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Well-known former judge dies

December 04, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

When a banquet was organized two years ago to honor Gray Silver Jr. for his dedication to City Hospital, Silver was reluctant to participate.

To Silver, serving the community was simply something one did, not something to be recognized, said Teresa McCabe, spokeswoman for the hospital. He relented only when told banquet proceeds would go toward scholarships and was promised he would not have to give a speech, McCabe said.

Silver, 91, died peacefully Wednesday morning at the hospital he helped form, said his son, Circuit Judge Gray Silver III.

An active member of the community, Silver Jr. was a lawyer, and worked as the City of Martinsburg's attorney from 1950 to 1960. From 1962 to 1976, he served as the Circuit Court judge for Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties. His portrait still hangs in Berkeley County's main courtroom.


Silver joined the U.S. Army as a private in 1942 and achieved the rank of corporal a few months later during World War II. He served in the U.S. Army Air Force until 1945 and, after retiring, joined the Air Force Reserves, where he served as a colonel into the 1960s.

A lifelong Martinsburg resident, Silver graduated from Martinsburg High School in 1930. He received his undergraduate degree from West Virginia University in 1935 and his law degree from WVU in 1937.

At City Hospital, Silver had served on the Board of Trustees since 1939, when the hospital was incorporated as a not-for-profit institution. He was the last surviving charter member, McCabe said.

Silver also served on the hospital's Gateway Foundation board since its inception in 1984.

Because of his failing health, Silver asked within the past year that he be moved to emeritus status, said McCabe, who referred to Silver as "the judge."

"He had a dry sense of humor, shall we say. You never knew what the judge was going to say," McCabe said.

Sharp as a tack, Silver had an amazing memory and wit, she added.

"In a meeting when the judge spoke, everyone stopped and listened," she said.

Doug Widmeyer, 73, met Silver in the 1950s. Close friends, Widmeyer, who also serves on City Hospital's board, had begun taking Silver back and forth to board meetings. He said he enjoyed his conversations with Silver, whom he described as being straightforward, intelligent, detailed and passionate.

After he first was elected judge, Silver made it a point to continue shaking hands and talking to people. "That's the old-time way of politicking," Widmeyer said.

While a judge, Silver held juvenile hearings on Saturday mornings so parents could attend and the children would not miss school, Widmeyer said.

At that recognition dinner two years ago, for which U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller was the keynote speaker, many people recalled Silver's community service.

"At first, he wasn't too keen on the idea of having a big public dinner. He was always so modest," McCabe said. "He didn't see it (serving the community) as anything out of the ordinary. We had to sort of coax him."

Because Silver was a strong supporter of people entering the health-care field, the hospital's scholarships were renamed the Gray Silver Jr. Health Profession Scholarships.

After the dinner - during which Silver did say a few words, despite his aversion to giving a speech - he sent a letter to McCabe. He said it was an evening spent with friends and family members that brought to mind many fond memories. It was a night he said he never would forget, McCabe said.

"It was just a pleasure knowing him. He will be missed," McCabe said.

Despite Silver's recent health concerns, McCabe said "you could still always count on the judge if you needed him."

In addition to his wife, Kathleen Silver, 76, Silver leaves behind four children and several grandchildren, including 2-year-old Gray Silver IV.

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