Judge Patrick L. Snyder Remembered as “People Person”

Former Judge Patrick L Snyder - WaukeshaPatrick L. Snyder

OCT. 20, 1935 — APRIL 22, 2015

Rearranged information courtesy of the Freeman – 04/24/2015, p.1


Family first

Beyond his work, for which he received a Jurist Lifetime Achievement Award from the state in 2002, his family remembers a man of special wit and an avid fan of the Fighting Irish, Golden Eagles, Brewers, Packers and Badgers.

He and his wife of 52 years, Luly, loved travel and took cruises all over the world. She recalled him taking bagels to his grandchildren every Saturday, and believed just about anything and everything needed to stuff a Christmas stocking could be found at Walgreens.

Moroski said her grandfather was a “wonderful storyteller, a master joke teller, he lived life with honor and integrity, and probably never met a plate of spaghetti he didn’t like.”

“Our family lost a great man (Wednesday), a man of high integrity, great wisdom, a fair and gentle man, who was also a whole lot of fun,” she said, reading from a family statement from niece Megan Welsh. “If love would’ve kept him here he would have lived forever.”

Snyder died Wednesday at age 79, from complications of pulmonary fibrosis.


From bench, in Mediation’s, and Weddings, Snyder made connections

Retired Judge Neal Nettesheim, reflecting on the death of his friend former Judge Patrick Snyder, relayed an anecdote Thursday that about summed up how Snyder approached his work and his life.

“There was a sentencing Paddy was handling when he was on bench — it was a first-degree murder case, and I will never forget this because it captures the man, captures the judge he was — he had just completed sentencing the man to life in prison, and as the bailiffs were walking the man out of the courtroom, Paddy stepped down from the bench, stopped the deputies in their tracks, and reached out and shook the man’s hand and wished him luck,” Nettesheim said.

“That’s how he felt about people in the courtroom. That’s how he would connect with victims and that’s how he would feel about anybody convicted of the most heinous crimes under our statutes. He never lost that touch, he never lost that element that recognizing that even in the worst of us, there might be some good. That’s what made him special.”

But his family and colleagues remembered him as a man devoted to his family, his community and his profession, going from grade school at St. Jerome’s Catholic Church in Oconomowoc — where he was a lifetime member — to Oconomowoc High School, then The University of Notre Dame (where he graduated cum laude), Marquette University Law School, the Army Reserve, and then working as an attorney in private practice before spending a quarter-century on the bench.

After that, he worked in mediation, where his granddaughter Becca Moroski said he was often busier than he was as a judge. Of the more than 4,200 cases he mediated, more than 98 percent never went to trial, she said.

And, along the way, the marriages he presided over at the courthouse numbered “in the thousands,” she said.

Snyder also was active in various other causes, including lecturing on alcohol and drug dependency, membership in the Oconomowoc Lions Club, and sitting on the boards of Rogers Memorial Hospital and the Oconomowoc Area Foundation. He also worked with the American Cancer Society, the United Way, Knights of Columbus and the March of Dimes.


Colleagues inspired

Several of Snyder’s colleagues at the county courthouse remembered how Snyder inspired them in their careers.

Circuit Judge J. Mac Davis said his first and third trials as a young attorney were before Snyder. He said Snyder’s being named as chief judge was a reflection of the confidence the state Supreme Court had in him.

“I believe as is the case in his personal life and more importantly in his professional life as a judge and mediator, Pat Snyder was a people person,” Davis said. “He saw his cases, his assignments in front of him through the lens of people first, and the law second. That’s one of the reasons he was well-liked. He had so many friends.”

Retired Judge Mark Gempeler said Snyder was “a dear friend and exceptional jurist.” He mentored many young judges including himself, Gempeler said, and was one of the pre-eminent experts in family law in the state.

Nettesheim and Snyder were close friends, traveling not only to many judicial conferences together, but for many years spending part of the winter months in Florida together with their wives. He echoed Davis’ description of Snyder, saying “He had an element of humanity to him that so many of us do not have.”

“Pat had no difficulty connecting. It came naturally to him,” Nettesheim said. “He was able to relate to everybody on a human level … and that’s what made him unique. … Not a lot of judges have that touch, have that special something. Pat had it.”

Former Judge Ness Flores, who served on the bench for five years, said he, Nettesheim and Snyder were known by some as the “Three Amigos,” as they took their lunches together and hung out together outside of work.

“I think he made everyone he knew feel important and that he really cared about you,” Flores said. “He was the most generous guy that I’ve known. He treated everyone with appreciation and humor. He made you feel like you were the center of the universe and it’s a rare thing.”

Visitation is planned for 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday, followed by a funeral Mass at noon at St. Jerome’s Church in Oconomowoc.

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