By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff: NEWPORT, Maine — Grandparents in court battles over custody issues in rural Penobscot and Piscataquis counties didn't have to face the system alone. For more than two decades, Allen Ross stood beside them to help them navigate the system.
Ross, 76, of Dexter was honored Monday at a small ceremony in Newport District Court with the Judicial Branch Special Award for his 23 years of service as a family mediator.
The Special Service Award is given to a person who consistently contributes above and beyond expected job responsibilities to further the mission of the court system, according to a press release issued Wednesday by Leigh I. Saufley, chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
"Al's everyday acts of kindness around the courthouse are legendary," Saufley said in the press release. "In a place where so much of the work revolves around disputes, Al was always kind, thoughtful and caring with all who entered the courthouse. It is such a privilege for us to recognize Al Ross for the wonderful work he has done in Maine courts."
Ross became a court mediator in 1998 after retiring from a 33-year career teaching history in the Dexter School District, his wife, Amy Ross, 75, of Dexter said Thursday in a telephone interview.
Allen Ross had to give up his work in the court system earlier this year due to health problems that impaired his ability to speak, his wife said.
"He loved being a mediator," she said. "It was his pride and joy. He loved the contact with people and the satisfaction of speaking his mind completely."
His work began in Dover-Foxcroft District Court, but he also traveled to Lincoln District Court during the first decade of his career. More recently, he worked at Newport District Court.
"Sometimes he had just one case a week, other times, he did four a week," Amy Ross said. "I have no idea how many cases he worked on over the years."
In addition to his work with the court system, he also served for many years as a volunteer and on the Board of Womancare, an organization based in Dover-Foxcroft that helps victims of domestic abuse.
Earlier this week, Saufley awarded the Advocate for Justice Award to Deirdre Smith of the University of Maine School of Law in Portland. Smith is a professor of law and director of the Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic.
"Smith has revitalized the law school's clinical education program," Saufley said in the press release. "She has expanded the program to include assistance for those caught up in the juvenile justice system, and has immeasurably improved juvenile justice advocacy in Maine. With Deirdre as a role model, the law school students who have worked in the clinic are known to be professional, prepared, and articulate advocates, adding to the respect for Maine's legal community."
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