Joseph Martin Handlan, Jr.

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Joseph Martin Handlan, Jr.

Birthplace: Parkersburg, WV, United States
Death: April 01, 2004 (89)
Wilmington, NC, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Joseph Martin Handlan and Katherine Stuart Crawford
Husband of Elizabeth Ann Handlan
Half brother of Private

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Joseph Martin Handlan, Jr.

Former Judge Handlan dead at 89 years old


PARKERSBURG - Former Wood County Circuit Court Judge Joseph M. Handlan will be remembered as a local legend and pillar of the community. Handlan died Thursday at Davis Health Care Center in Wilmington, N.C. He was 89.

Handlan's life was the stuff of legends. He made a positive impression on everyone he came into contact with, said friends and associates.

A judge from 1979-1988, Handlan made friends with many of the individuals he associated with through the court system.

Arthur N. Gustke, another former Wood County judge, said Handlan was like no one else. He had a great love for the law and the community he served.

"Joe was a very intelligent judge. He worked hard at his opinions," Gustke said. "I always admired him. I had a lot of respect for him."

Charleston attorney Harry Deitzler was Wood County prosecuting attorney when Handlan served as a judge. The two became acquainted with the court system together, Deitzler said.

"We kind of grew up together in the system. He treated me like one of his own sons. We had a fine friendship. I have so much respect for that man," Deitzler said.

Deitzler said when Handlan made a ruling, he always did it immediately, never delaying the matter before him.

"He said, 'I can be just as wrong next week as I am today,'" Deitzler said. "So he'd just go ahead and rule. Everybody liked that because you got an immediate ruling."

Handlan was a stern, yet compassionate judge, Deitzler said.

Handlan was active in the community, particularly when it came to the Parkersburg High School Big Reds. Put simply, Handlan and J. Fred Earley were the voices of the Big Reds, broadcasting their football games and other sporting events on the radio for many years.

"I would travel along as his spotter and keep track of things for him, passing statistics to him and that sort of thing," Deitzler said. "He introduced me to life in the press box. I said once, 'How do you come up with this stuff to say.' He said, 'It's tough, but not as tough as announcing a PHS crew event on a two-hour rain delay.'"

Daniel "Buddy" James of Vienna, a former PHS head football coach, knew Handlan well.

"He was just a class act. He was so astute to the game of football," James said. "Just an outstanding man. A legend."

Handlan is a member of the Mid-Ohio Valley Sports Hall of Fame. His son, longtime PHS wrestling coach Joseph Handlan III, also is a member of the hall of fame. The pair was the first father and son to become members.

Holmes "Butch" Shaver, a former Wood County commissioner, said he had great respect for Handlan.

"He was a great, great man. I played Big Red football as a senior in 1956 and got to know Judge Handlan then and also later in life as a commissioner," Shaver said.

"You just sort of held him in high esteem and looked up to him. He was a real sports fan and had a tremendous knowledge. He just was a very well-rounded person."

Handlan, who was a state senator from 1957-1962, made his biggest mark as a judge, Shaver said.

"Two things stand out in my mind about Judge Handlan. He was such a student of the law and of the courtroom. He brought a lot of dignity to the office," Shaver said.

Shaver said Handlan was instrumental in the planning of the Wood County Judicial Annex.

"He was an integral part of that process. He and Judge Gustke were very, very involved," Shaver said.

The Rev. Jack Neilson of Trinity Episcopal Church in Parkersburg knew Handlan as an active member of the church and a great community servant.

Neilson remembers Handlan's intense pride in his country.

"Joe Handlan was, of course, a veteran of World War II. He was a very patriotic person," Neilson said.

Handlan had been residing at the Davis Health Care Center in Wilmington, N.C., a nursing home.

Though he was very sick later in life, it didn't stifle his patriotic streak, Neilson said.

"Joe was wheeled out of the nursing home, rain or shine, to the flag where he recited the Pledge of Allegiance every day," Neilson said. "Joe was a Republican conservative, yes, but a person who is remembered by everyone for his extreme patriotic feelings for his country."

Neilson said Handlan was active in the local church, serving as vestryman, senior warden and lay reader.

In addition, he was an active member of St. John's Episcopal Church in Wilmington where he served as lay reader and chalice bearer. Handlan moved to North Carolina from Parkersburg after retiring as a judge.

Nancy Cawley of Vienna, Handlan's sister, said her brother will be sorely missed.

"He was a wonderful brother. I can't imagine life without him. It's hard for me to make comments. He was a great family man. He has wonderful children, I can tell you that," Cawley said.

Deitzler said he remembered another of Handlan's sayings.

"He would say, 'I remember from the Navy, I always told soldiers or sailors I can't make you do anything, but I can make you sorry that you didn't," Deitzler said.

"This is when he was training us to be lawyers, to follow directions and to do what we were supposed to do. He was just a wonderful leader and mentor. I'm so sad that I did not get to speak with him before he passed."

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Joseph Martin Handlan, Jr.'s Timeline

July 14, 1914
Parkersburg, WV, United States
April 1, 2004
Age 89
Wilmington, NC, United States