When family, friends and colleagues of the late Kanawha Circuit Judge James Stucky gathered to remember him on Monday, they weaved together stories that described a man who was fair as a judge, loving as a husband and father and enthusiastic as a fan of West Virginia University football.
“Every Friday when we were leaving work, and he was getting in his car, he’d roll down the window and say, ‘Let’s go Mountaineers,’ ” said Joseph Baldwin, Stucky’s former law clerk and now assistant city attorney for Charleston.
During the morning event in the ceremonial courtroom of the Kanawha County Courthouse, Baldwin and several other people described how Stucky turned his courtroom staff into a family and blended two families into one when he married his wife, Brenda, in 1990.
Stucky died in March after a long illness. He was 65. He’d served more than 20 years as a circuit judge in Kanawha County.
He was a graduate of George Washington High School, and he earned his undergraduate sociology degree and his law degree from WVU.
Stucky also served as Kanawha County prosecutor from 1983 to 1985. He left the prosecutor’s office in 1985 to work in private practice, but he rejoined the prosecutor’s office as an assistant prosecutor in 1995. Gov. Cecil Underwood appointed Stucky to the bench in 1997, and he subsequently was re-elected and served until he retired in 2018.
Circuit Judge Tera Salango was elected in November to complete the rest of Stucky’s term. She said he left some very big shoes to fill.
“We continue to work hard to carry on the good work of Judge Stucky,” Salango said. “In fact, there are many days that I ask [the court staff], ‘What would Judge Stucky do?’ It’s become a motto in our office.”
Stucky’s stepdaughter, Malia Pack, told the crowd of about 100 people about a man who rarely missed sporting events and meticulously planned Black Friday shopping trips and family game nights.
“There really wasn’t much time for dullness in the Stucky house,” Pack said. “I know he loved us, and there were times he was hard on us. Many times, we could not understand why he was so hard on us, but it was because he wanted the best for all of us. He knew what we were all capable of, and he wanted to push us there.”
Chief Kanawha Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit recalled working near Stucky when they were in private practice and arguing cases before him when Stucky became a judge.
“Anyone who knew Judge Stucky knew his passion for the law and his commitment to public service,” Tabit said. “But it was his love and commitment to his family, his wife, Brenda, his children and grandchildren that was really unparalleled.”
Judge Carrie Webster talked about how Stucky agreed to take the position as chief judge for the Kanawha Circuit Court in 2015, after she experienced a challenging 2014, including the deaths of three of her close relatives.
“He didn’t even hesitate,” Webster said. “It was the last time he was chief judge for the circuit. It was the most difficult year of my life that he made manageable and bearable.”
Stucky’s stepson, Bill Eads, described how Stucky pulled together a new family and helped care for and raise him and his sister, and he said he was honored to be able to return the favor and care for Stucky as he grew ill.
“We were all pulled together by one person,” Eads said. “We’ve gotten where we are in life through the love and compassion he shared with each one of you.”