Francis “Buddy” Restivo, a retired Lucas County Common Pleas Court and Toledo Municipal Court judge, died Tuesday at The Legacy at the Lakes of Monclova, with his wife and children nearby. He was 91.
Judge Restivo’s health declined after a heart attack last week, according to his son, Joseph.
The judge and his wife, Jane Restivo, celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary last Thursday, Joseph Restivo said.
A Democrat, Judge Restivo was an assistant Ohio attorney general and assistant Lucas County prosecutor. He served on Toledo City Council in 1957 and 1959 to 1960, and then was solicitor for Sylvania, Walbridge, and Northwood.
In 1971 Gov. John Gilligan appointed him to the municipal court. He was elected that year, and re-elected to six-year terms in 1973 and 1979. In 1980, he was elected to a vacancy on Lucas County Common Pleas Court and re-elected in 1982. He retired in 1986 and worked until 2000 as a visiting judge and as a hearing mental health commitment cases for Lucas County Probate Court.
Jack Puffenberger, judge of the Lucas County Probate Court, who clerked for Judge Restivo in 1976 and 1977, said the judge was considerate of everyone in his courtroom, including the lawyers. In one instance, he said the judge ruled a defendant in a speeding case not guilty because it was the lawyer’s first trial.
“In chambers I asked, ‘Why did you find the guy not guilty.’ He said, ‘It’s just a speeding ticket.’ And he said, ‘I don’t want that lawyer to lose his first case. If he goes home and tells his family he won his first case and that makes him happy that’s a good thing,” Judge Puffenberger said.
“He was an excellent judge. He had good legal knowledge and he knew people and he just knew how to be fair. He was a great mentor not only for me but for a lot of young lawyers coming up,” Judge Puffenberger said.
Toledo lawyer Jerome Phillips said he practiced before Judge Restivo as both city chief prosecutor, from 1975 to 1979, and later as a defense lawyer. In one case, he said an attorney implied possible political retribution in the case of a prominent business executive charged with drunken driving.
He said Judge Restivo upheld the prosecutor’s insistence on a conviction, rather than dismissing the charge, telling the other lawyer, “He can afford a chauffeur if he needs someone to drive him around.”
“I would classify him as a people’s judge. He had a wonderful understanding of people and how to try to deal with the problems they had,” Mr. Phillips said.
His son said fishing, family, and UT basketball were among his interests in retirement.
“He went on numerous fishing trips with family members,” Joseph Restivo said. “He was a big UT Rockets fan, especially basketball. He had season tickets probably 40 years.” Mr. Restivo said the family lived in Old Orchard.
He said a lunch date with his dad downtown never lasted less than an hour because of all the conversations he had along with friends he saw.
“I know all the lawyers in town loved him. He took a personal interest in their lives, their careers, really made them feel comfortable. He was always willing to help young lawyers,” Joseph Restivo said.
Judge Restivo presided at the capital punishment case of Joseph Clark in 1984, sentencing him to death for killing a gas station attendant during a robbery.
The death penalty was unanimously recommended by the jury. Clark was executed in 2006, the first capital punishment from Lucas County after the death penalty was reinstated by the Ohio Supreme Court in 1999.
Judge Restivo graduated from Central Catholic High School and earned his bachelor and law degrees at the University of Toledo. In World War II, he was a member of the Air Force 136th Radio Intelligence Squadron.
Judge Restivo is survived by his wife, Jane Restivo; daughters, Janet Krzyminski, Deborah Bennett, and Bernadette Restivo; son, Joseph Restivo; 13 grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be 5-8 p.m. Saturday and 2-8 p.m. Sunday at Coyle Funeral Home, 1770 S. Reynolds Rd. Funeral services will start at 9:30 a.m. Monday in the mortuary, followed by Mass at 10 a.m. at St. Joan of Arc Church, 5856 Heatherdowns Blvd.
In place of flowers, the family suggests tributes to the Francis and Jane Restivo Scholarship Funds at the University of Toledo College of Law, Central Catholic High School, or St. Francis de Sales High School.
— Tom Troy