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Published: Monday, 12/18/2006

Woman managed local legal aid office

Barbara Wauneta Allen, 83, who helped manage the Lucas County public defender's office during its formative years, died yesterday in Toledo Hospital. She offered her assistance and friendship to several generations of law students and attorneys who provided free legal counsel to poor defendants.

She had spent the last 15 months at Oakleaf Village, Toledo, and Spring Meadows Extended Care Facility, Holland. Her family said she died of various complications from a severe stroke that she suffered several years ago.

Mrs. Allen began working as an office manager for the Toledo Legal Aid Society in 1965, when all of that office's activities were a part of the county's new public defender's office.

Like many other public defender systems throughout the country at the time, Lucas County's office was established in response to the 1963 Supreme Court ruling that said state courts must provide lawyers in criminal cases to defendants who could not afford them.

There were just 1 1/2 staff positions in the county's office when Mrs. Allen joined, and she found herself working very closely with many students from the University of Toledo college of law and young attorneys who she helped train and supervise, her daughter, Judith Gonia, said.

"She was sort of the den mother for the law students who came in there," she said.

One of those young attorneys was Henry Herschel, now chief public defender for Lucas County. Mr. Herschel began working in the public defender's office fresh from UT law school in 1967, and remembers being a grateful beneficiary of Mrs. Allen's office management skills.

"She would coordinate all the lawyers, take care of the students, and, of course, be my backup," Mr. Herschel said.

Mrs. Allen grew up and attended high school in Bryan. She married Clyde Allen, a military officer, in 1945. The couple moved to Washington, Texas, Germany, and France for Mr. Allen's assignments before settling in Toledo in 1953.

Mrs. Allen worked as a retail clerk before taking the job with the Toledo Legal Aid Society, her daughter said.

Surviving are her daughters, Barbara Filiere and Judith Gonia; son, Kenneth Allen; six grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Reeb Funeral Home, Sylvania. Services will be private. The family suggests tributes to the Ronald McDonald House Charity in Toledo or a charity of the donor's choice.

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