Retired Stanislaus County Judge J. Augustus "Augie" Accurso, who served on the bench for two decades, died Sunday. He was 79.
Accurso retired in 1994 but continued to hear cases around the state until December.
He had a penchant for exposing his wry sense of humor in and out of the courtroom — he answered the phone "This is the no-necked judge." But colleagues called Accurso a hardworking man who never forgot the importance of his work.
"You can't take the job — or yourself — too seriously," Accurso told The Bee just before his retirement. "But ... a judge has to make sure that people are treated fairly. After all, in many cases, people's liberty is at stake and that's important."
During his 20-year career as a judge, Accurso served at every judicial level in the state shy of the Supreme Court. He served on the Justice Court, the Municipal Court, the Superior Court and the Court of Appeal.
During his tenure, he also served as dean of the Judges College, an ongoing curriculum to help judges keep abreast of judicial procedures and rules.
The Queens Village, N.Y., native started out in the Stanislaus County district attorney's office in 1969, then after a little more than a year went into private practice. He was then selected by the county Board of Supervisors to become a Justice Court judge in Turlock.
In 1977, the Board of Supervisors abolished the Justice Court, and the board appointed him to the Municipal Court bench.
Accurso had several other jobs before settling into law. He went to barber school and worked as a pharmacist, which ensured he would carefully scrutinize chemical evidence, his colleagues said.
Retired local Judge Al Girolami said Accurso, who also was a cement mason, helped him pave his driveway.
"He was a man of all trades and could help you in any event," Girolami said.
Accurso is survived by his wife of 58 years, Ceil Accurso; children James Anthony Jacob Accurso, Karen Abbott and Stephanie Avila; six grandchildren; one great-grandson; and three brothers.
Visitation will be from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at Allen Mortuary, 247 N. Broadway in Turlock. Mass of Christian burial will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, 2602 S. Walnut Road in Turlock.
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2337.