Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Joseph Luebbers, 81, was municipal judge

By Rebecca Goodman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

SYCAMORE TWP. - The Hon. Joseph A. Luebbers, a Hamilton County Municipal Court judge for 30 years, died Saturday at Good Samaritan Hospital. The cause of death has not been determined. The Sycamore Township resident was 81.

"I knew him as a dad and kind of like a co-worker," said his daughter, Jody Luebbers Boyer of Sycamore Township, who is an attorney. "It is very difficult to do, but he was elected as a Democrat in a very Republican county for 30 years because people liked him, believed in him and trusted him."

"He was an inspiration to many," his daughter added. "He led an exemplary life and made outstanding contributions to his fellow man, community and church. He was extremely proud of Cincinnati and tried to serve her well."

Judge Luebbers gained national attention when he was held hostage by a group of prisoners who broke out of the jail in 1972.

The escapees tied him up and threatened his life. He was later able to joke that the voice dubbed over his on Italian TV sounded like him.

Known for his support of the police department, he was a "favorite judge for law officers to seek out for signing search warrants in the middle of the night," his daughter said. "His parting words for these officers were, 'Be careful out there.'"

Judge Luebbers grew up in Bond Hill and graduated from St. Xavier High School. While a student at Xavier University, he enlisted in the Army when the United States entered World War II.

He served in Africa and Italy, where he attended classes at Florence University in Italy. "He saw some action, but didn't really talk about it too much," his daughter said.

After the war, he resumed his education at Xavier, then attended night classes at Salmon P. Chase College of Law.

He had a private law practice before being elected to Municipal Court in 1965. Judge Luebbers would be elected to six consecutive terms. After his retirement in 1995, he served as a visiting judge for two years.

The judge loved to sing and play piano, and he was a talented writer and speaker. He served as master of ceremonies for Elder and St. Xavier's sports stags for many years. He loved to tell jokes and had impeccable timing for delivering a punch line, his daughter said.

Judge Luebbers received numerous awards, including 13 for superior service from the Ohio Supreme Court. He was a member of numerous veterans, legal and civic organizations.

He was a past president of the Xavier University Alumni Association, St. Xavier Dad's Club and the Men of Milford Retreat League, and was a member of the board of St. Aloysius Orphanage.

In addition to his daughter, Jody, survivors include: his wife of 49 years, Dorothy O'Kane Luebbers; two other daughters, Joelle Levine of Oakley and Ann Hardiman of Sycamore Township; two sons, Mark of West Chester and John of Blue Ash; and eight grandchildren.

Visitation is 4-7 p.m. tonight at Gilligan Funeral Home, 8225 Montgomery Road. Mass of Christian Burial is 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Saviour Church, Rossmoyne.

Memorials: Sister Mary Joelle Burse, Sisters of Notre Dame, India Missions, 1300 Auburn Ave., Chardon, OH 44024 or make a blood donation to a local blood bank or Hoxworth Blood Center.

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