said.
“I’m a better person for being around my father,” Wilson said.
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