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Judge Alphonso A. Christian, Dead at 88

July 25, 2005 – Former Territorial Court Judge Alphonso A. Christian died Saturday of heart failure at Roy L. Schneider Hospital. He was 88.
The Frederiksted, St. Croix-born Christian retired as a judge in 1993 after a long career that began with a post as a clerk-typist at the Agriculture Department's Experimental Station in Anna's Hope, St. Croix.
In remarks prepared by Christian two years before he died, he wrote that he then went on to serve as a stenographer for Herbert E. Lockhart on St. Thomas. He said he arrived on St. Thomas in 1934 at age 17 with "a $2 suitcase, $10 in his pocket." This was his first trip off St. Croix.
Christian worked for other firms and the local government in similar capacities, but decided he wanted to be a lawyer. He got his law degree through LaSalle School correspondence courses.
Active in the V.I. Progressive Guide political party, he served as secretary and later as legal aid to the St. Thomas and St. John Municipal Council, and as legal aid to the Legislative Assembly and Judge of the Police Court, a post he assumed in 1951.
He also served as Coroner Recorder of Deeds, Chairman of the Board of Elections, U.S. Commissioner, and chairman of the July 4th Celebration committee.
He left the bench in 1954 to go into private practice. He served as Public Safety Commissioner from 1972 to 1975 before returning to his private law practice.
In April 1978, he was named the first senior sitting judge of the Territorial Court.
"As for the law, I can truly say it has been and is my greatest asset, my protector, and my constant source of inspiration and intellectual growth," Christian wrote in the remarks he left to be read at his funeral.
In addition to his legal career, he was a part of many community groups. Christian was a member of the Lions Club, chairman of the V.I. Carnival Committee from 1966 through 1968, chairman of the Mental Health Association, member of the Board of Trustees for the then-St. Thomas Hospital, a member of the Knights of Columbus, legal advisor to the Roman Catholic Diocese, first chairman of the diocese's financial committee, and chairman of Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral executive development committee.
He also taught courses in legal assistance at the University of the Virgin Islands
As news of his death made its way around the Virgin Islands, family and friends remembered him in many ways.
"He expected nothing less than perfection," daughter Cora Christian said Monday.
Laughing, she recalled a long-ago event when her father very audibly announced that she had made a grammatical mistake as she was making a speech in Emancipation Garden.
"I was so embarrassed," she said.
She said her father had a phenomenal wit, with the late U.S. District Court Judge Almeric Christian, being one of his best sparring partners. She told a story about how a water trucker filled up her father's cistern by mistake when the water was intended for Almeric Christian.
She said that when Almeric Christian asked him to pay for it, her father responded by saying, "But I didn't order it."
Almeric Christian's daughter, Delegate Donna Christensen, said in an news release that while Christian will be remembered and praised for his work, she was sure he counts as his greatest contributions "as those he makes through his children and grandchildren."
Christensen called him one of the territory's great contributors.
The Rev. Thomas Gibbs, dean emeritus of All Saints Cathedral and longtime close friend of Christian, said he and Christian had many "healthy exchanges."
"I have great respect for him as a judge, commissioner of public safety and as a friend," Gibbs said.
Ruth Christian talked about her husband's sense of humor and the fact that he always corrected everyone's English.
Gloria Thompson, who served as a court clerk under Christian, spoke about the judge's ability to teach writing skills.
"I learned a lot from the judge," she said.
She said his decrees were clear and concise.
St. Thomas attorney, Lemeul Callwood, who was a law clerk under Christian in 1989 and 1990, said he learned much about probate from Christian. So much, in fact, that he now specializes in the practice.
Callwood, stunned at the news that Christian had died, said he was just reading a letter from the judge several days ago.
Former Territorial Court Judge Henry Feuerzeig, now a St. Thomas attorney, spoke about how Christian organized the probate process and moved cases along.
"He was a true expert in probate," Feuerzeig said.
St. Thomas attorney George Dudley said that Christian "had a way of running his court."
"Once you understood his way, there was no question he ran it well," Dudley said.
Christian is survived by his wife of 64 years, Ruth Christian; and children Delano Christian, Alphonso Christian II and Dr. Cora Christian. Additionally, he is survived by two step-children, Reubina Gomez and Alicia Wells; brother Joe Christian; and sisters Ann Abramson and Florence Christian.
Another daughter, Barbara Christian, died in 2000.
He is also survived by many grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins.
A funeral service will be held August 2 at 10 a.m. at Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral. Cora Christian said her father would have celebrated his 89th birthday on August 2.

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