I had the opportunity last night to attend the retirement dinner of Judge Laura Roesch in Panama City Florida. Judge Roche was appointed to the bench in May 2001, and is retiring just short of 15 years of service.
In a great line from A Knights Tale, Prince Edward tells the hero: "your men love you. If I knew nothing else about you, that would be enough." Judge Roesch is a loved and respected manager, in addition to being a judge. That staff has been so long-serving and loyal says a great deal about her. It is not easy to manage a staff. State government has not been the land of pay raises and bonuses the last 15 years. But one thing that strikes me about Judge Roesch is the continuity of staff the PMC office has enjoyed. The whole dinner last night was their doing, with a special shout-out to Lyna, the rock upon which District PMC has long relied.
The District staff opened the proceedings with a skit. Lyna made a speech including so many of the Judgisms with which we have all become familiar. Stories were shared and events remembered. In a touching moment, Judge Lazzara noted his last attendance at a retirement dinner was about 15 years ago when Judge Brown left the bench in PMC just prior to Judge Roesch's appointment. Judge Brown attended the dinner. For those that remember him, know that he has not aged a day in the last 15 years. I asked what he has been doing and he replied "anything I want, I am retired!"
Reflecting on the past 15 years, I believe that Judge Roesch's greatest contribution has been her consistent dedication and pragmatism. Judge Roesch has been all about providing a fair and impartial hearing to injured workers and their employers in this part of the state. She has taught me so many things over the years. She has been a persistent contributor to handling cases in other districts. She is among the first to call and offer help when others have retired, fallen ill, etc.
She had been on the bench only a few months when I was appointed to sit in Pensacola, Florida. Being the only 2 JCC district offices in the central time zone, there was a natural inclination for consistent operations in Panama City and Pensacola. Besides sharing a time zone, we shared a bar to a great degree. Judge Roesch was gracious in welcoming me to the bench, and was a great resource on so many occasions.
Judge Roesch is so much more than a judge. I have always been impressed with her ability and motivation to enjoy life. She is an avid reader a student of the law. She is enthralled with foreign cultures and history, and travels extensively. We have had many conversations about her study of Great Britain. I did not know until last night that this included collecting British automobiles and participation in a car club.
She and her husband, Rich, have been collecting and riding motorcycles for a number of years. Her Harley-riding stories are always entertaining. She sometimes reminds me of the protagonist in Walter Mitty, travelling the globe and seeing the sights. I expect she could put on quite the slideshow/travelogue.
So many individuals had wonderful things to say about Judge Roesch last night. She engaged in so many animated conversations with this packed house of individuals. There were friends from her ukulele orchestra (yes, that is not a typo), her car club, her reading club, the OJCC, attorneys, and more. It was quite a tribute.
At the end of the evening, as I found myself driving back across the panhandle to Pensacola, my lasting impression is how much we as an organization, we as a state, will miss this noble and able jurist.
I am thankful for the years of encouragement, support, and honest criticism. I will miss her academically-focused and well reasoned legal sense. I am happy to celebrate her transition to a new phase of her life. And celebrate the fact that I had the honor to serve with her for so long.
We will all miss you Judge Roesch. It won't be the same without you. Someone will fill the position of JCC in Panama City, but whoever it is will struggle to fill your shoes.