News

THE OLD SOLDIER

The organ played softly. The casket containing Joseph Hessinger's body was rolled slowly down the sloping aisle to the front of the church.

Two of his sons, Joseph and Mark, both lawyers, one a prosecutor and one who specializes in defense, were among the pall bearers.

His wife Julia, and his three daughters, Susan, Kathryn, and Mary Frances, and the rest of Hessinger's large family, filled the front pews.

Hessinger had been the bailiff for Superior Court Judge Philip Marquardt. He was at work when he was stricken. Hessinger was 69 and had planned to retire shortly.

It was at first thought his death might have been brought on by the furor surrounding the arrival of television crews at Judge Marquardt's chambers to pursue reports of the judge's involvement in an illegal effort to buy marijuana.

This proved to be untrue.
Hessinger's family said their father held Judge Marquardt in the highest regard and added that their father's medical condition could have ended his life at any time.

A large crowd of judges, lawyers, court workers and fellow church members was on hand for the service.

Judge Marquardt and his father, Fritz Marquardt, retired editor of the Arizona Republic, were among the mourners.

Several family members advanced to the altar to take part.
Mark Hessinger, now working for the attorney general's staff, read an autobiographical essay his father had written and placed in the family safe.

"I was born on the ninth of October 1921, in the city of Allentown, located in Lehigh County in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania . . . " it began.

It went on to tell how Hessinger's parents were Pennsylvania Dutch and that his father had spent his entire life working in the steel mills.

"My life coincided with the Great Depression which started in 1929 and lasted through the early Thirties," Hessinger wrote.

He left high school after one year and went to work in the steel mills, too. Hessinger enlisted in the Army when World War II broke out. He was transferred to the Air Force and spent the war in Europe with the 8th Air Force as a flight engineer.

When the war ended in 1945, Hessinger came home and "married my childhood sweetheart and went back to my old job in the steel mills." But there were continued labor troubles resulting in strikes and layoffs. Hessinger decided to reenlist.

"There were many good years and a few bad years that we put away and try to forget," he wrote. "The good years were those we spent together as a family and when the children were born.

"The bad times were World War II, Korea and the twin tours of Vietnam . . . Long years of training might make one a professional but the fright of the recruit is revealed anew in the rocket's red glare, no matter how many times one has seen its light." Hessinger spent 31 years in the Army, rising to the rank of master sergeant. He also completed the requirements for the equivalent of a high school diploma.

"I retired in 1975 at 53 and suddenly I had no place to go in the morning," Hessinger wrote.

He returned to college, using the GI Bill, and was graduated with a degree in social work from Arizona State University. He was frequently on the dean's list and finished his final semester with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average.

At the age of 57, Hessinger was ready for his second career, this time working in the Maricopa County court system.

Hessinger added:
"I count among my blessings the efforts of my wife of so many years, who bore our children and gave permanence and sweetness to our marriage. There was also my five children who pulled together during the many absences of their father." His entire family was seated there in the church now as Hessinger's youngest son, Mark, read the final words:

"I had a good life over the long haul and am now with my Creator. I was at all times loyal and true to myself and others. Remember me in your prayers as the old soldier fades away." Within a few moments, the funeral mass was over. Slowly, Joe Hessinger's family made the final journey to the cemetery.

Joe Hessinger's medical condition could have ended his life at any time.

"The fright of the recruit is revealed anew in the rocket's red glare, no matter how many times one has seen its light.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tom Fitzpatrick