Recently retired State Supreme Court Justice William R. LaMarca died Thursday of stroke complications related to myasthenia gravis at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Great Neck. He was 77 and lived in Massapequa.
LaMarca, who ended 10 years of serving on the bench in December, had mainly been an attorney in private practice. From 1977 to 1979, however, he had served as associate counsel to state Assembly Speaker Stanley Steingut.
As a judge he ruled in several notable cases, including holding up Richard Ravitch's appointment as New York lieutenant governor and forcing then-Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi to remove his "wall of shame" that listed accused DWI offenders -- both in mid-2009.
Steven Schlesinger, a prominent Nassau County Democratic attorney, called LaMarca "a true gentleman judge, who called things the way he saw it every single time."
Schlesinger noted that LaMarca ruled against him even though he had chaired the Democratic committee that nominated LaMarca for judge. In the Ravitch case, the five-member appellate court supported LaMarca, but only three of the seven court of appeals judges did.
LaMarca had been a leader in a fight to allow judges to serve as long as they were competent rather than forcing them to retire at age 70. In fact, LaMarca gained three two-year extensions on the state court past that age. Many of his decisions were published in the New York Law Journal and the State Reporter.
He was a 1955 City College of New York graduate with a bachelor's in business, and then went to work as a purchaser. He was soon drafted for two years and served more than one of them in the occupation of Okinawa. He was discharged as a corporal.
He graduated from St. John's University School of Law in 1968 and was admitted to the bar in 1969.
LaMarca was an avid hunter and fisherman, "especially fisherman," said his cousin Robert Rovegno, a Jericho lawyer, who said they fished almost every weekend in the summer. "He knew everything about bait and tackle. He was a real outdoorsman and a very subtle teacher of these sciences. You learned at every turn from him."
Rovegno said his cousin had been admitted to Harvard but would not go "because he thought it was too far out of his background." He said that while at City College of New York, LaMarca did a lot of acting but eventually passed on it as a career. "He turned out to be a really good lawyer and a great judge," he said.
Survivors include his wife of 47 years, June; a daughter, Lauren Vitrano of Massapequa; a son, William II of Jericho; and five grandchildren.
Viewing will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Massapequa Funeral Home in Massapequa Park. The remains will be cremated in a private service.