‘Is my dad dead?’

Daughter recalls father — only judge murdered on bench in country’s history — 65 years ago this week

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton This portrait of Judge Allison Wade hangs outside the Main Courtroom at the Warren County Courthouse, the same courtroom where he was killed in January 1954, 65 years ago.

The individuals who prosecuted the murder of Judge Allison Wade have passed on.

The judge who presided over the trial and the members of the jury, presumably, has passed away, too.

The defendant died over 20 years ago.

And with the case files and firearm used in the killing now in the collection of the Warren County Historical Society, the story of the only judge in the country to be killed in the bench is fading into historical memory.

But to Ann (Noel Wade) Heckathorne, Judge Wade isn’t a historical figure.

Or even a judge.

He was dad.

Adopted when an infant, Heckathorne had lost her adopted mother at the age of six.

“She fell down the steps and broke her neck and died,” Heckathorne said. “He raised me,” she said of Judge Wade.

Once his wife passed away, Judge Wade brought a woman into their home to help him raise Ann, also known as Noel.

“She was like my governess. My dad had a room. I had a room. She had a room. She would oversee when my dad wasn’t there… She was actually one of the probation officers at the courthouse.”

Heckathorne said she used to go over to the Courthouse in the mornings, always needing help to open the heavy, wooden doors on the Fourth Ave. side of the building.

“I was in all the offices, I’m sure. The courtroom my dad was shot in, I played in. I was underneath the desk. A few times I got in trouble because I saw a seat underneath the bench and thought that was fun. I was learning to tie shoes. Well, I happened to tie his shoes together on his feet. He looked down to see what was happening.”

He then had to get the court tipstaff to “escort her down.”

“He would work at night lots of time,” she added, “at the court in his office. So he would go over and do stuff in his office. A long time ago they used to seal things with wax. He’d give me the heated wax and the thing that you squeeze together, I could play forever with that. I remember doing things like that, just going into all the offices. They all knew me.”

Ann and her father lived in the Mansion House for a while before moving to a home on Beaty St.

While at the Mansion House, the “third floor was our bedrooms,” she recalled. “The ballroom (was) on the second floor… Every morning after I got up and got dressed… he would do down and he would do, he had one little corner (where)… he had his artwork. He wants to be an artist when he was growing up and his mother wouldn’t let him… The rest of the ballroom was my playroom. I had a swing set in there, would ride by tricycle around there.”

By January 13, 1954, Wade and Ann lived at a Beaty St. residence.

“I got up and I had said that morning… sometimes they (Judge Wade or the governess) would come and take me for lunch… I asked my dad first. My dad said he was sorry he couldn’t (as he) was going to be in court all today.”

“11 o’clock came and in the classroom, somebody came in,” she said, noting she could remember watching the teachers speak in hushed tones in the front of the room. “Then they called me to the front and they escorted me out.

“The first thing I remember asking, and I remember it just as if it was yesterday, I asked ‘(Is) my dad dead?'”

Heckathorne said she has no idea why that was the first question she thought to ask.

“My dad and I were very, very close,” she said. “We did a lot of stuff together.”

“The day my dad was killed, they took me from the school” and she went to stay with someone she called “Auntie Fran. I don’t think she was a relation. She had a lot of my birthday parties for me growing up with my dad there… They took me there after. Somehow, some way I don’t know how, Dr. Lee Borger, he and his wife Pat took me in. I stayed with them until the court… until they did place me.”

She said that Judge Alexander Flick had three options with which to place her, ultimately deciding on an aunt and uncle, a placement she didn’t appreciate.

“I blame Judge Flick for putting me there,” she said.

She was consulted in the ensuing decades when the possibility of parole for her father’s killer was discussed.

“I’ve always denied them parole because I always felt whose to say if he’s in that kind of mind that he wouldn’t come after me or my kids and that was my main reason,” she said. “Every time that his parole came up, I would say no.”

Wade’s portrait hangs on the wall just outside of the Main Courtroom.

It’s impossible to tell much about who a person was from a portrait, but Heckathorne was able to paint a picture of her father.

“He really liked art and he loved nature,” she said. “He was always planting trees or doing stuff in the yard… If I needed him, he was there. He would cook every Sunday (and) would make waffles. That was one of the things that he did that I remember him doing. I think he was very well liked… Kids always enjoyed him, I think. Even when Auntie Fran had the parties, he was there and involved with the kids.

“He would take something and weigh it, not jump to any conclusions. He would think it out… He was more down-to-Earth. He could go for the parties, but he was more the other way. He wouldn’t have to have all the frills.”