Routch remembered for humor, work on hospital merger
Jim Routch was known as the life of the party and a very well-respected attorney.
James S. Routch, 84, Hollidaysburg, died Friday at The Winds at Mattern Orchard after an extended illness.
“He had a great sense of humor. He kept you in good spirits,” said Mike Magee, senior attorney at Evey Black Attorneys LLC, Hollidaysburg, where Routch served as a partner for many years.
“He was jovial and a lot of fun to work for. He was the life of the party and had a great sense of humor,” said Blair County Register of Wills and Recorder of Deeds Mary Ann Bennis, who worked as a paralegal for Routch for nearly 25 years.
Routch was managing partner of the law firm when now Blair County Senior Judge Jolene G. Kopriva joined the firm in 1978.
“Jim was a lot larger than life,” Kopriva said. “He had a large personality. He was a good people person. He watched people, and he observed people. He was a master at relationships. He was always open to mentoring other attorneys, always willing to share his expertise.”
Magee said Routch was the first person he met when he joined the law firm in 1975.
“He was a practical attorney. He didn’t like to write a lot of letters. He would pick up the phone and get it done. He was old school,” Magee said.
Attorney Joseph Grappone called Routch his mentor and friend.
“I owe my career to him,” Grappone said. “I feel a deep loss and feel bad for the family. He was my mentor. I thought the world of him.”
Blair County Judge Daniel Milliron said when he returned to Altoona in 1980, Routch was one of the premier attorneys in Blair County.
“He represented the (Altoona) hospital and other significant clients that put him in a position where everyone would deal with him in some manner,” Milliron said. “His personality was exuberant, and his ability was widely respected.”
Routch was well-known for his work with workers’ compensation.
“He was the foremost person in workmen’s compensation in the area, and many of us asked him for advice regularly,” Milliron said.
“He was the go-to guy in the county for any workmen’s compensation issues. He was the dean of that area,” Magee said.
Routch was also well-known for his real estate work.
“He was grounded and treated people fairly. He had the ability to fuse a situation and come to an agreement and get the closing done. He was a real estate attorney pillar. He was a member of the ad hoc real estate committee, which would meet monthly to discuss real estate issues in the county. His input was well-respected among his real estate colleagues,” Bennis said.
Routch, a Hastings native, played a key role in the 2004 merger between Bon Secours Holy Family Hospital and Altoona Hospital when he served as Altoona’s general counsel.
“He did a tremendous job when Bon Secours and Altoona Hospital were like high school rivals,” Grappone said. “He and Jim Barner did a heck of a job in getting that done. He was a funny guy and was the best.”
“I always thought we needed to merge. Jim was exceedingly helpful for me when we began that course. Jim was always very supportive of my efforts and guided me along a very complex course,” said Barner, who was president/CEO of Altoona Hospital. “When dealing with legal issues, he was always fair and he would always use good common sense. He thought through issues so carefully and always wanted to be fair and do the right thing. I lost a special friend.”
Routch’s wife, Carolyn, passed away in 2008. He is survived by three sons, four granddaughters and his brother, Wendell.
Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Sorge Funeral Home & Crematory Inc., Hollidaysburg. Interment will be at Alto-Reste Park Cemetery.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.