Broderick survived a bout with cancer in 1979 and underwent vascular surgery to his right leg last summer. Then his cancer recurred in April. He could barely walk from his chambers to the bench during the Northern trial.
But, he enjoyed being a judge until his dying day.
"Once he told me he would have liked to have died with his robes on," said Patrick J. Broderick, a son and a Norristown attorney.
"His mind was still very, very sharp. He was very sad that he couldn't be doing something that he loved to do."
Broderick presided over many high profile cases since his appointment to the federal bench in 1971 by then President Richard M. Nixon.
In 1976, he ruled that the city and federal governments violated the constitution and other laws in failing to complete housing construction for low-income residents at Whitman Park in South Philadelphia.
During demonstrations against the project, several protesters held a mock funeral for Broderick, carrying around a fake coffin.
But rumors of his demise were greatly exaggerated.
During 1977 and 1978, Broderick issued a series of rulings that mentally retarded patients at Pennhurst were denied their constitutional rights because they were not provided with adequate education, housing and care in the least restrictive setting.
Pennhurst was eventually closed and the patients were moved to smaller, community-based facilities.
In 1979, he ruled it was unconstitutional for the city to spend tax dollars to build an open-air stage for Pope John Paul II's Mass during his visit to Philadelphia. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia was ordered to pay the city $204,569 for the stage.
In 1990, Broderick ordered a Philadelphia law firm to pay damages to a lawyer it fired because he had contracted AIDS. The case was a prelude to the hit movie, "Philadelphia," in which Tom Hanks played a lawyer in a similar situation.
"[Broderick] was one of the greatest human beings I ever met," said Edward R. Becker, Chief Judge of the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.
"He was just a rare, special human being. I never met somebody who had such a gift for reaching out to people and making them feel good and important. I never knew a judge of higher principal."
Becker served as Broderick's financial adviser during Broderick's failed gubernatorial campaign in 1970.
Broderick was lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania from 1967-71 and ran for the governor's mansion on the GOP ticket in 1970. One plank on his platform was to do away with the state income tax.
He was soundly defeated by Democrat Milton Shapp by nearly a half-million votes. He was despondent over the defeat, but was tapped by Nixon the next year for the federal judgeship.
"Six months after he was made a judge he told me, 'I love being a judge. This is the best job I could have,'" Broderick's son said.
"He used to say, 'To get this job, all I had to do was to lose in 65 of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania.'"
Born in Philadelphia, Broderick was valedictorian of his 1931 graduating class from West Catholic High School for Boys. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1935, and the University of Pennsylvania law school in 1938.
He worked for several years on the Rural Electrification Commission as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal initiatives.
Then Broderick joined the Navy in 1942 for a three-year hitch and front row seats at Allied invasions in North Africa, Sicily, Tarawa and Saipan as a lieutenant commander aboard the USS Monrovia.
But Broderick's most memorable wartime campaign came when he outflanked another suitor in the Battle of Marjorie Beacom.
"He bragged about the fact that the most distinguished military honor he ever received was the hand of Lt. Cmdr. Marjorie Beacom Broderick," his son said.
"I like to say that after the marriage, she was the admiral."
The couple married in 1945. After the war, they returned to Philadelphia where Broderick practiced law until becoming a federal judge.
A faithful parishioner at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Broderick was a past commissioner of Plymouth Township and chaired the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention in 1968 that revised the commonwealth's constitution.
One change was the institution of a unified judiciary that allowed lawyers who pass the bar in one county to practice law statewide.
Broderick was an avid jogger whose love for animals dated back to his childhood days when his father worked at a stable at 55th and Vine streets.
Broderick won a local dog show as a youth with his dog, "Shag." As an adult, he enjoyed jogging through Overbrook Farms with his German shepherd/labrador mix dog "Luke" by his side.
He enjoyed spending weekends doing maintenance and tending the flower garden at his Ocean City vacation home. And he liked to entertain - sort of - at parties when there was a piano around.
"He took piano lessons when he was young, but the only song he knew how to play was called 'Silver Moon,'" his son said.
"He would go to parties and claim to be an accomplished pianist. Then he'd play "Silver Moon" and everybody would clap and ask him to play some more.
"He would always say, 'No. That's enough.' He never let them know that that was his entire repertoire."
Besides his wife, Broderick is survived by two other sons, Timothy and Brian; two daughters, Tara McMunigal and Deirdre Koerick; and 10 grandchildren.
A viewing will be Thursday after 6 p.m at the Donohue Funeral Home on W. Lancaster Avenue in Wayne. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Friday at noon at St. John Baptist Vianney Church, Conshohocken State Road and Youngs Ford Road in Gladwyne. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery in West Conshohocken.
Memorial contributions may be made to Gospel Rescue Mission, 326 W. 28th St., Tucson, Ariz. 83713.
George Birch, a retired recreation director, former gang intervention worker, state boxing referee and World War II vet who enjoyed boxing and visiting family in his hometown of Atlantic City, died of natural causes Wednesday. He was 80 and lived in West Philadelphia for about 50 years.
Birch retired in the late 1970s after 34 years with the Recreation Department. He served as a supervisor at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center and the Chew and Finnegan playgrounds in South Philadelphia.
During the height of the city's gang war activity in the 1970s, he also worked with anti-gang groups and helped negotiate truces between about 20 South Philly gangs.
He was recognized by former Mayors Richardson Dilworth and Frank Rizzo for his community service and also was cited by the Chapel of the Four Chaplains.
Birch also was involved in various community organizations.
Born in Atlantic City, Birch graduated from Atlantic City High School. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II where he was a physical education instructor for new recruits and an undefeated light-heavyweight Army boxing champion.
He later attended Community College of Philadelphia and an area business college.
A Golden Gloves competitor as a youth, Birch and the late Zack Clayton were the only two black state-certified boxing referees in Pennsylvania.
In 1948, Birch married his wife, Sarah, who was "the girl next door" growing up in Atlantic City. A longtime member of Greater St. Matthew's Independent Church, he had recently recommitted himself to his faith.
He enjoyed contemporary music, but couldn't dance worth a lick. Still, his wife said she liked to boogie with him because he would shadow box to the music.
He also was a constant whistler who could imitate bird calls.
He and his wife traveled to Seattle, Canada and El Paso. But their favorite trips were back home to visit relatives in Atlantic City. Besides his wife, Birch is survived by three daughters, Theresa Birch-Hunter, Patricia Aguilar and LaRue Lamb-Hill; two sisters, Beunice Collick and Anna Hampton; one granddaughter, Taifa Walton; and two great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by one brother, Mannie Birch; and one sister, Margaret Birch.
A funeral service is at 11 a.m. today at Greater St. Matthew's Independent Church, Race and Vodges streets. There will be no viewing. Burial is in Northwood Cemetery 15th and Haines streets.
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