Obituary: Ira Burdette Coldren Jr.: Prominent Fayette County attorney and civic leader
June 15, 1924-Aug. 25, 2008
Friday, August 29, 2008
By Timothy McNulty, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Ira Coldren Jr., a prominent Fayette County attorney and civic leader who formerly led the Pennsylvania Bar Association, died of natural causes Monday at his home in Uniontown. He was 84.
Mr. Coldren's life, following a model set by his parents, mixed law with public service. From his graduation from West Point in 1945 to his work in such groups as the Jaycees, Rotary Club and bar, he brought something common to every role.
"He was a born leader. Everything he joined, he always became head of it," said his former law partner, retired Fayette County Common Pleas Judge Fred C. Adams.
Through the years he led the Pennsylvania Jaycees, Greater Uniontown United Fund, Uniontown Rotary Club, Uniontown Country Club, Fayette County Development Council, county bar association and Pennsylvania Bar Institute. He was president of the statewide bar in 1986.
He did all that, Mr. Adams said, while working up to 16 hours a day, focusing on the business side of their firm while also handling cases, the bulk of them defending insurance companies in negligence cases.
"He was one of the best organized people I've ever seen and one of the hardest workers. I don't think there is a single lawyer in Fayette County who would not recognize him as one of the most distinguished lawyers who ever worked here," the former judge said. "He was a fierce lawyer to face. He never backed off."
Mr. Coldren graduated from Uniontown High School in 1941 and attended Penn State for one year before receiving his appointment to the U.S. Military Academy. He served with the 16th Infantry in Germany and Austria and became an instructor at Fort Riley, Kan., in 1948.
He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1952, worked briefly at the Pentagon, then in 1953 and 1954 served as judge advocate in Pusan, Korea, where he received a Bronze Star.
After teaching at the Judge Advocate General school at the University of Virginia, Mr. Coldren returned to Uniontown to join his father's legal practice, Ray, Coldren & Buck, in 1956. He remained in the Army Reserve, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1968.
Mr. Coldren also was a longtime Freemason and lifelong member of Third Presbyterian Church in Uniontown.
A few years after joining his father's practice, Mr. Coldren was nearly thrown out of a courtroom one day in 1962 after arguing vehemently with opposing counsel. He saw the other attorney -- Mr. Adams -- on the street the next day and surprised the future judge by asking if he wanted to join the Coldren family firm. Mr. Adams would leave Coldren & Adams after joining the bench, but returned in 2005 after Mr. Coldren suffered a debilitating stroke.
"He had a strong work ethic and integrity, and when he spotted another gentleman with those qualities, that drew him to him," Mr. Coldren's daughter Lee Tangarone said yesterday of the pair's partnership.
Though he was named 1990 Citizen of the Year by the Uniontown Area Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Coldren was said to be most proud of a 1997 honor from the Fayette County chapter of the American Red Cross, to the person who "exemplifies the spirit of volunteering themselves to better the community." It was called the Eleanor Lincoln Coldren Award, named after his mother.
Mr. Coldren is survived by his wife Fran; daughters Kathy Wallace of Grand Blanc, Mich., Lee Tangarone of New Hartford, Conn., and Janice Coldren-Camden of Crystal Lake, Ill.; son David of Richmond, Va.; stepdaughter Dian Moore of Paris, Mich.; 11 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
Memorial ceremonies are scheduled at 11 a.m. today at Uniontown's State Theatre, with a Masonic funeral service and a memorial service officiated by the Rev. Christopher Enoch. Doors will open at 9 a.m.
Donations may be made to the Fayette County chapter of the American Red Cross, 108 Morgantown St., Uniontown, PA 15401 or the Westmoreland/Fayette Council of the Boy Scouts of America, 2 Garden Center Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08242/907863-122.stm#ixzz10ZjtebFw
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