ATTLEBORO -- Dan Del Vecchio Jr. was remembered as being a mentor to numerous young aspiring lawyers in Bristol County and a "giant in the local legal profession."
Del Vecchio, 92, who practiced law for more than 50 years before retiring two years ago, died Monday at his North Attleboro home.
"He was a giant in the local legal profession, no doubt about it," Attleboro lawyer Michael McGahan said.
Del Vecchio helped start the Bristol County Bar Advocates in 1980, a program for private lawyers who represent poor clients, and was a staff attorney for 11 years, according to Gelinde Lowe, New Bedford lawyer who helped start the program with Del Vecchio.
"He was so dedicated to the bar," said Lowe, who became close friends with Del Vecchio and his wife Anne. "He was like extended family. I will miss him a lot."
Del Vecchio volunteered to mentor young lawyers just starting out in the profession and he continued to practice law until two years ago, his friend and former law partner Steve Clapp of North Attleboro said.
Clapp said Del Vecchio's last criminal trial ended with his client being acquitted by a jury in about 10 minutes. He also represented a bus driver before the Registry of Motor Vehicles and got the RMV to change its policy and allow individuals who pass their tests to begin driving immediately, rather than wait for their license in the mail.
In 1993, Del Vecchio got an extension on life when he obtained a heart transplant in Atlanta, Ga. from a 13-year-old boy who was killed in a gun mishap, Clapp said.
"He honored that young man's life every day. Dan thought about him every day," Clapp said.
A former prosecutor, Del Vecchio was also known as a zealous defense lawyer. He often portrayed himself in the manner of Columbo, the television detective, to get opposing lawyers to underestimate him. But lawyers say he knew the law and had sharp legal skills.
One of those prosecutors who went up against Del Vechhio was James Perkoski, now an assistant clerk magistrate, who said Del Vecchio was a well-prepared and formidable opponent.
"I especially remember Dan as a master of cross-examination. Many a witness became tongue-tied by the time Dan was finished with them. He was a pillar of the legal community and he surely will be missed," Perkoski said.
"The depth and breadth of Dan’s legal knowledge was truly remarkable. He was a fierce competitor in the courtroom, always prepared and professional. No one out-worked Dan Delvecchio. He will be missed by all who knew him," Attleboro District Court Clerk Magistrate Mark Sturdy, a former prosecutor, said.
Norton lawyer Daniel Rich remembered Del Vecchio mentoring him when he first started practicing law almost 40 years ago.
"Every lawyer looked up to him. He was the king," Rich said.
But Del Vecchio had a friendly personality and area lawyers fondly remember his annual clam bakes held at his North Attleboro home for area lawyers and court staff.
"He hearkened back to a more collegial relationship among bar members," McGahan said.
He was active in the Massachusetts Bar Association and was a past president of both the Bristol County Bar Association and the Attleboro District Court Bar Association.
He was given the Massachusetts Bar Association's Community Service Award in 1990 and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 from the Attleboro Area Bar Association. In 2009, the Diocese of Fall River selected him for its St. Thomas More Award, given in recognition of service to others. The award is presented during the annual Red Mass for members of the legal profession.
In the community, Del Vecchio supported North Attleboro's United Way chapter for 14 years in several posts. He also served on the North Attleboro Zoning Board of Appeals and the North Attleboro Town Government Study Committee.
He and his wife raised a daughter and two sons and have three granddaughters.
His funeral will be on Friday in the Memorial Chapel of the Dyer-Lake Funeral Home in Attleboro Falls.