Colleagues of the late Merle K. Evey remember him as a gentleman who embraced life and his profession.
Evey was a well-known attorney who was easily recognized inside the Blair County Courthouse. He died Friday at the age of 83, after an extended illness.
"If the Pennsylvania Bar Association put together the perfect idea of what a lawyer should be, he would be the mold for the whole thing," Evey's law partner James Routch said Monday.
Evey, who grew up in Altoona, practiced law for more than 50 years in Blair County.
"I spent 45 years working with him, and I wouldn't trade a day of it," said Routch, who joined Evey's law firm in Hollidaysburg in 1961. "He was excellent, the true embodiment of a person and a great lawyer. Merle fit in everywhere. He was conscientious, a hard worker and bounded with integrity."
Law partner J. Michael Dorezas described Evey as a perfect gentlemen who was loyal and friendly.
"I think Merle was an example of what a lawyer ought to be," Dorezas said. "He had the utmost integrity. If he told you something, you could bank on it."
Blair County Judge Jolene G. Kopriva worked with Evey when she was a young attorney, and he became a supportive mentor, something she continues to appreciate.
"He loved the law, and he loved researching it," Kopriva said.
"That was his beacon. And no matter whether it was a popular or unpopular view, the law came first."
Attorney Benjamin Levine not only worked with Evey for about 16 years but also golfed with him for more than 25 years.
"He was a gentleman's gentleman," Levine said. "He always put you first and himself last. He was that kind of a guy."
Clyde O. Black remembers joining Evey's law firm in 1965, when Evey had a very large client base.
"We were general practitioners back then. We covered every avenue of the law. This was before we had paralegals and legal assistants. We did everything ourselves, such as search titles for real estate. You had to know what you were looking for," Black said. "I looked at him as a lawyer's lawyer. His knowledge was broad, vast and very much respected."
Blair County Register/Recorder Mary Ann Bennis said Evey hired her as a paralegal for the office.
"I learned a lot through observing Mr. Evey," Bennis said. "Not only about real estate law but also about life and how to treat people. He always respected the people he worked with, and in turn, he was well-respected."
Rose Marie Bodenski, who worked 27 years for Evey's law office, said Evey was the attorney willing to meet with unscheduled clients and regularly did so when he was available.
"He was special, a very caring person," Bodenski said.
Retired Blair County Commissioner Donna Gority got to know Evey after she was elected in 1984. Evey served 23 years as the county's solicitor.
"He was always a gentleman, an old-fashioned style gentleman," Gority said. "He worked very hard to give the county the best possible legal advice he could and sometimes offered some political or philosophical advice, as well,"
Evey was also known as a storyteller who drew on personal experiences, including the two years he spent with the Army
in Germany in the mid-1950s.
"When he had time, he'd stop in, and he'd lean up against the table and start telling stories, often about being overseas," courthouse law librarian Lucy Wolf said. "He was always interesting and always pleasant, just a very nice man."
Certified public accountant Joseph Reilly said he worked more than 40 years with Evey and considered him a good friend.
"He was very honest. He reminded me of Honest Abe," Reilly said. "I sent him a lot of work. I knew I would get good results. I relied on him and depended on him."
Evey's funeral service is set for 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Mary Catholic Church, Hollidaysburg.
Family and friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m., Wednesday at The Stevens Mortuary Inc., 1421 Eighth Ave. and from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m, Thursday at the church.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.