Probate Judge made lasting impression

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The best stories about Patricia Fuhrmeister are ones I can&8217;t tell you.

I can&8217;t tell you these stories because, years ago, I promised her I wouldn&8217;t and I intend to keep that promise. I will, however, tell you they all have to do with part of Tricia&8217;s role as probate judge in Shelby County.

One of the duties of a Probate Judge is to perform marriages. I used to sit in my office across the street from the courthouse and see couples &8212; some in full wedding regalia &8212; make their way into the courthouse. Once they were inside, they had to wait in line to be married. This often made for a humorous site, especially if they got in the wrong line and ended up renewing their driver&8217;s licenses, instead of exchanging vows.

Judge Fuhrmeister performed a lot of weddings and sometimes, they made for some funny stories. She would sometimes retell these stories, omitting all the names, of course. She swore me to secrecy &8212; specifically saying &8220;you cannot write about this.&8221; I will tell you, however, that one story involved a very fast-talking probate judge who knew she had to get through the vows very quickly so the bride and groom didn&8217;t celebrate becoming parents during the ceremony.

Thinking of that story always makes me smile. I thought of it Saturday when I received a call that Tricia had died following a long battle with leukemia. She was only 51 years old.

Being probate judge isn&8217;t easy, and I doubt there are many children who say &8220;When I grow up I want to be a probate judge.&8221; They are responsible for an amazing array of things, from elections and adoptions to wills and land transfers. People are often dealing with the probate office during difficult times.

Judge Fuhrmeister was perfectly suited for her job. Her kind manner put one at ease. She brought the tender-heartedness of a mother to her job. She also brought the toughness of years of legal training, too.

Right after she was elected, she set about to make Shelby County&8217;s Probate Office a model for the state. She brought an air of professionalism to her job and her office.

Anyone who ever met Tricia will tell you she was funny. And smart. And one of those people that makes an impression on others. I know she made an impression on me.

When I heard the news of her death on Saturday, I first thought of her funny stories. After that, I thought of a time when we were on a Leadership Shelby County trip to Pelham, where her dad had once served as mayor and her mother postmaster.

While we all mingled around, she went to the adjacent cemetery and checked on her parent&8217;s graves.

She smiled as she walked away, and I&8217;d like to think she was remembering a happy story, too.Happy stories, like the ones we&8217;re all remembering about her now.