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Remembering Ralph: ‘I’m a better person because I had the pleasure of knowing him”

Friday, September 20, 2019 @ 12:09 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

ralph-montanaCLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Ralph Montana was more than a successful criminal defense lawyer in Clarion County. Much more.

He was the well-dressed professional who held court wherever he went, offering a friendly and humorous view of life. He offered advice when asked and testified to his love for his country and community.

Born in Rimersburg, attending Immaculate Conception School in Clarion, serving in Vietnam and earning a Bronze Star, and building a reputation as the consummate professional, Ralph left his fingerprints all over Clarion County. He was also a long-time solicitor for the Union School District, Strattanville Borough, and Sligo Borough.

Ralph Montana

We asked three people to share what they remember about Ralph and the impact on their lives.

Blair Hindman, Blair Hindman Law Firm

“Ralph was known for being the consummate professional. Even if you were on the other side in a case with Ralph, most everyone respected Ralph. He was probably the most respected attorney–certainly in the Tri-County area and in northwestern Pennsylvania. He would do it in a style that wasn’t mean and nasty and did his job well. He was tough, but he was also considerate.

“He taught me a lot. I learned and watched Ralph a lot, especially in those first five to 10 years, and I think most defense attorneys did. When I first started, I called Ralph for advice, and he freely gave it.

“The best thing I learned was when I would go watch Ralph, and I did that early on. It was kind of like studying at the feet of the master, and I learned a lot of things by watching him work. He would always offer help, and he was always helping young attorneys.

“He’ll be missed.”

Clarion County Judge James Arner

“As a young lawyer starting here, Ralph was helpful to me by referring some cases, and I did have an opportunity to work with him which helped me get acquainted with the local practice and also became a colleague of his. I certainly appreciated his early support in my career, and he was very helpful to me. In court, Ralph always showed respect for the court and the opposing attorneys. He was an aggressive advocate at the appropriate times, and he was always prepared to put forward his best case for his clients.

“He enjoyed the opportunity to be the kind of the attorney who would make the argument in a way that was persuasive and colorful which would also bring attention to his arguments for his clients. I think that was part of his reputation as a colorful, flamboyant attorney in court.

“I always looked forward to seeing him in court. The last few years he didn’t do too many trials, but he did frequently appear at sentence court, and I was always glad to see him, and I think he was glad to see everybody in court and to be part of it still. I think that’s one of the reasons he hadn’t quit sooner than he was planning to just because he enjoyed the whole experience. He was able to pick and choose what he wanted to do, but I think he stuck with it because it was a large part of his life.

“One of the thing that I always admired was his dedication to Clarion and the Clarion County community.  Not just Clarion, because he was a long-time Union School District solicitor, and I think he had a real connection with our area. He stayed here and was really connected and a big part of the community. He enjoyed the people.

“He helped us in the court system by being a member of the criminal justice advisory board for about 15 years when we started the board. We would meet monthly early in the morning. People on the board could talk about what improvements could be made to the court system and make sure we’re doing things the right way.  Ralph was always there and willing to help. He helped make plans for improvements to our facilities.  I know he the best interests in mind, making sure the court system and everybody connected.

“There’s no doubt that it’s not going to be the same without him. We’re not going to be able to see him in court and chat. We’ll miss him tremendously.

“I always appreciated his support of the veterans and armed forces.  He was a frequent speaker at different community events. A lot of people appreciated his support for our country.”

Dave Black, former Register, and Recorder and Clarion County Commissioner, President & CEO of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber and Capital Region Economic Development Corporation 

“I grew to know, respect, admire, and enjoy Ralph during my 14+ years in the Courthouse as Recorder and Commissioner. My respect for Ralph and my appreciation of his sense of humor only grew during the year I leased office space in his building before moving to Harrisburg.

“He always had something insightful and usually funny to say. His support for veteran causes was exemplary. I regret that it’s been a few years since our paths crossed, but to me, his name brings a smile to my face and sincere appreciation for his support of my career moves over the years.

“He was the embodiment of a truly good person, doing good things for individuals, for his community and his family. He had a special energy, a quick wit and a true zest for life. He left us much too soon.

“I’m a better person because I had the pleasure of knowing him.”

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