Wellness Wednesday: Judge McCaffrey

Judge McCaffrey died Saturday.  I did not know him well and feel disrespectful if this is considered as any sort of eulogy. However, Judge McCaffrey exemplified so much  of what I often blog about – including wellness – that his impact deserves mention here today.

One might think my initial exposure to Judge McCaffrey came through the law.  One would be wrong.

As I’ve mentioned, basketball was a key part of my childhood.  Not only playing it, but the stories that my parents shared.

My dad steeped me in the history of the great high school players who’d gone through Cathedral, Rice, and Burlington.  But his favorite stories were of the legendary teams & players at St. Michael’s in the late 50’s and early 60’s.

Frank McCaffrey was one of those players.  He played on the famous Purple Knight 1958 squad that advanced all the way to the national championship game in Evansville.

Many years later, I attended the Vermont high school basketball Division 1 semi-finals at UVM.  I was captivated by a player from Rutland who, to this day, is the most exciting player I’ve ever seen play in Vermont: Jim McCaffrey, Judge McCaffrey’s son.

Even later, but before I became a lawyer, I met Judge McCaffrey’s wife, Rita, through my mom.  They worked together in politics.  And, finally, as a young lawyer, Judge McCaffrey’s daughter, Marybeth, served as a valuable mentor to me when we worked together in the AG’s office.

Yet, while I knew of the family prior to entering the law, it’s what I’ve learned of Judge McCaffrey since that spurs this post.

I’ve often blogged about wellness and helping others. Judge McCaffrey made a life of doing both.

Judge McCaffrey and his wife established Vermont’s first Dismas House, a program whose mission is to help reintegrate those convicted of crimes into the community.  He was also instrumental in planting the seed from which the state’s treatment courts first sprouted.

Dismas House.  Treatment courts.  Not only helping others, but helping others to be well.

You can read more about Judge McCaffrey’s life and work in both this tribute in The Rutland Herald, as well as in his obituary.

Some of the words & quotes are striking.

From the Herald article:

  • “A long-serving Vermont judge, McCaffrey is most recently known for helping . . .”
  • “He believed God put us on Earth to serve others and he lived that . . .”
  • “Judge Corsones said the drug court seemed like a perfect fit for McCaffrey because it was full of people who needed someone to listen. It also, Corsones said, gave McCaffrey another chance to help people.”

From his obituary:

  • “He will be remembered by many prisoners, former prisoners, and those struggling with the demon of addiction who knew he believed in their ability to recover. He gave them not only hope, but also the tools they needed to find their way to a better life.”

I’ve often urged readers to win their 3-feet of influence.  I’ve also used the starfish story several times in blog posts and at CLEs. It goes like this:

“One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.

Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir”.

The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?”

The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said,

“I made a difference to that one!”

Judge McCaffrey never stopped winning this 3 feet of influence. In the process, he helped return countless starfish to the water – to wellness.

Judge McCaffrey made a difference by practicing wellness and helping others achieve it.  If he is emulated even a fraction as much as he will be missed, his 3-feet of influence will continue to spread.

Let’s make sure that it does.

Francis Bernard McCaffrey Jr. Obituary


3 thoughts on “Wellness Wednesday: Judge McCaffrey

  1. Excellent post Mike. I did not have the pleasure of knowing the Judge personally, but it seems it was my loss. For many others, it seems to have been a great gain. Thank you for sharing.

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