Salem-Henry Patrick Oswald departed to realms thither the 11th day of December 2019 in the 88th year of his life, leaving to his fond memory 12 children, 35 grandchildren, 25 great grandchildren, countless friends, colleagues and members of the Bar.
Henry, aka, “Hank”, “Pops”, “Pop-Pop”, and “Ozzie” in his younger years, will be missed for his compassion, love of family and his commitment to the good of his fellow man.
Born and raised on Long Island, New York, Henry relocated with his family to Salem, New York in 1976, where he maintained a private law practice and served briefly as a part-time assistant public defender and a briefer stint as a prosecutor with the office of the district attorney. He somehow found time on top of these duties to own and operate a local hotel, raise the younger half of his twelve children and to meet the demands of a satellite law office on Long Island.
Henry proudly represented the Democratic Party twice as its candidate for Washington County Judge, back when being a Democrat was political suicide and a futility in exercise. He ran on principle, not popularity.
Many of the thousands of Henry’s clients still speak fondly of him and recall his helping hand in times of need. When the poorer of those couldn’t afford his retainer, Henry often accepted bartered items or services instead. Many a chicken--and their eggs--were served in the Oswald household courtesy of a client or two.
Henry loved the game of chess, which he played enthusiastically with his sons until the waning months of his life. He was dogged in his defense, would never lay down his king until mate was inevitable, a testament to his style of game and style of life. As a younger man, Henry was the starting tight end for the Glen Cove Knights and was known for his amazing hands and the surprising speed of his thin, 6’3” frame. In his mature years, Henry picked up the game of golf and there was little he loved more than playing a round or two with his sons, of which he always insisted on paying (believe us, we tried).
Although never a scratch handicapper, Henry had an uncanny ability to make pure contact with a golf ball, a talent that survived his 88 years and failing eyesight. He managed three hole-in-ones over the years and his last round of golf, just a few months before his death, Henry birdied a challenging par three that had always been his nemesis.
While a practicing attorney for nearly 55 years, Henry was really a poet at heart. Each year at Christmas and respective birthdays, family and friends looked forward to his metered stanzas weaved with love, humor and insight. Each poem was a love letter, capturing the essence of each of his 12 children and 35 grandchildren, and gently, nobly, and tenderly, nudged his loved ones in the right direction. They were life-lessons artfully crafted, garnished in rhythm and rhyme, imbued with love.
Henry’s love of writing also found expression in political commentary and he was a frequent contributor to the op-ed section of local newspapers, wherein he garnered a fairly steadfast following.
Henry was deeply devoted to the memory of his mother, who came ashore from Ireland as an intrepid 17 year old in 1917 with little more than the clothes on her back. She was his inspiration, motivation and source of strength throughout his life. Her picture adorned every office, room and hall Henry ever lived or worked.
His educational, professional and business attainments notwithstanding, Henry forever considered himself a man of the people and a man of the soil. He could be found--still in his suit from court--in his garden, bent over, tie akimbo, tending to his tomatoes or turning over his potatoes. He loved the smell of the earth freshly split open, the grit of dirt between his fingers, the lather of sweat in the dropping of a dead tree. Cutting his lawn, repairing the stone fence, clearing the brush in his woods were his therapy, his workout gym, his time of reflection.
The second-born of four siblings, Henry survived them all and he was a loving uncle to numerous nieces and nephews. “Uncle Hank” managed to be a father figure to them as well.
The zeal for his clients had no bound (for those wrongfully accused and not-so- wrongfully accused) and he often prevailed upon exasperated judges by the shear earnest and energy of his protestations, often with little or no pay.
As for his family, Henry led by example. Although wealthy, he practiced humility. Although given cause to anger, he practiced compassion. Although labored sufficient to enjoy reclusive obscurity, he practiced accessibility, moderation and benevolence. He never stopped being a father even though the duties of that office had long since been relieved. He always cared, he always listened, always with a nugget of wisdom to impart.
Henry’s faith was more often philosophical than religious but he always professed Jesus as his “hero” and viewed God’s grace as coming in a multiplicity of forms.
Henry leaves behind all of his children: Bridget (John); Joseph; Henry, Jr.; Michael (Sandra); Keelin; Thomas (Susan); Janet (Steve); John (Linda); Jacqueline (William); Lorenzo; William; and Charles (Lisa).
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Lunch, Learn and Play Program, checks payable to HSCPA, memo, In Memory of Henry Oswald, mail to P.O. Box 140, Salem, NY 12865 or online at https://salemcourthouse.org/programs/lunch-learn-play/ OR the Backpack Program, C/O Salem Central School, 41 East Broadway, Salem, NY 12865.
Calling hours will be held at the McClellan-Gariepy Funeral Home, 19 East Broadway, Salem, NY on Tuesday, December 17, 2019 between the hours of 5:00 and 7:00 pm and a Funeral Mass to be held at the Holy Cross Catholic Church, 249 North Main Street, Salem, New York on Wednesday, December 18, 2019 at 10:30 am.
Lunch, Learn and Play Program, checks payable to HSCPA, memo, In Memory of Henry Oswald
P.O. Box 140, Salem NY 12865
Backpack Program, C/O Salem Central School
41 East Broadway, Salem NY 12865