Montgomery County

Family, friends reflect on life of Judge Robert Sise

Judge Robert Sise, who died Tuesday, not only had a long career on the bench, but he also lived a li
Robert Sise (Provided photo)
Robert Sise (Provided photo)

After 30 years on the bench, Judge Robert Sise chose to step down at the close of 1990 and return to private practice.

At the age of 65, he could have stayed on another five years, son Richard Sise recalled Thursday.

As to why he stepped down, the son recalled his father’s explanation as simple: He’d been a judge long enough. It was time to let someone else have the opportunity.

“That, to me, was the epitome of my father, a real giver,” Richard Sise, himself now a judge, recalled of his father. “That’s the way he was.

“He was a good man, he’s the finest man I’ll ever know, that’s for sure.”

Richard Sise — one of nine Sise sons — spoke Thursday, two days after his father’s passing at the age of 90.

Robert Sise not only had a long judicial career that culminated in his appointment as the state’s chief administrative judge for courts outside New York City, but he also lived a life that saw service in World War II, a brief showing in minor league baseball and a 66-year marriage that produced nine sons and 26 grandchildren.

He also knew how to laugh, those who knew him said, and tell a good story.

“He was a man with a wonderful sense of humor, a keen wit and just a great sense of assessing people, if you will,” Judge Richard Aulisi, a state Supreme Court justice from Fulton County, said Thursday evening. “He had an innate sense or ability to look at somebody, talk to them and really get to the core of the person.”

Born in Albany in 1926, Sise grew up in Menands and Amsterdam. At the age of 18 in January 1945, he joined the Navy and shipped out to the Pacific to train for what was to be the invasion of Japan, according to his obituary. The war over that August without an invasion, he continued on and witnessed a nuclear test at Bikini Atoll.

Once back home, he graduated from Albany Law School and started his law career.

He also soon met his future wife, Theresa. They married in September 1949, and celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary last year. Richard Sise recalled the “unbelievable devotion and adoration” they shared for one another.

Early in their marriage and early in his legal career, Sise tried his hand at professional baseball. He’d played in his undergraduate days at Union College and he played third base at Nyack in 1948 and pitched with Gloversville-Johnstown in 1951, according to his obituary. He made the Fulton County Baseball & Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.

His baseball experience would come in handy later when he and Theresa had a ready-made baseball team of their own: nine children, all boys.

Upon learning their youngest was also a boy like all the rest, the family story goes, the proud father broke out in an old song lyric, “If you have nine sons in a row, baseball teams make money, you know!”

And he and Theresa had much to be proud of in their boys, boys who grew up to be lawyers, doctors, military men and businessmen.

Two of the boys, Richard Sise and Joseph Sise, followed their father into judgeships of their own. Richard Sise is a judge on the state Court of Claims; Joseph Sise is a state Supreme Court justice from Montgomery County.

Robert Sise ran for and won his first judgeship, then the Montgomery County Children’s Court post, in 1960. He then won re-election to the renamed Family Court post in 1966 and made the Court of Claims in 1973. He then began his administrative judge work, making chief administrative judge in 1983, a post he served in through his retirement at the end of 1990.

He then practiced privately until 2008, finally retiring for good at the age of 82.

To a crowd in the run-up to his first judicial election in 1960, according to a Gazette article at the time, Sise explained his view that administering justice involved more than just reading law: “A heart as well as a head is needed.”

Joseph Sise recalled his father as setting “such a great example” for his boys, regularly telling them the value of public service through law.

“My father always said,” Joseph Sise said, “it was such a wonderful job because of the good you can do in seeking justice for others.”

He also lived up to his heritage, Joseph Sise said.

“My father was truly Irish in that he was quick to smile, easy to laugh, had a twinkle in his eye and loved to tell stories,” Joseph Sise said.

He loved to hear other people’s stories, as well.

Richard Giardino, the former Fulton County Court judge and current Fulton County sheriff, remembered Sise’s stories over meals with him and son Joseph.

“He had a great sense of humor, he was a very sharp man, and he read a lot,” Giardino recalled. “He always had kind words for people. He was one of the old guard.”

Categories: -News-, Schenectady County

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