I have read "The Transcript" on line for however long it’s been there and, sad as it sounds, I thought I would one day see Judge Ben Apkin’s picture and obituary on the front page. Which, in my opinion, is where it should have been. Ben was born in North Adams and never left it. He loved his home town and the people in it, and he served them well.
I met Judge Apkin in 1958 when I interviewed to become his secretary. That interview led not only to a job, but to a lifelong friendship with Ben and his wife, Adrienne. Although I had already left North Adams, I remember very well when he was given the nickname "Gentle Ben" and when the petition was signed against "mandatory retirement," hoping Ben could remain on the bench.
I remember things that other people never knew. I saw his fees paid in home-baked pies and home-grown vegetables. I saw him create jobs at his home for clients who needed work. I saw him work tirelessly on behalf of clients who could never have paid and had no other voice. I listened to client after client tell me what kind of man Judge Ben Apkin was. But they didn’t have to. I already knew.
I stayed in touch with Ben over the years. I visited him and Adrienne when I was in town and enjoyed many meals and evenings in their home. I called Ben every year on his birthday, and just when I wanted to chat. And that gracious lady who was his caretaker always recognized my voice and put him on the phone immediately. [Tuesday, March 20], at 9:15 a.m., I received a call from his daughter, Joan. The girls felt "he would want me to know." I was humbled and honored that, in their time of sadness, they would make that call.
There is no way to measure the influence he had on me, and the love and respect I had for him. There will never be another "Gentle Ben." Rest in peace, dear friend.
Kay Baroni Stanton
South Daytona, Fla.