When news of the death of Luzerne County Judge John V. Kosek reached the courthouse on Dec. 3, 1928, Judge John S. Fine paid tribute to his friend and adjourned all court proceedings.
Courthouse offices including Wilkes-Barre City Hall were closed for several days to mourn Kosek’s passing at the young age of 46. Kosek died inside his home at 28 Academy St., Wilkes-Barre, just before 6 a.m., with his wife, Margaret, by his side.
Kosek died from cardiac arrest associated with diabetes.
Captain of the Wilkes-Barre High School football team, he graduated in 1900 and immediately entered the University of Pennsylvania Law School where he graduated with a law degree in 1903.
“Returning to the city, Judge Kosek began his law practice int he office of Attorneys George H. Butler and E.V. Jackson in the Bennett building. He at once became prominent in his profession and later gained the reputation of being one of the best criminal lawyers in this section of the state,” reported the Times Leader on Dec. 3, 1928.
Kosek married his wife in 1909 and they would have four sons and one daughter. One son died in 1926.
When Kosek was 23, he began his public service career in 1905 having been elected to serve the First Ward on Wilkes-Barre City Council, and assigned to the police, fire and law council committees. After spending six years on council with the last two years as council president, Kosek was elected city mayor in 1911 and re-elected in 1914.
“He served as the city’s chief executive until Jan. 1, 1918, when his term of office expired. He also bore the proud distinction of being the youngest mayor of Wilkes-Barre having been first elected at the age of 29,” the Times Leader reported.
When he left the mayor’s office, Kosek returned to practice law maintaining his office in the Bennett Building on Public Square.
“As a criminal lawyer, he was rated among the prominent before the local bar,” the newspaper reported.
As the 1920s came to a close, Kosek received the nomination of both major parities for judge in Luzerne County in the 1927 Primary Election and easily won the General Election that November.
“He took the oath of office Jan. 1, 1928, and although he served on the bench less than a year, he was looked upon as being most capable, his decisions meeting with general approval,” the Times Leader reported.
Less than a month before Kosek died, he delivered the keynote speech at The Tatra Club dinner held at Hotel Sterling on Nov. 12, 1928.
“Kosek delivered an eloquent tribute to American soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice during the World War,” the Times Leader reported Nov. 13, 1928.
As a jurist, Kosek was assigned to preside over criminal court and municipal government issues concerning coal mines and taxes.
During his first year on the bench, Kosek’s health worsened due to diabetes but he continued to work despite friends encouraging him to take time off.
News of Kosek’s death quickly spread across the Wyoming Valley.
Thousands lined the streets of South Wilkes-Barre to pay their respects at Kosek’s home where his body was viewed by mourners. City policemen assigned to the mounted horse squad led the procession from Kosek’s home to St. Nicholas Church on South Washington Street.
“At one of the largest funerals in local history, more than 5,000 persons bowed in sorrow, crowding the residence on Academy Street, lining several streets over which the cortege passed and occupying every inch of space in St. Nicholas’ Church,” reported the Times Leader on Dec. 6, 1928.
A light snow fell as the bronze casket was carried from the home to hearse while hundreds who blocked the street outside stood with bared heads.
Members of the state police, city police and city fire department closed streets and stood at attention as the hearse passed being led by mounted horse patrols, the Evening News reported Dec. 6, 1928.
“Arriving at the church where other hundreds of persons crowded both sides of the street, the police and firemen escorts lined up in single file from the curb to the church door and through this aisle of uniformed men, the bier and mourners passed. Bells in the church tower toiled slowly as the procession entered the edifice,” the Times Leader reported.
Bishop Thomas C. O’Reilly of the Diocese of Scranton attended the funeral and was accompanied five Catholic priests and deacons.
Following Kosek’s burial at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Hanover Township, the courthouse and city hall offices reopened.