Death of Joan O'Dwyer Savarese

The death has taken place in New York of judge Joan O'Dwyer Savarese, a pioneering figure in the advance of women through the ranks of New York's judicial system.

O'Dwyer Savarese, who was in her 80s, was the daughter of Jim O'Dwyer, who died on active duty for the FDNY, a niece of the late Paul O'Dwyer and his brother, Mayor William O'Dwyer. She was a cousin of attorney Brian O'Dwyer.

"We have lost someone who was a real anchor, a cornerstone in our family," said Brian O'Dwyer.

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When she enrolled in Columbia Law School there were only 12 women in her law class of 200 students. After passing the New York State Bar in 1950, O'Dwyer Savarese joined the family law firm of O'Dwyer and Bernstien.

In 1960, she was the first woman appointed a criminal court judge in Queens County where she would serve for 20 years.

In 1980, O'Dwyer Savarese was appointed an acting supreme court justice and in 1985 she was appointed by Governor Mario Cuomo to sit on the New York State Court of Claims. She would become the longest serving senior judge in New York City. O'Dwyer Savarese retired from the bench in 1996, but continued to serve as a judicial hearings officer in Queens. Her daughter, Kelly, followed in her footsteps and is a civil court judge in the Bronx.

Judge O'Dwyer Savarese will be waked at Campbell's Funeral home, 81st and Madison in Manhattan Wednesday and Thursday from 3 to 8 p.m. Her funeral Mass will be at Holy Trinity Church, 82nd and Amsterdam Avenue on Friday at 10 a.m.