Editor’s note: Judge Allan Woodcock has been known for ruling with fairness and integrity for decades. He will be missed. In honor of his retirement from the bench, this column, which originally ran five years ago today, is being republished.
He may rule with the iron hand of the law in Penobscot County Probate Court, but Judge Allan Woodcock Jr. has a heart of gold.
Of all the cases that come before him, it’s the making of new families that gives him the greatest satisfaction.
“I enjoy adoptions the most,” said Judge Woodcock, 87. “You see people all the time who can’t have children and I tell them, ‘What you’re doing here today is a miracle – just as much as natural birth, one doesn’t trump the other.’ It is a miracle when a child comes into someone’s life.”
And he should know. He has experienced that miracle seven times with his wife of 35 years, Lois — 24 times if you count their 17 grandchildren.
“I saw her standing outside of church one day and found out her name and called her,” said Woodcock. And years later, while driving in the car, he popped the question.
“She answered, ‘I’d be proud to marry you,’” he said, with just as much pride in his voice that she agreed to become his wife. Sadly, Lois passed away in 1989.
Woodcock was born and raised in Bangor, the son of an orthopedic surgeon and grandson of a general practice physician.
“My grandfather took my father with him on house calls by horse and buggy,” he said. It was assumed that he, too, would be a doctor, but Woodcock had some reservations.
“Frankly, I didn’t think I could pass all those courses,” he said, with a poker player’s face that left his listeners to wonder if he was teasing. “And if I were a doctor I would want to be a surgeon, but I wouldn’t want to cut into people, so that wouldn’t work.” But having friends and a brother-in-law working as attorneys, he decided to enter law school.
But first, Bowdoin College was to be his home. Due to the profoundly positive impact made on him by English teacher, Miss Gibbons, from the Hannibal Hamlin grade school, Woodcock majored in English as an undergrad.
While he felt his first college assignment of writing a poem was challenging, he clearly had a knack for it. The poem was published in Quill magazine.
And while he flirted with becoming an English professor, law was his calling; that and public service. Woodcock held offices on Bangor City Council, spent two terms in the Maine House of Representatives, and three terms in the Maine State Senate, the last as Senate majority leader. He sponsored historical legislation, including the Right to Know law, which has been amended several times through the years.
“I enjoyed practicing law as it’s an interesting way to go through life,” he said. “You’re less likely to get snookered because you can see all the tricks coming. And you never lose interest in it because there’s always something.”
Nonetheless, Woodcock, who became a judge in 1963, has enjoyed sitting on the bench even more. And he has no plans to give it up.
“When you hear back from adoptive parents that things are going well, well if you can have a happier day in your life, I don’t know what it would be,” he said. “Family – that’s what gets you though, and a sense of humor. I take my work very seriously, but not myself.”
Woodcock, who has a pacemaker, credits his family with keeping him young. He lives with his son and grandson, which he admits keeps him on his toes.
And following the Red Sox, he said. “Even though they kept me tortured for years.”
Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, or toll-free (800) 432-7812, log on EAAA.org.