John A. Almeida, 63, formerly of Mount Laurel, a retired Superior Court judge in Burlington County, died of cancer Monday, Nov. 28, at Chester County Hospital.
Judge Almeida served on the bench for 13 years until retiring in October 2010.
Before becoming a judge, he had a practice specializing in civil litigation. He represented municipalities, including work as solicitor for Evesham and Medford Townships, and was attorney for the Burlington County Republican Committee.
When Gov. Christie Whitman nominated him to the bench in 1996, he told The Inquirer he was "extremely pleased that the governor would consider me for this position. There's a variety of reasons why an attorney would want to be a judge, not the least of which is a continuation of public service."
Though Judge Almeida struggled with health issues, in court "he gave more than 100 percent," County Assignment Judge Ronald E. Bookbinder said.
"John was extremely fair. Whether you were a victim or you were alleged to have committed a crime, he treated everyone as a human being and focused on the situation.
"He had a great knowledge of the law and was able to run his court very efficiently," Bookbinder said.
Judge Almeida served in civil and family courts but spent most of his time in the criminal division.
In a high-profile murder case reported in The Inquirer in 2009, he sentenced gang member Joseph "G.I." Townsend to 20 years in prison for killing a Willingboro teen who had been Townsend's childhood friend. The teen had broken gang rules.
In court, the judge said the case had been troubling, and he encouraged Townsend to turn his life around. "You betrayed your friendship; you have to pay for that."
The grandson of Portuguese immigrants, Judge Almeida never forgot how hard his grandparents and parents worked to "kick open doors of opportunity for him," his son Jeffrey said. Judge Almeida grew up in Irvington, N.J., and graduated from Seton Hall Preparatory School in Orange, N.J. He earned a bachelor's degree from Seton Hall University in 1969. He then spent three years as an infantry officer in the Marine Corps in the States.
He earned a law degree from Rutgers University in 1975 and was an assistant prosecutor in Camden County for three years before establishing his practice.
He and his wife, Elaine, met at an amusement park near Irvington when they were 12. They married in 1966 and raised a family in Medford.
Nine years ago, Judge Almeida and his wife bought a farm in East Corinth, Vt. He was very family-oriented and loved spending vacations on the farm with his grandchildren, his son said.
Judge Almeida and his wife moved to East Corinth after he retired last year.
In addition to his wife and son, Judge Almeida is survived by another son, John Jr.; a brother; and eight grandchildren.
Friends may call from 5 to 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 2, at Mathis Funeral Home, 58 N. Main St., Medford. A Memorial Mass will be said at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at St. Mary of the Lakes Church, 40 Jackson Rd., Medford.
Donations may be made to the American Cancer Society, Box 22718, Oklahoma City, Okla. 73123.