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Hundreds Gather to Remember Gay Elwell

Funeral for Easton district judge draws family, friends, colleagues and even some former defendants.

If you wanted a sense of how many lives Gay Elwell touched during her 54 years, all you needed to do was see who spoke at her funeral Sunday.

College professors and recovering addicts. Journalists and lawyers. Family members and longtime friends, as well as people who'd encountered her only a handful of times. 

They all lined up to remember Elwell, who died last Monday of natural causes. 

"Easton is a lesser place," Pastor Tom Robinson of Calvary United Methodist Church told a standing room only audience at the Bank Street Annex. "But also Easton is a much better place because she was here. The ripples of what she has done have changed this community for the better."

And that change meant different things to different people. 

Speakers recalled her generosity, her love of family and friends, her fearsome reputation on the bench, but also her compassion. Two different women spoke about how Elwell had helped them when they went before her. Her court staff said others had called to offer their condolences this week, one of them an inmate in state prison.

The five women who make up her office staff shared stories about the day-to-day workings of the busy downtown Easton court, and the many ways customers would mangle the judge's name:

Gary Yule. Gary Eber. Gay Elwoodell. Judge Elvis. Majesty Elwell. Mrs. Gaywell. Mrs. Elwoody.

"We laughed together. We cried together. We disagreed with each other. We were truly a family," said Bonnie, one of the office workers. (They asked to be identified only by first names.)

Easton Attorney Phil Lauer recalled meeting Elwell as a young reporter who "got it wrong sometimes," then working with her as a district judge "who got it wrong sometimes." 

Then she was part of the family: Lauer's wife is the daughter of Karl Stirner, Elwell's husband.

"And then she was my mother-in-law, and because she was 15 years younger, she got it wrong there too," Lauer said, getting warm laughter from the room.

Throughout the service, armed police officers stood watch around the room.

Lauer had spoken of how Elwell was loved and respected by local police, and told the audience of seeing an officer outside her home last week after her death.

"He was weeping," Lauer said. "Just standing crying for a very long time. And he wasn't the only one."

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