Robert W. Corcoran, who served as President of the Nassau County Bar Association from 1982-83, passed away on April 30, 2017 at 97 years of age, just before the Bar Association was to honor him for 70 years of the practice of law at the Annual Dinner Dance.
I had the privilege to serve on the Association Board of Directors with Bob over many years, before, during and after his term as President. He was at all times a highly respected voice, honest and impartial, deliberative and wise. He was a leader and a visionary, and always had the best interests of NCBA at heart. Because Bob was one of a kind, and had so many accomplishments to his credit, I am honored to write this celebration of his life.
World War II Action
Bob was born in Brooklyn in 1919. He was attending St John’s University School of Law when the Second World War broke out. In an act that would surprise nobody who knew him then or later, he immediately volunteered for the military, and he served in the US Army for three years in the South Pacific, participating in the historic capture of Iwo Jima.
Two weeks after his return from service, he married his pre-war sweetheart, Lorraine Gregory of Williston Park, NY. Together, they raised a family of five children in Hicksville. Bob received his law degree with honors from St. John’s and was admitted to the New York Bar in 1947. He earned a Master’s degree from New York University, and was admitted to practice in various federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court, and in 1953 joined the Nassau County Bar Association. In private practice, he became a partner and commercial litigator in the renowned Garden City law firm of Speno, Goldberg, Moore, Margolies and Corcoran.
Guiding the Bar
Throughout his long career, Bob was an exemplar for the legal profession, providing wise counsel and timely advice in the public and private sectors, in his community and among his colleagues.
He chaired many Association committees, notably the Judiciary Committee and the Grievance Committee. During his tenure as President, he led the Association through financially troubled times following the expansion of Domus and the addition of the dining room a few years earlier. He was a strong proponent of the Lawyer Referral Service, and pursued (and achieved) membership growth.
Bob promoted NCBA’s arbitration system as a means to relieve crowded court calendars in hopes that it would benefit the public and the membership. This program evolved into today’s NCBA Mediation and Arbitration service available to the public and the Bar with members screened by the Judiciary Committee serving as mediators and arbitrators
Bob was a strong advocate for the preservation of human rights and dignity, asserting that protection of that dignity should be the main purpose of lawyers and judges. His February 1983 President’s Letter in the Nassau Lawyer sums up his support for Bar Association membership:
“The Association is the attorney’s voice, the attorney’s means of dialogue with the other segments of our society, and his instrument of communication with its components and with those who, rightly or unjustly, accuse the profession of being less than it actually is. We solicit your continued activity in the Bar, and suggest that you do your best to increase its membership by urging those who have not joined us to do so.”
Most notably, in 2003 he received the Association’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Medallion, in recognition of his impact to enhance the reputation of the legal profession and outstanding service to his clients and his community.
Bob was also heavily involved with the New York State Bar Association. He served on several committees and in the House of Delegates, and in the early 1980’s he was honored as NYSBA’s Pro Bono Attorney of the Year. He was a member of the American Arbitration Association, and served as an arbitrator in many commercial disputes.
Bob fully engaged in a variety of activities for his community and was a respected leader in all. In the 1950’s he served as Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus and President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Hicksville. He was counsel for the Hicksville Fire Department, the attorney for the Hicksville School District, and was elected to the Hicksville Board of Education. He also served as the Assistant Counsel and Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Liquor Authority.
Among his other talents, Bob was an avid golfer, and high among his achievements was a hole in one at the Wheatley Hills Golf Club.
Following a divorce in 1980, Bob was married to Dr. Virginia Maurer, whom he met at a Christmas party at the home of his brother-in-law, Jon Santemma. Bob and Ginny had two more children. Bob is survived by six of his seven children: sons Paul (a member of NCBA), Timothy and Robert, and daughters Mary Zilko, Kimberly Corcoran and Tammy Fortune. Bob is also survived by eight grandchildren and one great-grandson.
On a personal note, Bob was a mentor and friend to me, always willing to offer helpful and wise counsel. Without his support and advice at the State Bar Nominating Committee, I would never have become President of the State Bar. I am but one of many who owe him much.
With all his achievements and accomplishments, Past President Jon Santemma (1979-1980) correctly sums up Bob’s persona as “a regular, good guy, with a great sense of humor. He was good company and a good guy to be with.”
He was straight as an arrow, business like, dedicated to the law, compassionate and impartial. Applying his military perspective, he made sure everything he did was a proper application of the law, but he always displayed his human, caring side.
The Bob Corcorans of the world come along far too infrequently. All of us who knew him are honored to have had that opportunity; his family, friends and profession mourn his passing.