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Published: Wednesday, 10/31/2012

Aloysius B. O'Mara, 1920-2012: Blissfield lawyer felt work was ‘a calling’

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BLISSFIELD, Mich. — Aloysius B. O’Mara, who thrived on the variety of a general law practice in a small town, died Monday in his Blissfield home. He was 92.

He was in declining health the last year and had a recent heart attack, his son Mike said. A lawyer since the late 1940s, Mr. O’Mara slowed down his practice in recent years.

Mr. O’Mara in his prime welcomed cases of most stripes. He handled divorces and wills; trademark matters and labor negotiations. He argued cases before the Michigan Supreme Court and was admitted to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court. His clients were farmers and school districts and migrant farm workers. He represented criminal defendants, although generally not in major felonies.

“He was fearless. He was tenacious about the fact, ‘I can do this; I will become an expert in this,’ ” his son said. “Every client said, ‘Your dad is a fighter and still a gentleman.’ ”

“It's unbelievable the varied practice he was able to do in a small rural community,” said his son, who became a lawyer, but is best known for his long television news career, primarily in Cleveland.

“He was extremely outgoing,” his son said. “With that kind of legal practice you had to be. He was almost bigger than life, a big fish in the small pond of Blissfield, and loved the role.”

Phill Schaedler grew up on the same street as the O’Mara family and saw Mr. O’Mara walk to his office every morning, briefcase in his hand and fedora on his head; home and back for lunch; home for dinner — and maybe to the office again in the evening. Mr. Schaedler and Mr. O’Mara's son Kevin were friends, and Mr. O’Mara's profession “became a fascination of mine,” Mr. Schaedler said. “It seemed to me that this was a great way to help people and a great way to make a living and very satisfying.”

Mr. Schaedler and his sister, Laura, are lawyers; she also is a judge of Lenawee County district court.

“He was an incredible influence,” Mr. Schaedler said. “The greatest thing about Al O’Mara was the twinkle in his eye.

“He was genuinely imaginative and committed to his clients’ cause. He was very successful at representing his clients and very competitive,” Mr. Schaedler added. “He was a tremendous example of a wonderful man.”

Mr. O’Mara was a zealous litigator, his son said, but “there were no dirty tricks. It was about being as honest and transparent as you could be to opposing counsel and the court,” his son said.

He believed lawyers ought to be of counsel to clients and not bill for every moment of conversation — but that the nature of the vocation changed after lawyers were allowed to advertise. For Mr. O’Mara, practicing law “was almost a calling. It was not a trade,” his son said. “It was a profession.”

He was born April 8, 1920, the youngest child of Margaret and Thomas O’Mara, and grew up in Wallaceburg, Ontario. His mother saw opportunity in Detroit and moved with her children to the city when Mr. O’Mara was a child. He grew up on Detroit’s east side and was a graduate of St. Ambrose High School, where he played football.

Determined to go to college, he was a caddie for golfers; saved his earnings, and attended the University of Detroit, where he met his wife, Rita, a student and later teacher of Latin and Spanish.

He was drafted and served as a radio operator in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He was stationed in the Panama Canal Zone, and his wife was able to get a job at the U.S. consulate there.

He learned Spanish too and after the war, the couple lived for two years in Madrid, where he studied international law. They collected adventures on their bicycle tours of the continent, Britain, and Ireland.

“Of all the things through the years they talked about, that was still one of the pinnacle moments for them,” their son Mike said.

He was a graduate of University of Detroit’s law school and began his career with a large downtown law firm. But by the 1950s, he was eager to escape the big city, and moved the family to Blissfield when he learned of an opening in a law office there.

He enjoyed visits to the family cottage on the St. Clair River in Ontario. He was a self-taught sailor and, as in the law, he was fearless, his son said.

“He loved the feeling of flying on the water,” his son said.

Mr. O’Mara was a member of the Knights of Columbus at St. Peter the Apostle Church, Blissfield.

He was a member of the Rotary Club in Blissfield and of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

Mr. O’Mara and his wife, Rita, married Sept. 6, 1944. She died April 4, 2010.

Surviving are his sons, Michael, Dr. Kevin, Mark, and Patrick O’Mara; daughter, Maureen O’Mara, and a grandson.

Visitation will be from 2-8 p.m. today in Mr. O’Mara's Pearl Street home, with a prayer service at 7 p.m. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Thursday in St. Peter the Apostle Church, Blissfield, where he was a longtime member. Arrangements are by the Wagley Funeral Home.

The family suggests tributes to Light of Christ Catholic Parish, of which St. Peter is part.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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