John V. Rogowski, a former judge known for his love of public service and his concern for crime victims, died Thursday in ElderWood Health Care at Oakwood, Amherst.
He was 78 and had suffered through a long illness.
"He loved being a judge, and he felt that it gave him a chance to help make the world a better place," said Judge Rogowski's son, John E., an assistant U.S. attorney. "My dad was a very down-to-earth guy who talked to people on their own level."
Born and raised on Buffalo's East Side, Judge Rogowski was a graduate of Canisius High School, Canisius College and the University at Buffalo Law School.
Judge Rogowski served with the Army during the Korean War, working with a counterintelligence unit in Washington, D.C.
He ran law offices on the East Side and in Cheektowaga after earning his law degree in 1952.
He served as a Cheektowaga Town Board member from 1964 until 1970 and as town attorney from 1970 until 1979. He returned to the board in 1981 and became a town judge in 1986.
In 1988, he was elected an Erie County judge, a position he held until 1999.
During his career on the bench, he handled a number of high-profile and sometimes bizarre cases. Among them was the 1995 murder of John Schaus, an employee of a Buffalo business who was robbed and shot in the back while making a night deposit on Bailey Avenue.
He also handled the 1997 case of an "underwear bandit" in Cheektowaga and the 1993 sentencing of a drug dealer who killed a 11-year-old girl who was a student at City Honors School.
"He really cared about crime victims and always tried to look out for their interests," said his son, who's known as Jack.
After retiring from the bench, Judge Rogowski served as a judicial hearing officer for four years.
The judge enjoyed fishing, watching his grandchildren's sporting events, rooting for the Buffalo Bills and Bisons and traveling with his wife of 54 years, the former Jean Eberle.
Additional survivors include a sister, Eleanor Gervase.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in Queen of Martyrs Catholic Church, 180 George Urban Blvd., Cheektowaga.
-- Dan Herbeck