Samuel G. DeSimone, 88, of Mickleton, Gloucester County, a Korean War veteran, educator, and respected jurist who served on the Superior Court of New Jersey for a quarter-century, died in his sleep Thursday, Oct. 10, at his home.
Judge DeSimone was appointed to the Superior Court by Gov. Brendan Byrne and took the oath of office in 1975. He served in every division of the court before being appointed in 1982 as the first assignment judge for Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem Counties.
In 1982, the Superior Court was undergoing change. The number of vicinages, or districts under its supervision, grew from 12 to 15. Judge DeSimone administered the newly created Vicinage XV in South Jersey while also hearing cases.
“Judge DeSimone was revered as a decorated U.S. Army veteran, a talented jurist, and a committed educator who taught judges on five continents,” said Stuart Rabner, chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court. “He left his mark as a respected 25-year veteran of the bench and the first assignment judge of the Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem vicinage. His was a life well-lived.”
John Tomasello, a retired Superior Court judge, colleague, and friend of the judge for 45 years, said he was affable and even-handed at work.
“He treated you as an equal, even if he was the boss,” Tomasello said. ”He listened and considered your thoughts. Although he made the final decision, you always had the feeling you would be fairly heard.”
Born in Paulsboro, he was the only child of Sam and Mary DeSimone, who came to the United States from Penne, a village in Abruzzo, Italy. He was a 1948 graduate of Paulsboro High School and a 1952 graduate of Gettysburg College.
He entered the Army infantry as a second lieutenant and became commanding officer of a rifle company that was deployed along the demilitarized zone in Korea. He served as a rifle platoon leader during the latter part of 1953 and was decorated for his overseas service.
After returning home, he earned a degree in 1958 from Georgetown University Law School. He clerked at a Camden law firm, and joined another lawyer in Woodbury until 1975, when he took the bench. On stepping down in 2000, he practiced law in Woodbury with son John for another decade.
He was recognized as an expert in the field of dispute resolution. “He was called Settling Sam,” his son said.
Before becoming a judge, he was an assistant prosecutor in Gloucester County and solicitor for local townships, zoning panels, and planning boards.
After taking the bench, Judge DeSimone became a judicial educator and lecturer. He was a faculty member of the National Judicial College at the University of Nevada, Reno, from 1986 to 2011. He traveled to the Republic of Georgia, Australia, Argentina, and Bosnia to teach judicial procedures. He was asked by the U.S. State Department to consult with Italian jurists on judicial efficiency and education.
In 1996, he was awarded the New Jersey State Bar Association Medal of Honor for his contributions to the administration of justice. He received the St. Thomas More Award from the Diocese of Camden, and the Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Service Award in 2000.
Judge DeSimone was a founding member of the Boys & Girls Club of Gloucester County. He was a member of the Second Infantry Division Association, the VFW Anthony T. Calista Post in Gibbstown, and he sat on the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
He and his wife, Elizabeth “Eileen” Heilman, went to Italy 20 times during their 64-year marriage. In 1973, they took along their seven children to acquaint them with their family’s heritage, so that the connection would not be lost over time.
“When I retired in 2013, Judge DeSimone got a group of retired judges together for breakfast every other Friday to meet and tell stories,” Tomasello said. “As his disability increased, the meetings ended up at Sam’s house. The man was really an outreach person.”
Besides his wife and son, he is survived by children Elizabeth Ann Costill, Thomas A., David M., Margaret Eileen Brace, Mary Katherine Woodland, and Sara Jane Taylor; 21 grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren.
Visitations will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14, and Tuesday, Oct. 15, from 10 to 10:45 a.m. at the former St. Michael, now St. Clare of Assisi Church, 313 Memorial Ave., Gibbstown. A Mass of Christian Burial will be at 11 a.m. Burial will follow at St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Swedesboro.
Donations may be made to the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, 153 Halsey St., 6th Floor, P.O. Box 47017, Newark, N.J. 07101.