ST. LOUIS – Funeral-goers said their final goodbyes to Missouri Supreme Court Judge Richard Teitelman Thursday at Graham Chapel on the Washington University campus, Teitelman’s alma mater. Lawyers, politicians, community leaders, loved ones and friends filled the chapel to the brim to laugh, cry and remember a man all considered kind, outgoing, personable and passionate.
Attorney Maurice Graham emceed the ceremony and spoke about Teitelman’s three great loves – his love of the law, his love of the mission of legal services and his love of people.
“He may have had deficiencies in his eye sockets,” Graham said about the first legally blind judge to sit on the Missouri Supreme Court. “But no one had greater or truer wisdom than Rick Teitelman.”
Speakers also regaled Teitelman’s gregariousness and outgoing character, including his propensities to leave long messages and voicemails on people’s phones in the wee hours of the morning, his love of good restaurants and parties, as well as how little time he spent sleeping.
His fellow Supreme Court judge, George Draper III, recalled Teitelman’s life history as a kid from West Philadelphia that persevered through ridicule and discrimination for his blindness and his Jewish religion and heritage. Draper also talked about Teitelman’s love of movies and the close friendship the two of them had.
“He believed in the good conscience of the majority, and that disputes could be settled in the court of law,” Draper said. “I am in interloper and a beneficiary of his life well lived.”
Before he left the lectern, Draper then adorned a thick muffler like Teitelman used to wear and pretended to take a phone call from the late judge, to much laughter from the audience. Afterwards, a staff member from Congressman Lacy Clay’s office read a resolution passed by Congress Thursday morning honoring Teitelman.
Gov. Jay Nixon also spoke of his working relationship with Teitelman, praising his efforts to oversee the implementation of Missouri’s nonpartisan court plan, his willingness to come to the governor’s mansion for celebrations, and his work with civic and legal organizations across the state and nation as a true public servant.
“Rick was a champion for justice and a guiding light for legal advocacy,” Nixon said. “His focus was on pursuing his true passion: justice for all, but especially for the poor and the vulnerable.”
Shortly after the memorial, Teitelman was laid to rest in a nearby cemetary.