Dick Walinski at first thought philosophy, not the law, would be his calling. But like many others in his family, Mr. Walinski is at home in his practice he set up in the space that was loaned to him by his father.
Jeremy Wadsworth Enlarge
It's been 100 years, and still the Walinski name has a strong presence in Lucas County's courts.
For a century, without a single year as an exception, a Walinski attorney has maintained a practice in Toledo. It all started with Polish-speaking Nicholas Walinski, who arrived in 1908 with a law degree.
He opened a general legal practice and became part of the Toledo legal community. Another two generations followed, including two brothers who sat on the bench.
A love of the law and a desire to serve the community became the driving forces behind his family's longevity, said Richard Walinski, co-founder of Cooper & Walinski and a third-generation attorney.
Nicholas J. Walinski spoke Polish when he set up a law practice in Toledo in 1908.
"I never heard my father mention considering a career other than the law. It was the family thing to do, I think," said Mr. Walinski, 64, sitting in his downtown firm's library, surrounded by books dating back to a set his grandfather owned in 1933.
"I can't imagine, try as I do from time to time as I ponder my incalculable good fortune in life, what else I might have done," he added. "To this day, I can't imagine a career that would have been more satisfying to my interests, more hospitable to my abilities."
Mr. Walinski, his father Thaddeus, his uncle Nicholas, Jr., and his grandfather, Nicholas, each have had a distinguished le-gal career. As individuals, they accomplished defense work on high-profile cases, judgeships in municipal, common pleas, and federal courts, and active roles in local and state politics.
Born in Berea, Ohio, Nicholas Walinski, Sr., was the only member of his family to earn a college degree, his grandson said. Educated at St. Ignatius College in Cleveland and St. Mary's Seminary in Detroit before earning a law degree at Cleveland Law School, the senior Nicholas Walinski moved to Toledo in 1908. He became the second Polish lawyer in Toledo and maintained a private practice to 1948. Two of his three sons followed him into law.
Thaddeus N. Walinski, the son of Nicholas Walinski, was respected as a jurist and a man.
Thaddeus Walinski first began practicing at his father's firm in 1939. A general trial lawyer who handled everything from adoption to personal injury, Thaddeus Walinski became Judge Walinski in 1975 when he was elected to Toledo Municipal Court. Prior to that, he was vice mayor of Toledo with Mayor John Potter, who later was appointed a U.S. District Court judge.
"They were respected as scholars," Judge Potter recalled recently, adding that they had a "good Polish name, not too hard to pronounce and yet very Polish as well."
Nicholas Walinski, Jr., the youngest son of Nicholas Walinski, Sr., was thought of as "not only a good judge, but a good person." The quote, from Court of Appeals Judge William Skow in Judge Nicholas Walinski's 1992 obituary personified his life.
A graduate of DeVilbiss High School and University of Toledo law school, Judge Walinski started as an assistant Toledo city law director before he became a judge in Toledo Municipal Court, Lucas County Common Pleas Court, and U.S. District Court.
His daughter married local attorney Dean Catignani, and their son, Cory, continued the family tradition when he enrolled in law school.
As for the two brothers who went on to become judges, they were known to be fair, intellectual - both were great readers - and understanding.
"They were judges, they were teachers, they were colleagues, they were mentors," said longtime attorney Jon Richardson. "I guess you can make the argument that all the Walinski characteristics of service and intellect sifted down to Dick," he added.
Unlike his father, Mr. Walinski at first believed his calling to be philosophy. But he found himself in law school and set up practice with a partner in office space lent to him by his father.
A longtime trial lawyer, Mr. Walinski was the only person in Ohio to be chief counsel to both a Democratic state attorney general, from 1976 to 1979, and a Republican state attorney general, in 1995. But it is the firm that he started with Cary Cooper that has grown to about 35 attorneys that he finds most rewarding.
Representing firms such as Dana Corp., Cooper Tire, and Libbey Glass, the once-small private practice has bloomed, he said. Even now, after 39 years of practicing law, Mr. Walinski is still excited about the profession.
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