Bar Memorials: 2008
COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF LEHIGH COUNTY
2008 BAR MEMORIALS
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2009
9:00 O’CLOCK A.M.
COURTROOM NO. 1 A
OLD LEHIGH COUNTY COURTHOUSE
ALLENTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA 18101
HONORABLE WILLIAM H. PLATT, P.J.
HONORABLE CAROL K. MCGINLEY, J.
HONORABLE EDWARD D. REIBMAN, J.
HONORABLE WILLIAM E. FORD, J.
HONORABLE ROBERT L. STEINBERG, J.
HONORABLE J. BRIAN JOHNSON, J.
HONORABLE KELLY L. BANACH, J.
HONORABLE JAMES T. ANTHONY, J.
HONORABLE MARIA L. DANTOS, J.
HONORABLE MICHELE A. VARRICCHIO, J.
Monday, February 2, 2009
9:00 o’clock a.m.
Courtroom No. 1 A
Old Lehigh County Courthouse
PRESIDENT JUDGE PLATT: Good morning.
On behalf of my colleagues on the Court, and personally, I welcome you to this annual Lehigh County Bar Association Memorial Service.
This is a special session of the Court, convened to honor those members of our Bar Association who passed away during the previos year.
The Court recognizes Theodore J. Zeller, III, President of the Bar Association of Lehigh County.
MR. ZELLER: May it please the Court? Welcome to everybody here. Thank you to our Honorable Judges for continuing one of the finest traditions of our Bar Association, these Bar Memorials.
We would like to welcome our colleagues, friends, and our distinguished guests, the family members of Jeffrey Bartges and Henry Costa.
We are not here today to mourn or grieve. This is a celebration of life. It’s our job to try to make sure that memories do not lose their luster, and that we hold on to them. These were very fine gentlemen, a credit to their practice, and they will be missed.
With celebrating our life with each one of these individuals, we will have two speakers today. We will have Dave Knerr, who will honor Jeffrey Bartges, and Wally Flamm, who will honor Henry Costa.
Again, welcome to all of you. It’s our pleasure for you to be here today, and my honor to represent the Bar Association. Mr. Knerr?
MR. KNERR: Thank you. May it please the Court, President Judge Platt, Judges of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County, Federal District Judge Gardner, our distinguished Senior Judges, I saw Judge Young and Judge Brenner, Members of the Bar Association, and Officers, honored guests and friends this day, and especially the family of Jeffrey A. Bartges, who has offered me the great honor and privilege of speaking to you this morning about his life and career.
Jeffrey A. Bartges was born on June 11th, 1958, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, a son of John and Naomi Bartges. He has a brother, Dr. John A. Bartges of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and a sister, Jonna R. Bartges of Weaverville, North Carolina.
When Jeff was about nine years old, he wrote a poem entitled “Mysterious Rain,” in which he said: “Where does the rain go when it falls. It disobeys trespassing laws.”
I suppose then it should be no surprise that he eventually became an attorney with a municipal practice that included storm water management issues.
Jeff grew up in the City of Allentown, and attended the City’s public schools. But Jeff was not a city kid. He lived on a property with a farmhouse and a barn, and always had a love for rural life.
He had a summer job during college, driving a combine for Trexler Farms, six days a week, 12 hour shifts. In high school he had a job with the City Parks Department harvesting alfalfa. He often used this experience later as a justification to his children for certain actions, saying, “That’s okay, I used to work for the City.”
In the fourth, fifth and sixth grades, Jeff participated in the Allentown School District’s Opportunity Program, which brought students together from all over the City. There, he had the tremendous good fortune of meeting Mali Marie DeLorenzo. They caught up with each other years later at William Allen High School, and have been soul mates since.
Jeff was a star kicker for the Allen High football team, and was the starter since his sophomore year. After graduating from Allen High in 1976, he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Lit, and Literary Criticism from Temple University in Philadelphia in 1980, and immediately thereafter he and Mali were wed.
Jeff then attended Temple University School of Law, where he was awarded the degree of Juris Doctor in 1983. His first job after passing the Bar was with the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, where he eventually became Chief Counsel. However he had settled into a home next to his in-laws in Upper Milford Township, and the travel to locations across New Jersey became burdensome. Thus, he sacrificed a more lucrative and established career path, in order to care for
his growing family in the Lehigh Valley, which by then had been blessed with the addition of three daughters, Annie, Katie, and Ginny. Son Peter came along shortly thereafter.
In November of 1987, Jeff started work at Weaver, Mosebach, Piosa, Hixson, Wallitsch, and Marles. I met Jeff at Weaver,
Mosebach, and had many pleasant evening pizza sessions with him there during our joint tenure. The pizza may not have been flattering to either of our physiques, but I had the privilege of getting to know Jeff’s gentle demeanor, and his dry wit.
Sometimes his comical explanations were delivered with such conviction to his children that they actually believed, for example, that the name Catasauqua is an Old Indian word for land beyond the airport. Jeff also had many catch phrases. A typical telephone conversation would begin, “Allegheny County Airport, Flight Tower Speaking” and end “Well, must go sue
Jeff moved on to Tallman, Hudders, and Sorrentino in 1989, where he practiced until 1993. For most of the years from 1993 until he passed away in 2008, Jeff maintained a solo practice, although he worked with Creveling, Creveling, and Anthony for about a year-and-a-half in the mid-nineties, and with Attorney Jack Stover a few years ago. He shared office space for a few years with Attorney Maria Mullane in the early 90s, and at the end of his career, with Attorney Joseph Knox.
For about seven years, Jeff practiced out of his home office in Upper Milford Township. Although it’s true that “when you work at home, you are always at work,” being at home gave Jeff the opportunity to spend more time with his family, which was a great joy for him and them.
Jeff truly saw the law as a profession more than a business, and believed that law is a ministry when justice prevails. He devoted a large portion of his practice to municipal law, where he could serve the public interest in a special way. Jeff was the solicitor for the Borough of Coplay for almost two decades, and also served as Solicitor for Whitehall Township, the Borough of Emmaus, the South Whitehall Township Civil Service Commission, and the Bath Planning Commission. Jeff worked many long hours for his clients and for causes he believed in, regardless of whether he would be able to be paid for the time. And many of his clients as I know from speaking with them since his passing, deeply cared for him as a true friend, not merely as an attorney.
Jeff was active in various historical preservation efforts, conservation efforts, waterway youth education, and outdoor sports. Kayaking and canoeing were a special interest, and he had served in the National Canoe Safety Patrol. On one expedition, Jeff saved the life of a person whose kayak overturned, and became trapped under water.
But the most important aspect of Jeff’s life was his family. A few months before his untimely passing, Jeff put together a notebook of Christmas notes and letters, and family photographs.
He wrote in the introduction: This is my book of life. This is my memory of my family. This is what I want to think about in Heaven. This is my reason for living, and for any good I have done on earth.
He enjoyed most of the time he spent with his family. A lot of his hobbies were dedicated to being with his family, such as his
model trains, his kayaking, and other water sports, much of which he spent with his children, walking through the woods, bon fires outside.
His interest in history, he passed on to his children as well. One of his daughters reminded me yesterday how off times he
would come down town to do some work, and take her along with him, and then go to the museum in this very building to learn some local history, which to this day, has brought her to becoming a history major.
Jeff often said that he wants to be one of the cool kids. He wanted to be with his family. That was the most important thing. He also liked doing things for his family, things such as the considerable amount of time and effort he spent constructing portions of his home in Upper Milford.
His four children are his greatest legacy, and anyone would be proud of these four. He would do anything for them, and he was not judgmental when they made mistakes.
For example, when a child would wait to ask for help in preparing out-of-state tax returns until only a few days before the due date, he would just drop everything he was doing and calmly help do what was needed to be done. In fact, he would do it with a smile. For example, when a question came up on the tax return, children, he would say, now, is there anything I don’t know about? In fact, he would often stop working on his “tomorrow” deadlines to help others with their “next
In speaking with Jeff’s children, they have told me that the most prized gift that they have received from Jeff was a cutting
board that was given to his two oldest daughters at the time when they left the nest. And with the cutting board was an accompanying poem.
Jeff often said, I communicate best through iambic pentameter, and wrote a very special and meaningful poem to them with regard to this cutting board, which I would like to share with you this morning so you can understand a little bit about what Jeff means to his family, and what Jeff means as a person to all of us on this earth.
The gift was a cutting board, something everyday and ordinary. But it was something that he put in his personal effort. This
was not a cutting board that was purchased from a store, this was a cutting board that he lovingly made as he will describe in his poem, and it’s something that is there, so that it’s the day-to-day family experience that he wants them to be able to feel his presence with them as they go through their lives.
It’s not things that are showy and flashy, and the special occasions, but just the day-to-day living that was important to him, that he put into their lives, and he wanted that to be given to them so that they would be able to share with it, and see it on a daily basis.
His poem said, I think that I shall never see, a cutting board like this, that we, use for chopping up a salad, so that’s the theme of this my ballad.
From Lilac Dell these trees were cleared, And seasoned in the barn for years. So lovingly the board was made, rank on rank the wood was laid. I have copied each and every line, of your mother’s board so fine. To remind you of home-cooked meals, and salads with those mushrooms, peeled. I think that it deserves a mention, I’ve duplicated each dimension… Of our Homestead cutting board Upon which apples oft are cored. And nuts were cut for pecan pies, Its pattern pleasing to the eye. It held fresh bread and waffles light, To satisfy your appetite.
And every time you use it well, Think fondly of our kitchen smells. Cookies baking, meat sauteed. The recipes your mother made. No matter where you live one day, you’ll pick up this fine board and say: “This walnut’s from the farm, I know ‘Twas cut down one day in the snow. This tulip poplar is the best. Like that in my mom’s dowry chest. ‘Twas made at home with love and care, So now its mem’ries take me there.” Grandpa made the first design…It’s always present when we dine. This board’s a gift to you from me, because you can’t dice carrots on a tree. With love, daddy.
Now that’s Jeff’s memories to his family, but that cutting board also metaphorically is a memory for me to think about Jeff as I go through my life.
First of all, the fact that the board was hand made, it shows that the work that went into it, represented a lot of Jeff’s feelings for his rural values and hard work and determination, that it wasn’t just enough to do something, but to do it and put your whole self into it.
The cutting board also, if you have ever seen it, this particular cutting board has two different types of wood in it, and they are in equal proportions. And to me, that reminds me of, and represented his balance, well done, between work and family.
A cutting board also is very reliable. It is something that is everyday. It’s utilitarian. It’s not flashy. It’s there for service, which is what Jeff was, and it’s there every day, and you can count on it.
Finally, a cutting board is used at home, and that always reminds me of his dedication to family. And finally, the cutting board is old, but it has a lot of cuts from the travails that go on through life. And that represented to me, the solid faith that Jeff had.
Jeff was a member and did much assistance with the people at Grace Lutheran Church, and his faith was important to him. In fact, one of his sayings was that to recognize that faith, and to establish it, is just enough, just in time. He counted on the Lord to provide for him when it was needed, and he let the Lord take care of these things for him.
And so I would like to close with another poem. This one to recognize his nautical ambitions, but also to understand that we
are all involved in greater voyages than merely kayaking down the Delaware.
I am standing on the seashore. Suddenly a ship at my side spread her white sales to the morning breeze, and starts out for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch her until at length she is only a ribbon of white cloud just above where sea and sky mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says, ‘There! She’s gone!’ Gone where? Gone from my sight – that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her, and just at the moment when someone at my side says, ‘There! She’s gone!’ There are other voices ready to take the glad shout, ‘There! She Comes!’
Jeff left us in the prime of his life on May 4th of 2008, but we know where he is today. And he has certainly given a legacy for all of us with his life.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak in his behalf.
MR. ZELLER: And to celebrate Henry Costa’s life, Mr. Wally Flamm.
MR. FLAMM: Judge Platt, Honored Judges, respected guests. I thank you for the honor of being allowed to eulogize my partner, Henry Costa.
I am a member of both this Bar, and the Montgomery Bar Association. And I have to say that the Montgomery Bar fails greatly in not having ceremonies like this for its members.
I am here to eulogize my partner, and my best friend, Henry Costa.
Henry died a wickedly untimely death at the early age of 58 on September 11, 2008. September 11 seems to be a day of moment. We all know what happened to our nation on September 11. My youngest son, now 13 years old — same wife — and a surprise when my wife and I had him, he was born on September 11th.
Now, most sadly, as I remember one of the greatest events of my life, I remember one of the most sad ones. It was barely a year ago that I was scolding Henry to get his gallbladder problem taken care of. Well, it turns out it wasn’t his gallbladder, it was a very violent, wicked form of cancer that took him from us in six short months.
But today is not for the mourning of the passing of Henry, though we do that. It’s for remembering and celebrating. There is much to celebrate about Henry Costa. The fact is, if it wasn’t for Henry, I wouldn’t be standing here speaking to you today.
Our firm started in the end of 1996 in Montgomery County. Henry was — He joined the firm about a year later. I practiced labor and employment law. A lot of my clients are in the construction business. Henry was a specialist in construction law. He did nothing but that.
He was wonderful to me, and I think that I helped him a little bit in sharing clients and filling needs for those similar clients,
but Henry had a large number of clients here in the Lehigh Valley, and northward to the northern tiers of the state. And he was constantly pressuring me to legitimize our presence in the Lehigh Valley. Up until then he had had an office which was the back room of a court reporter.
In 2003, we did that, opening an office with full time staff and secretary. In the meantime, Henry and another of our partners, Bob Watson spent extended time up here, and at the end of 2007, we had the momentous good fortune of coming
across Tom Heimbach, who is here, and Scott Heckman, who had a practice here in the valley for well over 20 years. They joined our firm. They brought with the addition of Rob Pinel and others. The firm eventually grew to five full time people in our Allentown Office, and a burgeoning presence, I hope a more and more active presence in this Bar, all because of Henry’s persistence, and his foresight.
That tells you about how he got here. Now I would like to tell you just a bit about Henry, the man. Henry didn’t start his career as a lawyer. Upon his graduation from Temple University, he became an adjuster for Aetna Casualty and Surety Company. Seeking a greater challenge, he attended law school at the Delaware Law School of Widener College, now Widener University.
After graduating in 1976, Henry worked for the Pennsylvania Department of General Services, where he started to get a bigger taste in construction law, and meeting people in the construction industry. He left General Services to work for Schnabel Associates, one of the companies that he had met while in the General Services, and he worked in house for Schnabel.
Shortly after he married Meg Butler in 1979 – Meg is here doing Henry Honor with us — they had two sons, Henry, III, and Greg. Both of them now work in the financial industry in New York City, and are doing much to help their mother get over this awful period.
Henry practiced with two partners for a period of time, and then he went solo, as they say. He did that for a long time with Meg working as his office staff, and he finally came to the realization that the burdens of business for a solo person are extremely great, and there is something to be said for shared overhead.
In 1999, he became a shareholder in Boroff & Bacine, our firm, and he remained as a key partner, and my most trusted friend and advisor for the rest of his career.
In 2006, 2007, and 2008, Law & Politics, an independent organization that rates lawyers based upon input from their peers, named Henry as a “Super Lawyer” something he well deserved. “Super Lawyers” are selected by members of the Bar who nominate lawyers for their status as super lawyer. There is only a small percentage, less than five percent of lawyers who ever achieve this honor, and it’s a high honor of Henry’s recognition by his peers. It’s interesting to note that a few weeks ago, I received notification from Law & Politics that Henry was once again named for 2009 as a Super Lawyer.
Henry was the “construction lawyer’s lawyer.” He knew all that there was to know about construction law. Unlike many lawyers who are great at the intellectual aspect of law, Henry also knew the nuts and bolts of how his advice was going to play out in the field. Many issues he faced were multimillion dollar decisions that needed to be made on short notice. He would get a client call that would go something like this: I am a subcontractor that did a foundation on a building. The general contractor owes me $480,000. The owner saw some cracks in the foundation. They are cosmetic not structural, but
he told the general contractor that he wants the foundation ripped out. The general doesn’t care. He has no monetary interest. He told me to rip the foundation out. I am not paid yet. I don’t need to rip the foundation out. An expert would say it doesn’t need to be ripped out, but they are telling me if I don’t decide to do it within the next day, they are going to replace me with another contractor and charge the other contractor’s completion of the work against my account. Not only will I not get paid my 480,000, I will be sued for a much larger amount of money. What do I do? I need to know in an hour.
These calls came not so much to Henry as a lawyer, and advisor, but almost as someone in loco parentis. Some of these people would be literally crying, grown businessmen with multi-million dollar buildings seeing their corporate life flash before their eyes in a second. And the only thing between them and, in their thought, eternal damnation, was Henry Costa.
Henry, who I never saw say an angry word, get flustered, or speak loudly, would remain with that impeccable calm that he always had, and give the client the right advice. And it was practical advice, of what to do. It wasn’t, well, the law will tell you that this will happen if that happens. He would give them all that, but he would say, in light of all that, here’s your odds of succeeding if you do X, or this odds if you do Y or that. I think you should do Z. And they would work it out, and Henry was right. That was why the clients, and his opponents, and all of those who knew him, sought Henry out for advice, and sought him more importantly to be an impartial mediator and arbitrator for their private construction disputes.
Henry was a member of the Pennsylvania, Montgomery County, and Lehigh County Bar Associations. He was active in all of them; in particular, in the Montgomery Bar. He was active in the modernization and refurbishment of the Bar Building in Norristown, an effort for which he was recognized by the Association.
In 2005, the Bar Association presented the President’s Award to Henry Costa for his dedication and services in getting the Bar
Building essentially rebuilt. He was regularly the chair or the co-chair of the construction law section of the Montgomery Bar, and chairman of the Association’s Fee Dispute Committee. He participated in untold educational seminars both for the members of the Bar, and for numerous contractors and contractor associations.
Henry was a member, and at various times served on the board of the American Subcontractor’s Association, the Associated Builders and Contractors, Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter in Allentown. He was also a member of the Associated Builders and Contractors Southeastern Pennsylvania chapter. He was a member of the Pennsylvania Utility Contractor’s Association. The only thing that Henry didn’t have construction-wise, was a bulldozer in his back yard.
Henry was also roundly the subject of good-natured ribbing. And if Henry and I tried out to be the odd couple, he would have been the neat guy, and I would have been the slob. He was regularly the guy who would walk in a room and straighten a picture, even if it wasn’t his room, and wasn’t his picture, but he would straighten it.
Henry took no shortage of kidding about this. Our office had, you know, casual dress as a norm, unless you were going to
court or seeing clients. Henry never bought into that. Henry wore a coat and tie every day, hair never out of place, shoes always shined, always impeccable, always the gentleman, always the professional.
Those who know Henry will remember Henry that way. He was a man of steady calm, reserved, and impeccable judgment.
He was my greatest advisor, and I will sorely miss him. There are many lawyers who know the law. There are many lawyers who know the business in which their careers are centered. There are many lawyers who know how to effectively counsel
clients. There are practically none who do all three of these things.
Henry was one of those rare people. But all of that means nothing, if the lawyer, however consummate, is without a soul. Henry was possessed of a soul that transcends all worldly things. He was a good person. He directed not only his career, but his life, towards doing good, and doing the right thing.
He was a great supporter of St. Joseph’s Preparatory School. He made innumerable public appearances, and sponsored many events. “The Prep” his favorite, “The Prep.” One of his last efforts was the recruitment of my youngest son, the one I referred to in the beginning of this homily.
I had dinner with Henry, if you could call it that, a day or two before he passed. Meg, his wife called me and my wife over for dinner. He wanted to review some details and some things. Ever the detail guy, even though Henry was so loaded up with drugs to deal with the immeasurable pain that the man was feeling, he wanted to know a couple of things. He wanted to
know if the clients were being taken care of, and the last thing he said to me that I understood was, Tommy going to go “The Prep?” He is, Henry. Thank you.
MR. ZELLERS: Thank you to the speakers. We are going to have a small reception immediately outside the doors. Honorable President Judge Platt?
PRESIDENT JUDGE PLATT: The Court wants to express our thanks to the Bar Association for continuing this tradition. To John K. Baker, Esquire, the chairman of the committee, for his hard work in making this and previous Bar Memorials such a success, to all of the speakers who have memorialized our departed colleagues, I express my thanks. members of the Bar, former members of our Court who have been recognized, and all of you for sharing in this tradition, and in the lives of our departed members.
The official Court Reporter is directed to transcribe the notes of testimony, and to make a digital copy of the memorial available to the Bar Association of Lehigh County.
This was done for the first time in 2002. The Bar Association will publish these transcripts on its home page, www.lehighbar.org. Anyone interested in a copy will be able to read, print or download it from that site.
Are there any members of the Court who wish to make any remarks? If not, then we will adjourn this ceremony, and when we do so, it will be out of respect for our departed colleagues.
Mr. Raber? (Whereupon, the Bar Memorial Ceremony was concluded.)
I hereby certify that the proceedings and evidence are contained fully and accurately in the notes taken by me in the hearing of the above cause and that this is a correct transcript of the same.
Date: March 16, 2009
Matthew Giovannini, Jr., RPR
Official Court Stenographer