November 27, 2014

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Retired Avon Lake judge Mackin dies

2013 Lorain County Bar Assoc 18.jpg

Judge John F. Mackin

Mackin died at the Walker Road home he lived in for 50 years with his wife of 56 years, Mary. He was remembered Friday afternoon by friends, family and colleagues as a fair judge, honest and proud of his Irish heritage.

Avon Lake Municipal Court Judge Darrel Bilancini, who took the helm after Mackin retired, said he also knew Mackin as a fellow parishioner at St. Joseph Catholic Church.

“He had a reputation as a wise and fair gentleman,” Bilancini said. “He treated people as he would want to be treated.”

Lorrie Coughlin, St. Joseph’s director of music and liturgy, said Mackin’s honesty, gentleness, sense of humor and love of being Irish will be remembered.

“He was kind of like the river — he always was the same,” Coughlin said. “He was always calm, collected, smiling and dependable. He was somebody you could count on.”

Attorney Jack Bradley said he knew Mackin as a lawyer, judge and family man.

“On all three counts he excelled,” Bradley said. “He was a fine gentleman, raised good children and was very involved in his church. It’s a sad day because he was a good man.”

Bradley said Mackin was firm yet fair as a judge. He started a community work service program so people could give back to the community rather than simply pay a fine.

Mackin was both a lawyer and certified public accountant, making him the only judge in Ohio history to carry both titles. He was born in Lorain and graduated from St. Mary’s High School. He majored in accounting at John Carroll University, where he worked his way through college serving coffee and cleaning the cafeteria, before earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1955.

According to a statement from his family, Mackin met his wife, Mary O’Malley, at a St. Patrick’s Day party in the 1950s, and since she lived on the east side of Cleveland, he would drive from Lorain to a pay phone in Cuyahoga County just to call her. The two married in 1958.

Upon graduation from John Carroll University, Mackin was employed at Frank Serringer & Chaney in Lorain, Diamond Shamrock in Cleveland, Arthur Young in Toledo and Republic Steel in Cleveland. While working full time, he attended Toledo University School of Law and Cleveland Marshall School of Law at night. He earned his law degree in 1961.

In 1964, Mackin took his first job as a lawyer when he joined Avon Lake-area law firm Jensen & Seeley and from 1970-80 he was Avon’s law director, a position his family said sparked his interest in municipal law and public service.

Mackin lost two Democratic primary bids for Common Pleas Court judge in 1976 and 1980, and he ran for judge of Avon Lake Municipal Court in 1981 but was defeated by Robert Jensen. After losing by only 98 votes during an election that was marred by a 90-minute voting machine shutdown, Mackin filed an unsuccessful petition in the Lorain County Court of Appeals contesting the election.

His political persistence finally paid off in November 1987 when he beat Russel McLaughlin by just 65 votes and took the position as Avon Lake Municipal Court judge, where he presided until 2006.

Mackin was first and foremost a family man. He raised nine children: Bridget, Mike, Patrick, Terry, Tom, Maryhelen, Brendan, Kate and Nora.

Brendan Mackin, a lawyer and law director for the city of Stow who is campaigning for the 55th District seat on the Ohio House of Representatives, said his father made time for all of his children.

“He inspired us to work hard and prove ourselves,” Mackin said. “He instilled in each of us a sense of discipline. I think he saw one of his highest achievements as seeing all nine of his children graduate from college and pursue advanced degrees.”

Brendan Mackin said his father always came home for dinner, and there was always conversation.

“As you can imagine with nine children, three of whom went on to be lawyers, we had many spirited dinner conversations,” he said. “He loved the proper use of words, a good argument, a good joke and a good pun. He was a great father.”

Mackin’s family devotion carried on in the interaction he had with his 14 grandchildren.

According to a statement issued by his family, Mackin coached basketball for 17 years for Avon Lake St. Joseph where he was CYO president, basketball tournament director and uniform manager. He was a Holy Spirit Catholic Church parishioner and member of the Father Ragan Council of the Knights of Columbus and the Mayo Society of Cleveland.

His family said he enjoyed all of life’s adventures, historical sites, Notre Dame football and Ireland. But most of all he enjoyed meeting new people and having good conversations. Avon Lake Mayor Greg Zilka, who had all of Mackin’s children in school as a teacher, said the community’s flags will fly at half-mast until Mackin is buried.

“He was a fine man and a fine judge,” Zilka said. “He was highly respected, very down-to-earth and he applied common sense standards to our legal system. He served the city very, very well.”

Contact Jon Wysochanski at 329-7123 or jwysochanski@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonWysochanski. 


  • Mary Kathleen Donovan Springow

    Condolences to the family. Godspeed Judge Mackin! Rest in peace!

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  • Dave Keener

    Rest in peace Judge. May your proud and respected legacy live on through your children.