Judge Alf Truitt mourned: ‘He died of a broken heart’

 

Three days after their father died, Judge Alfred Truitt’s daughters were gathered at the family home, talking about the man who shaped them, taught them and certainly made them laugh.

There were stories, spilling and mingling among them, like the time he led a cow into a bell tower when he was in college, and innocently told the school’s president, “I wonder how that cow got up there.”

The structure had to be disassembled to free the animal and young Truitt was scolded and directed to pack his bags and leave. Eventually he was readmitted to Western Maryland College.

“His death was very sudden,” daughter Margaret Engler said about her 88-year-old father, a Salisbury institution who was well-respected and widely known, who sat on the judge’s bench for decades, and was there just three days before he died at home on June 5.

His daughter found him the next afternoon.

“He had some high blood pressure problems, but it wasn’t expected. It was a heart attack,” Margaret said.

“It’s tragic for us,” daughter Christine Bozick added.

Their mother, Clara May, died in March and it gives the sisters – Margaret, Christine and Cathleen Campbell – comfort believing their parents are together, probably dancing, as they loved to do, to Frank Sinatra’s music.

“Above everything else, he taught us honesty. That was the biggest thing to him,” Margaret said.

“And humor. He had a very, very dry sense of humor.  He also instilled in us a love of history and curiosity. He and Mom traveled the world and they really taught us well,” she said.

The five Truitt children, including sons Alfred III, known as Bruzz, and Michael, accompanied their parents to the White House during President Kennedy’s term in office. It was a real honor, except that it was during the Cuban Missile Crisis, which made them uneasy.

Cathy, the middle child, wandered away from her family in the White House and met young Caroline Kennedy, who said  she lived there before a member of security quickly whisked little Cathy away and back to her parents.

So many memories stirred the women’s conversation, including their father telling them about the horror of witnessing a lynching, as he did when he was about 5 or so. He carried it into adulthood as a horrible, terrifying experience, fueled by ugly anger and rage against the victim.

“He was a great storyteller. He had such knowledge of history and lore. He could really could tell a story,” Margaret said.

A man who loved the law, from practicing to teaching to mentoring, Truitt graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1953, but was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1952.

He was state’s attorney for Wicomico County, first public defender for the county and a judge more than 50 years.

He deeply loved his career, but after his wife died, Margaret said, “he had the wind blown out of his sails.”

“They absolutely adored each other. He died of a broken heart,” she said.

Truitt was also proud of his children, all who have college educations, and his 18 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

On the day he died, he was in Judge Danny’s Long office, talking about a case he would hear in Long’s absence.

“I don’t know of anybody in the community who was more loved and admired than Judge Truitt,” Long said.

“I think what made him so special is, he always found time in courthouses not just for the lawyers but for everyone else — the clerks, the bailiffs, the secretaries and the sheriff’s deputies. He always found time to stop and say hello.

“Even at 88 years of age, what so impressed me with him was he was still blessed with a razor sharp mind and continued to sit on a regular basis as a judge for those of us who were on leave,” Long said.

Viewing for Truitt will be at Holloway Funeral Home on Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. The funeral service will be Saturday at 2 p.m. at Emmanuel Wesleyan Church.  Burial will be private.

“It’s a real loss to the Salisbury community. He was a special man,” Long said.

Daughter Margaret agreed.

“It’s a great loss,” she said. “He missed my mother so much. He is where he wants to be.”

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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