Joseph A. Coffey Jr., 73, who balanced life as a lawyer, family man, and avid traveler, died of cancer Friday, Jan. 22, at his home in Tequesta, Fla., where he had lived since 2000.

Mr. Coffey grew up in Southwest Philadelphia. He attended Most Blessed Sacrament School in Kingsessing and West Philadelphia Catholic High School for Boys as well as La Salle University, where he studied marketing, graduating in 1964.

After graduating, he served in Army for a year before eventually enrolling in Temple University's law school, from which he graduated in 1969.

Mr. Coffey worked as a waiter and in a warehouse to pay for tuition, an experience that kept him humble during his life, his family said.

During law school, he clerked for a couple of federal judges.

He met Teresa S. Vandiver during a mixer at Philadelphia General Hospital, where she was a nursing student. La Salle students were also invited, and since Mr. Coffey studied there, he attended.

"Our eyes met from across the room, I can honestly say," Teresa Coffey said, adding: "He was a great dancer. He was a fabulous dancer."

They dated for about four years and were engaged for six months. Their marriage lasted 49 years.

"He was a happy person and he loved to make people laugh," she said.

The law was his passion. His first job as a newly minted lawyer was with a well-known Philadelphia personal injury lawyer, Teresa Coffey said.

Mr. Coffey's father and grandfather had worked for railroads, which inspired him to fight for workers' rights. In 1982, he became a founding partner of what became Coffey Kaye Myers & Olley in Bala Cynwyd, a firm that specializes in representing railroad and other workers. He retired in 2005.

Despite his success, Mr. Coffey would treat everyone with kindness and respect, whether she be a waitress at a local restaurant or a federal judge, she said.

Just as he loved his career, Mr. Coffey also loved the outdoors.

Of all the places he went, from South America to Europe, his favorite was Florida, because he could always indulge two of his other passions, fishing and hunting, his wife said.

Golfing was another passion: He was a member of Philadelphia Country Club and the Jupiter Hills Club.

He also was a member of the Union League.

"No matter what happened, he was always there for us," said son Robert. "And he had a lot of fun. He was one of the greatest storytellers I've ever known."

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Coffey is survived by sons Michael and Daniel; nine grandchildren; a brother; and a sister. Son Joseph died in 2012. A daughter, Heather, died shortly after birth.

A viewing will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 4, at St. Thomas of Villanova Church on the campus of Villanova University, followed by a Funeral Mass at 11 a.m. Interment will be at Calvary Cemetery in West Conshohocken.

Donations may be made to Jupiter Medical Center, 1201 S. Old Dixie Highway, Jupiter, Fla. 33458.

pmadej@phillynews.com @PatriciaMadej