MANY PEOPLE will remember Bucks County Judge Leonard B. Sokolove for his many compassionate rulings, but his son Michael has more tender memories.
Like that Little League game when Mike was a kid.
"I am 7 years old, maybe 8, playing in what could have been my first Little League game," Michael wrote in a remembrance. "My father is behind me. He's the umpire. I'm hit by a pitch and it hurts.
"He does not say, 'Shake it off, son.' He picks me up off the ground, cradles me in his arms, and sprints me down to first base. I remember people on the sidelines cheering."
That incident probably says more about Len Sokolove's character than any lengthy tribute could.
"He put the gentle in gentleman," said Michael, former Daily News and Inquirer writer and best-selling author.
Leonard B. Sokolove, a Bucks County Common Pleas judge for 13 years, former solicitor for Bristol Township, and a decorated and wounded Army veteran of the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, died Monday of congestive heart failure at the Pennswood Village retirement community in Newtown. He was 88.
"My dad lived a great and full life," Michael said. "He was blessed with extra measures of qualities that really matter: kindness, wisdom, optimism, generosity. He showed me how to be in this world.
"As a lawyer, he represented common people and could never bring himself to charge them enough to get really well-off," Michael said. "And sometimes he did not want to charge them at all, which is why it was my mother's job to send out the bills.
"As a judge, he made really wise decisions. When the state of Pennsylvania tried to prevent a mother from disconnecting life support from her 44-year-old son, who had been in an irrevocable coma for 20 years, he ruled that the choice was hers to make. The case went all the way up to the state Supreme Court, which upheld his decision 8-1.
"He told an adoption agency that removed a 9-month-old child from a home where the adoptive mother had just died of cancer - and gave her to another family - to immediately return the girl to her adoptive father."
When the battling sides in a local school strike came into his courtroom to argue their cases, he kept them in a room all night and made them hammer out a new contract and get everyone back to school.
"He was too easily irritated," Michael admitted. "He liked his soup really hot and complained when it wasn't. He didn't like it when people fidgeted in front of him at Phillies games, let alone stood up while the game was in play."
Len was an infantry radioman in the Army's 69th Infantry Division when the German army tried a surprise assault in the Ardennes Forest in Belgium in December 1944, in a final effort to reverse the tide of the war.
The Battle of the Bulge was the bloodiest in World War II. Len received a Bronze Star for valor after pulling a wounded comrade off the battlefield under fire. He later received a Purple Heart for a leg wound inflicted by a mortar.
After the war, he remained in Paris for a year teaching algebra and typing to fellow soldiers, "and doing God knows what else in that liberated city," Michael said.
"He was proud of his service, and never missed a reunion of the 69th Infantry."
Len was born in Philadelphia to William Sokolove, an immigrant from Odessa, Ukraine, and the former Anne Berman. He grew up in Kensington and graduated from Central High School. He went on to Lehigh University, where he entered the ROTC program. The war interrupted his education.
After the war, Len used the GI Bill to return to school. He received his undergraduate and law degrees from Temple University.
He married the former Doris "Dot" Kessler in 1947. She was his legal secretary until her death in 2009. He and his wife were devoted to each other.
"They used to go to the Queen Diner on Route 13 in Bristol and sit opposite one another, each with a copy of the Daily News," Michael said.
"They traveled widely and laughed often."
Len, a Democrat, was in private law practice and serving as the solicitor for Bristol Township in 1981 when he was appointed to the bench by Gov. Richard Thornburgh, a Republican. He retired when he reached 70, and returned to private practice.
Besides his son, he is survived by another son, Robert; a daughter, Nancy; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.