With more than a century of life experience, Judge Julian R. Hanley in Naples, Florida recently celebrated 105 years of age.
Hanley’s eldest daughter, Pauline Clark recently helped highlight some of her father’s achievements, from a lifetime of memories. The story behind all those years involves love, family, a career in the military, law, and a prominent seat as a county judge.
Born on March 29, 1913 in Muscatine, Iowa, Hanley was the youngest of three siblings. At nine years old, his family uprooted and moved to Perry, New York. His mother, Henrietta, saw the family through tough times as his father volunteered for the army in World War I. He witnessed his mother’s resourcefulness, which he carried through in his own life. After he graduated Perry Central High School in 1931, he pursued a career in law. Despite the harsh times during the Great Depression, after two years of pre-law at Colgate University, he entered Albany Law School. This is how he met the love of his life. “His roommate convinced him to go to a winter college party,” Clarke says, recounting her father’s story. “And that is the night he laid eyes on the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.”
Hanley left the dance not knowing who she was, but the very next day her picture was featured in a local newspaper along with her name – Elizabeth “Betty” Griffin. With her abusive mother intervening in the relationship, they decided to secretly elope in Pennsylvania. A year later, Hanley graduated third in his class and received a commencement prize, which was split between him and the classmate who graduated second. With the extra money, he bought the wedding ring the next day, and the two publicly married. Shortly after the birth of their first daughter Pauline, Pearl Harbor occurred, and his military career began.
“He was not immediately drafted since he had a family, but he felt a strong calling to serve his country” Pauline states. “He did his basic training in Spartanburg, where he became sergeant. Soon after he was promoted to second lieutenant when he graduated Military Police Officers’ Training School, then shipped off and stationed in Manila, Philippines.”
“He attributes his contribution to the war in a photo he appeared in that was published in the Times Magazine which depicts a proffered hand from Colonel Mashbir and the Chief of the Japanese-General Staff,” Pauline comments on her father’s sense of wits. “The Colonel did not want to shake hands, and Hanley offered his suggestion to simply not shake it.”
Back on the home front, Betty was busy raising the couple’s first child under the most trying of circumstances. She endured painful psychological abuse inflicted by her mother, who told her Hanley was dead and withheld his letters. Once the situation was discovered, Hanley obtained an honorable discharge as first lieutenant, allowing him to come home and take care of his family.
After his military service, Hanley went on to become District Attorney in Wyoming County, New York from 1953-1971, and later earned a seat as a county judge from 1972-1976. During his time on the bench, Hanley dealt with a variety of cases, including civil, criminal and family matters. He also held court once a week for the Attica Prison inmates in regards to their cases following the 1971 riots.
Retirement from his seat did not slow down Judge Hanley. Having authored and co-authored textbooks for the Albany Law School, he continued writing with a focus on biographies and history. Hanley also provided pro bono work as an attorney in the public defender’s office that earned him the Pro Bono Award from the Florida State Bar for 10,000 hours of service (1987).
“As far retirement goes, I enjoyed it because I was back in the courtroom.” Hanley states.
In addition to his prominent law career, he wrote seven books, three of which are published. Two were law textbooks co-authored with his son-in-law, Wayne Schmidt and the third was a self-published book that takes us through the 64-year love affair between him and his wife.
Non-published works consist of memoirs of his mother, Henrietta and his father, Joseph “Joe” Hanley; Lieutenant Governor Under Dewey, “Papa Was Different;” his autobiography during the time he served as judge to Attica Prison, “Country Lawyer and Prison Judge;” and lastly, “From Longhouse to Log House,” the story of the Iroquois Indians and the land they lived on in upstate New York.
His greatest accomplishment is his self-published book, “A Dress, a Tie, and a Ring,” dedicated to his late wife. The book is a warm narrative of their 64 years together. Each item in the title is a token of their love. The dress is the exact dress that his wife wore the day he first saw her at the dance. The tie is the one he wore on his wedding day, which he kept in his possession until he wore it on their 50th anniversary. Lastly, the ring that he purchased after law school, which bonded their lifetime of love.
Currently, Hanley resides at Barrington Terrace in Naples, Florida. After 104 years, he was recently diagnosed with dementia. The signs became apparent, and his current home was the most practical solution. Clarke and her daughter, Julie, who both reside nearby in Naples, noticed the signs.
“He has always been sharp and to this day has his humor intact,” Clarke says. “He was always [providing] a sense of guidance to me. His advice was: once a decision is made and you have outweighed the pros and cons, it is absolute. Do not think [about] it any further.”
Hanley was present in our interview and gave input on his life, views and the future. At times, communication was through a dry erase board due to hearing loss in his left ear. At his age, his outlook on the future elicited a smile and big thumbs up. Hanley’s advice on life is simple, “Take it as it comes.”
“A Dress, a Tie, and a Ring” can be purchased online at www.westbowpress.com.