Judges from different centuries immortalized in portraits
At a Somerset County Bar Association Ceremony Tuesday two judge portraits wre unveiled. Judge John Young and Judge Sandra W. Upor will hang on the county courthouse walls. (Photo by Judy D.J. Ellich / June 4, 2013)
The portraits of Judge Sandra Upor and Judge John Young were formally unveiled Tuesday in the Somerset County Courthouse at a Somerset County Bar Association ceremony that drew an enthusiastic crowd.
This century's judge, Upor, was able to watch the cover being lifted from her portrait by artist Angela Maust. The former judge stood quietly with a soft, gentle smile — a mannerism caught and immortalized in Maust's artistry.
Young, who died in Greensburg on Oct. 6, 1840, was brought back to life through the words of Nathaniel Barbera, chairman of the bar association's portrait committee.
"I'm going to take you back into history and introduce you to an interesting personality that served as judge," he said.
He portrayed a man who emigrated from Scotland in 1780 with one English shilling in his pocket to practice law and eventually become a judge. Young was president judge of the 10th judicial district from 1806 to 1836. The district included Somerset, Cambria, Indiana, Westmoreland and Armstrong counties.
Young's likeness was discovered by former county District Attorney Jerry Spangler in the form of a fresco on display near the ceiling of the ceremonial courtroom of the Westmoreland County Courthouse. Spangler climbed a ladder to get close enough to take pictures. From those pictures the portrait was created in oil by Edna Bender.
Bender and Maust are mother and daughter. Maust represents the third generation of portrait artists in the family.
"I am humbled to be included in this group," said Upor, who made history for the second time by having her portrait hung among all male colleagues.
Upor also made history in May 2005 when the Somerset attorney became the first woman to be sworn in as a trial judge in Somerset County. She was appointed by then-Gov. Ed Rendell to replaced former county Judge Kim Gibson, who resigned in October 2003 to become a federal court judge in Johnstown. The county relied on retired judges to take up the slack until Upor was appointed to fill Gibson's vacancy. A newly elected judge took office in January 2006.
On Tuesday, surrounded by family, friends and colleagues in Courtroom No. 1, Upor looked elated. She had little to say about the experience, except that it was an honor.
"We are engaged in a profession steeped deep in tradition," said Somerset attorney George Kaufman. That tradition includes its judgeships, he said.
"Even courtrooms are designed to convey the importance of the bench," he said.
The county courthouse's collection of judges' portraits is a way to put human faces to the words and writings of those illustrious few, Kaufman said.
The county bar has been providing portraits of local judges for more than 100 years, he said. There are now more than 20 portraits in the collection, which is open for the public to enjoy.
"Now it is time to put another portrait on the wall," said the ceremony's speaker, attorney Thomas Cartwright. "A spot to remind future generations, especially young women, the small part they (the judges) have played but their significant impact."
When speaking of Young's portrait, which took more than 170 years to be hung in the county courthouse, association President James Jacobs Jr. said with a laugh: "While the wheels of justice run slow, apparently they run faster than some portrait painter's brush."
Maust and Bender joined in the laughter; however, Bender pointed out that "portraits are the Mount Everest of painting. You have to catch the character of the person. That takes time."
Current Somerset County Common Pleas Court judges John M. Cascio, D. Gregory Geary and David C. Klementik attended the ceremony.