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Harold James Sarbacher
Service: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 at 3:00 PM
Location: Meet at Administration Building, Arlington National Cemetery at 2:15 pm.

Harold James Sarbacher died peacefully at his home in Washington, DC, on May 1, 2015 from complications of a stroke which he suffered in 2013.  He was 85 years old. Harold was born on November 2, 1929 on the family farm outside of Ferdinand, Idaho, to Anton and Rose (Riedinger) Sarbacher.  He was the seventh of ten children, and the last of them to pass away. 

            After graduating from Ferdinand High School in 1947, Harold attended Northern Idaho College of Education (now Lewis-Clark State College) for a short time until accepting an appointment to enter the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY, in 1949.  At the time, he was one of the first students at N.I.C.E. and from this region to receive a West Point appointment.  He graduated from USMA in 1953 and was commissioned a second lieutenant. 

            After serving a two-year tour of duty with the U.S. Army in Germany, Harold resigned his commission in the Army in order to relocate to Washington, DC, and attend Georgetown University Law School.  He was awarded his JD in 1958, and later earned his LLM in 1961 and his SJD in 1967, all from Georgetown Law School.   

            After graduating from law school, Harold went to work for the Interstate Commerce Commission where he spent his entire professional career.  For several years, he worked as a staff attorney for various ICC commissioners.  In 1967, he was appointed an ICC administrative law judge, the position he held with the agency until his retirement in 1985.  His work as a judge took him to all parts of the country where he heard and decided transportation cases involving railroads and trucking companies.  He very much enjoyed serving his country, first in the military, and then in government service.    

            Among his many private interests were reading, swimming, cooking, and international travel.  He was fortunate to travel to most parts of the world.  Harold had a special love for Russian literature and the Russian people, and he traveled to the Soviet Union several times. 

He enjoyed the fine arts and developed an impressive art collection in his later years.  He was also an active supporter of the performing arts, and was a season ticket holder at the Kennedy Center near his home for over two decades from the time it opened in 1971.   

Having purchased his home in the Watergate complex in 1967 as it was being constructed, Harold was the last original owner of an apartment in the Watergate West building.  He never tired of playing host for visitors to Washington, DC, and showing them where the Watergate scandal originated. 

Harold never married, but developed close relationships with his 23 nieces and nephews.  He is survived by Susan Andrews, Sharon Auer, Lori Coons, Doug Havens, Keith Havens, Mark Havens, Tony Havens, Patrick Sarbacher, and Toni Whitney of Lewiston; Bruce Johnson and Todd Wortman of Ferdinand; Brian Schaeffer of Cottonwood, ID; Mike Abraham of Athol, ID; Jim Abraham and Kristi Crooks of Spokane, WA; Tom Abraham of Cheney, WA; Diane Reeves of Seattle, WA; Randy Sarbacher of Portland, OR; Anita Epstein of Redmond, OR; and Gayle Schaeffer of Fremont, CA.  Harold is also survived by his friend and caregiver during his final years, Uyanga �Ugi� Irvin of Washington, DC.    

Harold was preceded in death by his parents and his nine brothers and sisters:  Mildred Blewett, Cletus Sarbacher, Robert Sarbacher, Julius Sarbacher, Edna Abraham, Ada Wortman, Rita Schaeffer, Iva Sarbacher, and Marlene Havens.  Also predeceasing him were his nephews Robert Blewett and Steve Johnson, his niece Karen Edwards, and his good friend Tim Irvin, husband of Ugi Irvin. 

In accordance with Harold�s wishes, cremation has taken place, and his ashes will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday, December 9, 2015 at 3:00 P.M.

His funeral will take place at his parish church of St. Stephen Martyr, 2436 Pennsylvania Ave NW in Washington, DC, on Friday, May 29 at 10:00 a.m. with a reception following at the Melrose Georgetown Hotel, 2430 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.  A memorial service will be conducted at a later date in Lewiston, Idaho for his many relatives and friends in the western U.S.   

Donations in memory of Harold Sarbacher may be made to Saint Stephen Martyr Catholic Church, 2436 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20037.

 Judge Harold J.  Sarbacher worked within the Office of Hearings at the Interstate Commerce Commission in Washington, D. C.  for many years.  He was one of a group of more than 100 Administrative Law Judges and I was one of the many secretaries.  He was always outgoing.  I remember him proudly introducing his brother-in-law, a teacher, and his schoolgirl niece who were sightseeing in Washington, D. C. and who had stopped by his office to go to lunch with him.   He used to joke that it would take his family two years to inventory his apartment to figure out which of his travel collections were worth saving.  

 

One of the favorite stories he liked to tell was of getting off the train with the other plebes on their first day at West Point.  As they tumbled out of the train cars, young and scared,  asenior classman called out orders for the men to line up and marched them up the hill to West Point.  Who was the senior classman?  It was none other than Edward J. Reidy who also became an Administrative Law Judge at the same agency where the two of them worked for many years.

 

When he was first in Washington, D. C., and would be coming home from a late theatre performance, he always said that he carried an extra twenty dollars in his wallet, which he never spent, in case he should encounter a mugger on the way home.   Of course, his theory was that if you handed a mugger a reasonable amount of money, any self-respecting mugger would not shoot you.   He often discussed plays he had seen and books he was reading with the secretaries.

 

He was one of the men who gave generously to the Combined Federal Campaign [for various charities].  He told me once that the people he helped would not be the ones who would help him when he became older and in need of help, but he hoped he was passing some help down the line.

 

What was an Administrative Law Judge?  A highly-educated attorney who passed several severe tests to apply for the job, one such test involving  interpreting  huge chunks of the Administrative Procedure Act.  After making the OPM list of candidates for hire, there was another difficult hurtle:  Each candidate was required to produce three signatures of attorneys who attested to the fact that the candidate did indeed possess judicial temperament.  I can still shut my eyes and hear the hushed arguments among the men regarding whether someone had judicial temperament and if so, to a high enough degree to cause them to cough up a signature attesting to that.  Why such a fuss?  Once in the job, they needed to be able to weigh the evidence of both sides objectively and render an independent decision thereon.   That independence was no doubt the cause of jealousy at times.  However, it was that point of honor that made it difficult to want to leave the job.  It is rare indeed to have employment where one can make an independent decision which a supervisor cannot change.

 

The Judges held hearings on railroad and motor carrier and bus cases in almost every state of the union.  They traveled on their own time on weekends to reach the hearings scheduled for Monday morning and received no comp time for arriving home late in the evenings.  But there was great integrity to the work and great camaraderie when the men met for coffee in the cafeteria.  They had stories to tell of adventures on the road and traveling by pickup truck from one small town to another when taxis were not available.  The ICC practitioners who argued both sides of the cases were fodder for conversation too.  One law firm from Boston, consisting of a father and son and a third lawyer with the same last name, but no relation, was referred to as The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.  If one of the Judges had a hearing in Boston, he was almost certain to bring back a tale of an encounter with same.  Judge Sarbacher also had rapport with all the men who had been in the military and was good friends with Judge Wm. A. Shue, who had been a General.  

 

Judge Sarbacher  was the only Administrative Law Judge who was assigned two secretaries.  His own secretary, Alice T. Durham, who was one of the best, had been reassigned to the Chief Judge's Office where she set itineraries.  When Judge Sarbacher announced that he planned to retire, Chief Judge Bamford told him that he accepted his decision, but he really could not let him go until he finished the huge case he was working on.  "But you took Alice!" exclaimed Judge Sarbacher.  "Don't worry, Allice can work on your case part-time and I will assign you another secretary to help Alice.  You will have two secretaries!"  The moment the word got out among the other Judges, they all began to comment that no one else had two secretaries and frequently teased Judge Sarbacher about it.   Thus, it became a great prestige symbol.  Of course, this was back in the day when reports were written on yellow legal pads and secretaries typed a draft from the pages of sometimes indecipherable scrawl, long before the advent of the personal computer.

 

Although he traveled widely and dearly loved attending live theatre, like any bachelor, his heart was wrapped up in his job.  When he became eligible to retire, leaving weighed heavily upon him.  On the morning of his last day at work, he was mourning a decision he felt was economically the right thing to do.  "I will be turning in my I.D. card, and my credentials, and my keys today," he kept telling friends he met in the hall.  At one point, Judge Clerman rushed around the corner, heard Judge Sarbacher lamenting turning in his belongings, and called out, "Harold, don't  forget to turn in both your secretaries!"  Judge Sarbacher burst  out laughing.  The rest of the day, he could be heard telling friends in the hall, "Did you hear what that Paul Clerman said to me?  He said, 'Don't forget to turn in both your secretaries!'"

 

Toward the latter part of his career, Judge Sarbacher was in an accident,  suffered a concussion, and was on sick leave to recuperate.  One of the women court reporters,  no doubt mindful of the limit on the price allowed for receiving  gifts. sent him a plastic Walt Disney statue of Mickey Mouse in bright red shorts standing on a yellow block which said "GET WELL."   She asked to have it sent to his home address whereupon I was assigned the task.  I came back to my supervisor sputtering about the waste of time.  "He isn't going to want this statue," I said.  On the contrary, when he returned to work, the Mickey Mouse statue stood on the front of his desk, proclaiming "GET WELL" until the day he retired when it was carefully packed up for the trip home.

 

When the Office held a farewell brunch reception for his retirement, the men told him to order anything he wanted.  What was his favorite?  Prune Danish, he replied.  They protested:  Didn't he want something else?  No, no, he told them; there was nothing better than Prune Danish.   Indeed it appeared first on the table.

 

After he retired, he traveled even more extensively than before and met an artist who painted his portrait.  He was interested in politics and turned down an invitation to the Office of Hearings Reunion Luncheon one year because he was watching over one of the polling places for D. C. Councilman Jack Evans.  I stopped by to give him a copy of the Reunion Newsletter and found him directing voters hither and yon.  He announced he would attend next year's luncheon.  It was a warm, sunny day;  he was happy, talking up a storm with the voters.  It was one of the last times I saw him.  I like to remember him as he was that day, in his element, always a great talker.

 

Each of the Administrative Law Judges had favorite cases they had heard and rendered decisions upon.  I am sorry that I cannot recall any specifics that he was known for nor his area of expertise.  However, I hope that the memories herein set forth will give his family the flavor of what his work was like.  Many of the hearings were held in the two huge hearing rooms at the Interstate Commerce Commission in Washington, D. C. and could go on for days. There were also two smaller hearing rooms.  All four hearing rooms had raised dais for the bench where one or more Judges sat in high-backed chairs to hear evidence.  The woodwork was ornate, with tall windows and carvings in the ceiling and chandeliers.  But beyond the outer show was the inner thread of justice rendered by the men who were attested to have judicial temperament, listening to both sides objectively, asking questions, striving to obtain  theessential truth of each aspect of the case.   Judge Sarbacher was of that brotherhood.  That was him in his prime.  May he be remembered for it.   

 

 

 

 



 

 

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