It’s most appropriate that Thursday’s memorial service for Judge Richard J. Rinebolt will take place at the Hancock County Courthouse.
That is, after all, where Rinebolt presided as a common pleas court judge between 1977 and 1990. Even after he retired, Rinebolt didn’t vacate the premises, keeping an “office” in the upper reaches of the Hancock County Law Library, located above his former courtroom.
Rinebolt was always quick to credit Robert D. Walker, now the county’s oldest judge, as leading the renovation of the law library decades ago, but it was Rinebolt who served as president of the library for 23 years.
He left his mark elsewhere, as well.
While still on the bench, and witnessing a dramatic rise in divorces, Rinebolt met with mental health professionals to develop a curriculum to help parents work through divorce-related issues, with a focus on the children. What resulted was the “Helping Ourselves through Parenting Education” program.
The first class was held in 1989. Classes for both parents and children are still held at the courthouse each month.
Rinebolt, who died Monday at the age of 91, had “retired” over two decades ago, meaning most people younger than 20 wouldn’t know of his years of public service, which also included serving as prosecutor and municipal court judge.
But that’s not necessarily the case. Rinebolt’s notable military experience — he flew 30 missions as a fighter pilot in the 4th Fighter Group, which destroyed more than 1,000 German aircraft while based in England during World War II — made him a regular school speaker for Veterans Day programs. Last year, it was Riverdale School; the year before, Arlington.
Rinebolt stayed current with the membership of the Hancock County Bar Association, both old and young. Many lawyers would encounter him at bar association gatherings or, until recent years, at his beloved law library.
Rinebolt maintained a special interest in all things related to the law, kept up to date on rulings and cases, and remained an avid reader.
As historian, he was called upon to lead programs recognizing achievements of bar members. In 2008, he was the master of ceremonies for the 100th birthday of Judge Joe Moorhead, who died last month.
There will be another empty seat at the “coffee” table at the American Legion, but we have a feeling the many tales of Judge Rinebolt will be retold for years to come.
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