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Joseph Livesey, law partner and litigator, dies at 93

“He was part of the Greatest Generation,” his son said. “He really wanted to do the right thing. Integrity was hugely important to him.”

Joseph R. Livesey
Joseph R. LiveseyRead moreCourtesy of the Livesey family

Joseph Livesey, 93, a civil law trial attorney and Navy and Army veteran, died Monday, June 28, of heart disease at Fox Hill Farm, a retirement community in Glen Mills.

Born in South Philadelphia and raised in West Philadelphia, Mr. Livesey was the sixth of seven children of Mary Livesey, an Irish immigrant who cleaned houses before she started her family, and James Livesey, a stockbroker who turned to bartending and other jobs during the Great Depression.

Growing up in a family of modest means, Mr. Livesey was attracted to the law at an early age.

“He told me as a kid, he’d go into City Hall and watch the trials. He was smitten,” said his son Kevin, a lawyer who practiced with his father for many years. “He just loved the drama. He loved the court action.”

After graduating from West Catholic High School, Mr. Livesey enlisted in the Navy to fight in World War II. After serving four years, he entered the Army.

When Mr. Livesey came home from the service, he enrolled in Temple University, earning a bachelor’s degree in government, and then a law degree while also working as an insurance adjuster. He graduated near the top of his law school class, his son said.

By then, Mr. Livesey had met his future wife, Dorothy, at a Philadelphia dance hall, Chez Vous. Thus began a romance that led to over 60 years of marriage, ending only with her death in 2014.

“They were always together. They did everything together,” said their son, one of the couple’s four children. “They were so deeply in love.”

Mr. Livesey also became a successful lawyer, living out the passion kindled in him as a boy. He started at the former Philadelphia firm of LaBrum & Doak. Afterward, he started his own Philadelphia firm, Kates & Livesey. He was so skillful as a litigator that law professors from his alma mater sent students to observe him to help them learn how to try cases, his son said.

“He was a tough warrior,” said his son. “People were intimidated by him a little bit because he wasn’t afraid of anything. He was pretty fearless. But he was always a gentleman and always a sharp dresser. He had tons of clothes, always looked his best. It was important to him.”

So was character.

“He was part of the Greatest Generation,” his son said. “He really wanted to do the right thing. Integrity was hugely important to him.”

Mr. Livesey believed in the importance of mentoring young people. So he would speak at various high schools, mostly in North Philadelphia near Temple, to encourage them to consider careers as lawyers.

“He was talking to inner-city kids, trying to get them to better themselves and get educated,” his son said. “‘Be a lawyer,’” he would tell them. “‘You can do this.’”

In addition to his son, Mr. Livesey is survived by his companion, Erika Filbert; daughters Kim Veon and Kelly Doherty; six grandchildren; and other relatives. His son Robert died earlier.

A service was held in his honor Friday, July 2.

Donations in Mr. Livesey’s memory may be made to the Wounded Warrior Project, P.O. Box 758516, Topeka, Kan., 66675-8516 or online at