A wise, caring, character — that is how Marcia Mayo, recycling specialist for the City of Rolla, described her friend Judge Joanne Ruth Mayberry who passed away Monday, Oct. 28, at the age of 87.
Mayo and Mayberry became friends over the phone. Mayo told the Daily News that Mayberry would frequently call her and comment on something she would see on the televised city council meetings. This was after she had retired from the bench.
"She was always telling me that she liked this new guy whom she had just seen at the council meeting," said Mayo who at the time was an administrative assistant for the city's environmental services department. "Before we knew it, we were having these hour-long conversations about everything from local issues to the president."
Those conversations turned into a weekly lunch between the two friends which lasted for 15 years.
"She was legally blind so I told her that I would bring lunch to her. We decided on Taco Bell that day and the next thing you know we were having lunch every week. We had so many good conversations. I loved to hear her stories from her time in Germany with her husband who was in the service."
Mayberry served as a Rolla municipal judge from 1975 to 1996. According to a September 1994 copy of the Newsletter of the Missouri Municipal and Associate Circuit Judges Association, the judge was instrumental in the reform of the municipal judicial system.
Among those changes was the creation of a night court to accommodate those who worked during the day, a formal bookkeeping system as well as the development of alternative means of sentencing instead of merely leveling fines.
Rolla Chief of Police Mark Kearse recalled having great conversations with her while in his car driving her to and from work. Kearse began with the police department in 1982.
"She was a good person for the community," said Kearse. "She really wanted justice. If the police were right, she was on our side. If she felt that we weren't right, she wasn't on our side."
After her retirement from the bench, Mayberry was still active in the community. She was known to frequently counsel young men who were on probation who just needed someone to talk to.
"They all seemed to like her," noted Mayo. "She never met a stranger."
According to Mayo, the judge was also instrumental in starting the Russell House, a safe house for victims of domestic and sexual violence. Located in Rolla, the shelter has been serving Crawford, Dent, Maries and Phelps counties since 1993.
"She loved to help people," said Mayo. "She will be very much missed."