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Easton Remembers Gay Elwell

City residents pay tribute to deceased district judge.

I've been doing news reporting in Easton for nearly 11 years now, but I'd only really gotten to know District Judge Gay Elwell in the last two. 

We'd both worked for The Morning Call as reporters in its Easton bureau, although she'd already been on the bench for five years by the time I came to town. I'd stop by her court during my newspaper days, but it was never with any consistency.

Once I got this job, that changed, and her downtown Easton offices (first in Centre Square, then, oddly enough, inside the former Morning Call offices) became part of my normal routine. 

On Monday, when my friend Joe Frinzi called to give me the news that Elwell had been found dead, I had to pull my car over, mostly out of confusion. It seemed like a horrible rumor, until I began getting other calls, and then confirmed it with the court administrator.

It wasn't an easy story to write. I've written about horrible deaths at four different publications, but none of them involved anyone I knew. 

The confusion, shock and sadness I felt were pretty common in Easton, which was feeling shock, confusion and sadness yesterday. 

At Elwell's office Tuesday, her staff soldiered on. They had wanted to go home, but said the county had them stay.

(For the record: It seems cold and unfair not to allow these people -- who considered the judge a friend as much as a boss -- to have maybe a day to grieve.)

Flower arrangements and food lined the counters. Constables and cops and workers from other district courts came to offer condolences. Elwell's staff had been with her for years, some of them since the beginning. (Her "newest" hire has been there eight years.) There were tears, of course, as they remembered their friend.

Earlier in the day, they'd gotten a condolence call from a woman who had been before the judge as a defendant. She was charged with prostitution, but later turned her life around, got an education, and got married. She asked Elwell to officiate, and invited the whole office to the wedding. 

Elwell married quite a few people around the city, judging from posts on the Easton, Pennsylvania Facebook page.

 "I went before [Judge Elwell] twice once as a victim and once as a defendant, and in both cases i found her to be fair and compassionate," wrote a commenter on our original story about the judge's death. "The justice system is going to be at a loss without her."

Timothy Hare, an Easton architect and gallery owner, posted a YouTube eulogy Tuesday for Elwell. 

In it, he recalls how his sister needed a liver transplant -- he turned to the Morning Call to publicize her case. It was Elwell who wrote the story.

"She just dropped everything," Hare said in the video. "Of course she would."

Her story ran, and found its way to the Geisinger Medical Center. The parents of a girl who had just died in a car crash donated her liver to Hare's sister.

His sister survived the operation, but passed away just before Hare met Elwell for the first time...31 years ago on Tuesday.

People in Easton are already planning tributes to her. On Jan. 5, Easton Yoga will host "Can't Fill These Shoes," an art exhibit in Elwell's memory. Proceeds from the show will go to one of the judge's favorite charities. 

I enjoyed talking to her when I could. She was funny, straightforward, helpful, kind and quotable. I was happy to have her as a reader.

"Easton is a lesser place without her" is something I've seen/heard a lot of people say in the last two days. Add me to that list.

Rev. Dr. Thomas S. Robinson III December 05, 2012 at 12:46 PM
My best friend works in Gay's office and I've had the honor and privilege of getting to know Gay over the years. As a pastor, I've officiated at some of Gay's friends' funeral services and recently her brother's memorial service. Gay even too the time to allow my son to "shadow" her for a day for his high school project and she was gracious and insightful. I found her to be a strong woman, comfortable with being herself, yet compassionate and heart-broken when her brother passed away so tragically.. She loved her family, loved "her girls" in the office who kept her organized, and she loved her work. I am in shock that she has passed away so young. She had so much still to share. Easton is a better place because Gay has been here, but today is a lesser place as we adjust to life without her. - Pastor Tom Robinson, Calvary United Methodist Church
Amend December 05, 2012 at 01:24 PM
RIP Gay. Thanks for the kind words Tom.
Horv Paul December 05, 2012 at 02:27 PM
A privilege to have known her and a honor to call her Friend.. Rip.. Gay.. I miss you already...
Pamela Porter December 05, 2012 at 05:06 PM
I never knew her, but reading about her makes me know it was my loss.
Lydia Bruneo December 05, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Well written, Tom. Gay was an outstanding woman. After publishing the first Easton Irregular after taking it over from Carole Heffley, Gay was the first to offer kind words as well as constructive criticism, both of which were greatly appreciated. Her death is definitely a great loss for Easton. May she rest in peace.
Tonga Miye December 05, 2012 at 08:36 PM
I was a defendant due to to many overtime meter parking tickets, but i found district justice Gay Elwell to be a very tough, but fair & compassionate judge. I've also had the privilege to talk with her outside of the court room & found her to truly be a wonderfully pleasant woman. I was truly devastated by the sad news of her passing & my prayers are with her family & her staff. RIP Judge Elwell. Sadly submitted, Tonya Moye'
Deborah Rabinsky December 07, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Gay Elwell's [CAT'S NEED HOME'S] 1-Maraboo = small black longhair female 13 years old, lap cat need love. 2- Saylor = white and gray shorthair male large 3years old, found at the flea market as a kitten is one of the love's Gay's loves. 3-Nordo = Red-White shorthair male 41/2 years old playful and get's along with others well. all sweet Please open your hearts to Gay's cats she did. phone 610-820-3829 thank You...................................................................
Joanne December 10, 2012 at 06:03 AM
Agree, we really need to place these cats. From what Gay told me, with a lot of love and affection, they adjust quite hell. Deborah, I'm going to cut and paste your comment and post it on FB. Joanne Moore
Joanne December 10, 2012 at 06:35 AM
Well, not hell, LOL
Joanne December 10, 2012 at 06:41 AM
I'm thinking that I'll take Nardo.610-428-8764.

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