By Stacey Dresner
LONGMEADOW – Judge Sidney M. Cooley, 100, of Longmeadow, died Jan. 7.
A noted and longtime attorney in Springfield, Judge Cooley was also known for his work in Germany after World War II, aiding Jewish displaced persons when he served in the United States Army.
Born in Springfield, Cooley attended Springfield public schools and worked as a piano player and orchestra leader before earning his law degree from Northeastern University Law School.
After he was admitted to the bar in 1940, he was drafted into the service as a private. After attending Officer Candidate School at Camp Lee in Virginia, he was assigned to the 63rd Infantry Division as a second lieutenant.
After being stationed in Mississippi for a year, he was sent overseas to Marseille, France and Germany and into combat. He was promoted and joined Gen. Louis Hibbs’ staff as a division transportation officer. Due to his law degree, when the war ended he was assigned to stay in the American zone in Germany to serve as deputy military governor in Bayreuth.
Cooley assisted in the de-Nazification program – removing Nazis from power and replacing them with people who were considered politically clean – and rebuilding the American Zone.
His greatest task was assisting Holocaust survivors who traveled to Bayreuth when they heard that a Jewish officer was in command of the city. He moved more than 300 Jewish displaced persons into the former estate of Julius Streicher, the editor of the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer and assisted in training the survivors in agricultural work in preparation for their immigration to Palestine.
Before he left Bayreuth, the Jewish community there presented him with a citation thanking him for all that he had done for them. The citation says, in part, “Our people settled here about a year ago as free men; we were few and broken in spirit and body. You, our flesh and blood, gathered the broken remnants and breathed into us a spirit of hope and courage and self-confidence. You were like a father and a brother, you never faltered, never tired, never lost your patience…”
Judge Cooley modestly told the Jewish Ledger in 2006 that “I was in the right place at the right time,” but that his work with the Holocaust survivors in Bayreuth was a “labor of love.”
After being honorably discharged from the Army in September 1946 as a major, he returned to the U.S. and married Anne “Pudsie” Sachse and the couple moved to Springfield. He and his older brother, Edward B. Cooley founded the law firm Cooley & Cooley, which became Cooley, Shrair, P.C.
He was appointed by Gov. Foster Furcolo as special justice of the District Court of Franklin County where he served from 1960-1973 and by Gov. Frances Sargent as presiding justice of the District Court of Western Hampden (Westfield) where he served from 1973-1983.
When he retired from the bench in 1983, Judge Cooley re-entered the law firm of Cooley, Shrair P.C. where he continued to serve as counsel until 2013.
Among Judge Cooley’s numerous recognitions for service to the community are the Pynchon Award, the Herman E. Snyder Award, the Channel 22 Outstanding Service to the Public Award, the Western New England Law School Outstanding Alumnus Award, the Robert B. Cowles Award from the Springfield Boys Club, and the Human Relations Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice. He served actively on numerous non-profit boards including those of the Willie Ross School for the Deaf, the Association for Community Living, and United Way.
He was predeceased by his wife Pudsie in 2012. He is survived by two sons, Larry Cooley of Arlington, VA and Michael Cooley of Springfield; a daughter, Deborah Cooley of Springfield; three grandchildren, Jennifer Fanning, Tanya Cooley and Joshua Cooley; a great-granddaughter Suzannah Fanning; a daughter-in-law Marina Fanning; and son-in-law, William Hadden. Memorial contributions may be made to Sinai Temple, 1100 Dickinson St., Springfield, MA 01108; The Willie Ross School for the Deaf, 32 Norway St., Longmeadow, MA 01106; Gray House, 22 Sheldon St., Springfield, MA 01107; or the Association for Community Living, 220 Brookdale Dr., Springfield, MA 01104. ASCHER-ZIMMERMAN FUNERAL HOME