Obit: Gaffney, Judge Richard F. (? - 1971)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Gaffney, Johnson, Thomas, Heil, Beilfuss, Nikolay, Lucey, Gay

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co, WI) 4/15/1971

Gaffney, Judge Richard F. (? - 14 April 1971)

Richard F. Gaffney, 63, judge of the Clark County Court for the last six years, died at 9:10 a.m. Wednesday in St. Joseph’s Hospital at Marshfield. He had been admitted there April 6, with internal hemorrhaging.

A long time resident of Clark County, Judge Gaffney had practiced law in Owen and made his home there until he assumed the county court bench a little more than six years ago. He had been reelected to a second six-year term in 1970, and started serving that term in January of this year.

Judge Gaffney entered public life during World War II, when the then-governor of Wisconsin, the later Julius P. Heil, appointed him acting district attorney to serve during the period of naval service of Bruce F. Beilfuss, who presently is a state Supreme Court justice.

He also served for several years on the Clark County Board of Supervisors, and during that service was an influential member of several important committees of the county.

Judge Gaffney was the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Bart Gaffney of Biron, near Wisconsin Rapids. He was one of seven children and was also the father of seven. He was graduated from Biron High School and Marquette University Law School. Before securing his law degree, Judge Gaffney taught school in Lindsey for a brief time.

He was a member of Holy Rosary Catholic Church while in Owen, and of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Neillsville.

The body was taken to the Hoepner & Kraut Funeral home in Owen. Funeral arrangements had not been made Wednesday afternoon; but it was believed that the service would be held Saturday morning.

Surviving besides Mrs. Gaffney are their seven children: Mrs. William (Sue) Johnson of the Town of Longwood; Mrs. Bruce (Colleen) Johnson of Owen; Jane (Toni), at home; Timothy of Owen; Patrick of Neillsville; Kathleen of Owen; Mrs. Janet Thomas of Rockford, Ill.; and Richard of Wisconsin Rapids. Also surviving are two grandsons and six granddaughters.

Frank L. Nikolay, Abbotsford attorney and former Clark County Assemblyman, expressed his regret on the death Wednesday of Judge Gaffney. Responding to an inquiry concerning the filling of the vacancy created, Mr. Nikolay said: “The vacancy will be filled by gubernatorial appointment. I would hope that an appointment will be made within a couple weeks. I would not want to see it delayed much more than that.”

He said that Gov. Patrick J. Lucey may seek the recommendation of the Clark County Bar Association and of officers of the Clark County Democratic Party. However, he said, the governor could make the appointment on the recommendation of his own staff, and without other recommendations.

In considering possible appointees, two Democratic attorneys practicing in Clark County presently stand out. One is Mr. Nikolay, himself, and the other is Ernest Gay, Owen attorney and one-time candidate for district attorney on the Democratic ticket.

Asked whether he would be receptive to an appointment, Mr. Nikolay said: “If the governor were to offer it to me, I would have to seriously consider it.” He said also, that Mr. Gay, because of his active participation in county Democratic Party activities over seal years, “would have to be a prospect.”

Any appointment by the governor would be only until the judicial election in the spring of 1972, a year from now. At that time an election would be held to fill the balance of the term for which Judge Gaffney was elected.



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