Albert John Snite Jr., 68, of East Falls, a retired Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge, died Wednesday, Aug. 31, of complications from lung cancer at his home.
Judge Snite slipped away so peacefully that it wasn't immediately apparent that he had died, his wife, Julia Ann Conover, said.
From January 1992 to January 2015, he presided over cases from the state court's First Judicial District bench in Philadelphia. He rotated through the Civil Division to the Criminal Division and to the Complex Litigation Center.
"Jack was passionate about his work - being the fairest judge possible, always doing the right thing," his wife said.
Anne E. Lazarus, a Superior Court judge who considered Judge Snite a colleague and friend, said they met in 1991 while running for election to Common Pleas Court. He spent his career on the Common Pleas bench; she went on in 2009 to Superior Court.
"He was a brilliant, fair, impartial jurist," she said.
The two soon discovered they were also East Falls neighbors whose children played tennis and swam together at the local country club.
"He was a kind man and incredibly proud of his family," Judge Lazarus said.
Judge Snite was known as "Jack" to friends and family.
Born in Philadelphia, he was a direct descendant of Francis Daniel Pastorius, the founder of Germantown in 1683.
Judge Snite graduated from Olney High School in 1965 and earned an economics degree in 1969 from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
He interrupted his studies in 1969 to serve as a VISTA volunteer in northern Georgia. He then completed a law degree at the Dickinson School of Law in 1973.
His first career move was to the Defender Association of Philadelphia. From 1973 to 1982, he served as a public defender in both state and federal defender offices, although based in Philadelphia.
During that time, one of his clients was John Africa, a founder and coordinator of the controversial group MOVE.
Benjamin Lerner, head of the Defender Association when Judge Snite was an assistant public defender, said the judge impressed him in two ways:
"He was an extremely committed and competent public defender. He was skillful and diligent at advancing his clients' causes and getting the best results he could.
"At the same time, he did difficult, even grinding work without losing a sense of humor and congeniality, which made him not only an effective lawyer, but a delightful person to work with," Lerner said.
In 1989, Judge Snite joined the law firm of Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads, staying until 1991.
In private life, Judge Snite volunteered for various civic causes. He was a member of First United Methodist Church of Germantown and the Germantown Cricket Club. He enjoyed reading nonfiction.
"Jack was smart, ethical, and had a wicked sense of humor," his wife said.
One of his passions was New Orleans. He visited the city for the Mardi Gras 13 times between 1976 and 2014, and returned there in between.
"He especially enjoyed leading groups of friends on trips to Mardi Gras and initiating them to the joys of New Orleans cuisine and music," his wife said.
Two weeks after retiring in 2015, Judge Snite learned he had cancer. He lived to see his daughter Caroline married.
"That was one thing he wanted to accomplish for his daughter," Judge Lazarus said. As his health declined, she said, he stayed realistic about his prognosis and was "with it right to the end."
"He will be missed, not just as a jurist, but as a friend and a husband and a father," Judge Lazarus said.
Besides his wife and daughter Caroline Steel, he is survived by daughter Laura Conover Snite and two sisters.
Plans for funeral arrangements were pending.