Retired State Supreme Court Justice Henry G. Gossel, who left the bench in 1995 to become chief legal counsel to the National Republican Congressional Committee in Washington, D.C., died Tuesday in the Center for Hospice & Palliative Care, Cheektowaga. He was 73.
Justice Gossel was diagnosed with mesothelioma three months ago.
He was a member of the Erie County Legislature from 1974 until he was elected to State Supreme Court in 1979. As a jurist, he was highly regarded for his handling of medical malpractice lawsuits.
Justice Gossel grew up in West Seneca, a town that remained his home throughout his life. Former Rep. Bill Paxon, a longtime friend who persuaded Justice Gossel to assist him while he headed the GOP congressional campaign panel in the mid-1990s, recalled how he would return home to West Seneca on weekends.
"At heart a country boy who grew up on a farm in West Seneca, Hank was just a regular guy who was just the nicest human being you could meet," Paxon said.
Erie County Democratic Chairman Leonard R. Lenihan, who served on the opposite side of the aisle from Justice Gossel in the Legislature in the 1970s, recalled his former colleague as a "gentleman and a pro."
"As an individual and as a public servant, he was as good as they get," Lenihan said.
Justice Gossel served as a criminal investigator in the Army from 1953 to 1955 and as a West Seneca town justice from 1963 to 1973. He worked as an attorney from 1961 until being elected to the state bench 1979.
A graduate of Ebenezer/West Seneca High School, he was a boyhood star in baseball as a pitcher and in basketball. He earned a bachelor's degree in management from the University of Buffalo and graduated from UB Law School.
He was a member of the State Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee from 1989 through 1995 and served on the State Ethics Commission from 1997 through 2001 under an appointment by Gov. George E. Pataki.
Justice Gossel was awarded Outstanding Jurist honors by both the Erie County Bar Association and the New York State Trial Lawyers Association and was a member of the Vigilant Fire Company; West Seneca Post 8113, Veterans of Foreign Wars; Lodge 1111, Free & Accepted Masons, of West Seneca; and the West Seneca Lions Club.
He enjoyed playing golf and had six holes in one to his credit. Described by friends as a "sports fanatic," he was a member of Springville Country Club and a former member of Crag Burn Golf CLub.
Surviving are his wife of 47 years, Janice Felsman Gossel; two daughters, Kim Ferrucci of Colden and Karen Marrano of West Seneca; four sons, David of West Seneca, Kenneth and Gary, both of Orchard Park, and John of Arlington, Va.; and 11 grandchildren.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday in Ebenezer United Church of Christ, 630 Main St., West Seneca. Interment will be in St. Matthew's Cemetery, West Seneca.
-- Matt Gryta