Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Community leader Joseph Mack dies

by on February 03, 2014 11:00 AM

Joseph Mack, a well-known and respected Indiana attorney who practiced law for half a century — usually attired in his signature bow tie — and who also served as a community leader and patron of the arts, died Sunday at St. Andrew’s Village, White Township.

He was 87.

Mack was born in McKeesport and his education began in McKeesport public schools and culminated at Princeton and Harvard universities.

He was a veteran of the U.S. Army and served during World War II and again from 1950 to 1952 during the Korean War.

After graduating from law school, Mack opened a law practice in Indiana in 1955. In 1976 he formed the law firm of Mack & Bonya, where he practiced for 23 years until he was appointed judge of the Environmental Hearing Board in Pittsburgh.

Indiana attorney Stanley DeGory knew Mack since the mid-1970s and came to work for Mack & Bonya when Mack was nominated for, but not appointed to, a federal judgeship in Pittsburgh in 1986.

“Joe was a very, very bright lawyer. He was a quick study,” DeGory said. “He was a delightful person to be around. You wanted to be around him” and people gravitated to him because they wanted to talk to him.

“Joe treated every individual exactly the same — in a warm, respectful fashion” whether he was greeting one of the firm’s best clients or the person who was there to wash the windows, DeGory said. “Joe didn’t see any distinctions. He was just warm and friendly.”

“I tried one of my first jury trials while I was an assistant district attorney” in a case where Mack was the defense attorney, said Indiana County President Judge William Martin. “He was a gentleman throughout. … He was willing to help younger lawyers with advice, but wasn’t talking down to them. He was very friendly.”

After serving with the Environmental Hearing Board, Mack returned to active practice and joined the Indiana firm of Tomb, Mack & Kauffman in Indiana. He retired in 2005.

Mack was also Indiana County’s assistant district attorney in 1958-59.

Among his many community service roles, he was secretary-treasurer and trustee of the J.S. Mack Foundation, which owns Mack Park along the Indiana Borough-White Township border.

Mack’s passion for the arts blossomed during his days as a soldier.

“I went to Japan for the occupation (following World War II). I had a chance to see a different culture, some wonderful, wonderful art,” he said in a 2003 interview with the Gazette when he and his wife, Barbara, were honored with the Service to the Arts Award from the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art. Mack joined the museum’s board in 1978.

He also helped start the Indiana Arts Council.

For more than three decades, Mack assisted with fundraising and provided legal counsel for the Eastern Orthodox Foundation, the transitional living center near Penn Run that provides shelter, care and emotional support for men and women who are homeless, mentally ill, physically disabled or in need of drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Many of those who live there cannot contribute to the cost of their care.

The Rev. George Hnatko Sr., who founded the living center in 1966, said Mack often helped the foundation overcome difficulties.

“He always had a mild manner and he always looked on the positive side and gave us encouragement to make things better,” Hnatko said. “There’s not many men like him, willing to sacrifice their time to make things better for other people.”

The Bowser-Minich Funeral Home, White Township, is handling Mack’s funeral arrangements. An obituary appears on Page 4.

Randy Wells has been a reporter and staff writer at The Indiana Gazette since 1988. His regular assignments include coverage of the Indiana County commissioners, Indiana Borough council and the Marion Center Area School District. His email address is
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