Services will be Saturday, Sept. 21, for William W. Vogel, 92, a former president judge and one of the longest serving jurists on the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.
Judge Vogel, of Wynnewood, died Friday, Aug. 30, at Lankenau Medical Center after a long battle with throat cancer. He had been a judge for four decades.
In 1966, he was appointed to fill a vacancy on the court by then-Gov. William Scranton after an ill jurist resigned. Judge Vogel served with distinction in the court’s criminal, civil, and family divisions until 1986 when he was elected by his judicial colleagues to serve a five-year term as president judge.
Judge William T. Nicholas, who succeeded Judge Vogel as president judge in 1991, called his colleague “a giant of our court.”
“Bill was a wonderful jurist,” Judge Nicholas said. “His impartial judgments were well thought out. He was just the most kind and humble person. He had terrific standing among the judges.”
In addition, Judge Nicholas said: “He was courteous, a total, complete gentleman in every sense of the word. It was always a treat to be in his company.”
When Judge Vogel first joined the court more than half a century ago, there were six full-time judges in Montgomery County, much of which was farmland. When he became president judge two decades later, there were 18 judges along with two senior judges. There are now 22 full-time judges, along with five senior judges who work when needed.
Judge Vogel told the Allentown Morning Call in February 1993 that the greatest change he had seen in his court career was the burgeoning caseload, a result of increased development and commerce in Montgomery County.
"And unfortunately, you don't have as much time as you'd like to devote to them,” he said of the cases. “You try, though."
In 1994, Judge Vogel became a senior judge, and in 2006, he retired in order to “smell the roses,” he told the Morning Call.
During his tenure, the appeals courts upheld his rulings 230 times and overturned them just 26 times, the newspaper wrote.
Former President Judge William Furber said of Judge Vogel: “Bill will be missed not only because of the integrity and intelligence he brought to the court, but because he was such a wonderful human being. He will be remembered for his all-embracing humanity, his love of family, and his wonderful sense of humor.”
Born in Merion to Adolph and Ann Vogel, he graduated from Lower Merion High School in 1944, then joined the Navy. He spent 20 months in the Pacific Theater during World War II and was honorably discharged in 1946.
Judge Vogel earned a bachelor’s degree from Haverford College in 1950 and completed a law degree at the University of Pennsylvania in 1953.
From 1953 to 1966, he practiced law with the Norristown firm of Wisler, Pearlstine, Talone and Gerber.
A Republican, he served as a Lower Merion Township commissioner from 1958 to 1964. He was a Montgomery County commissioner from 1964 to 1966.
He attained the rank of Eagle Scout and was honored with the William Sheppard Award from Haverford College in 2015. The award recognizes service in the area of alumni activities. His memberships included the Merion Cricket Club, the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, and the Haverford College Alumni Association.
His family described him as a patriot, poet, and reader of history. He enjoyed vacationing in Cape May and Squam Lake, N.H.
He was married for 48 years to Sara Carter Vogel, who died in 2014. Judge Vogel is survived by nephews John L. Hekking, Robert Hekking, and J. Gwyn Heaver; and six great-nieces and great-nephews. He was very involved with their upbringing.
“We thought of him as Uncle Billy,” Heaver said. "It was not what he did on the bench or in the newspaper. He was a real guy to us.”
A memorial service will be held at noon Saturday, Sept. 21, at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, 625 Montgomery Ave., Bryn Mawr, Pa. 19010. Burial will be private.