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Coeur d'Alene community mourns loss of revered judge

Judge Eugene "Gene" Marano served 24 years as a Kootenai County magistrate judge and then as a senior judge for the Idaho Supreme Court before passing away at 78.
Credit: CDA Press

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — The following story was reported by KREM 2 News partner the Coeur d'Alene Press:

Whether he was viewed as a tough-as-nails judge or revered as a community servant with a heart for kids, retired Judge Eugene "Gene" Marano is a name known in many North Idaho households.

"He was really witty, really sharp, funny, but mostly very concerned about members of the public and concerned about kids," Kootenai County First District Trial Court Administrator Karlene Behringer said Wednesday. "He was just an all-around great guy. Always had a funny comment, he always made me laugh."

Marano, who served 24 years as a Kootenai County magistrate judge and then as a senior judge for the Idaho Supreme Court, died Tuesday. He was 78.

Marano was a judicial pioneer. He and colleague Judge James Judd in 1998 created the Kootenai County Drug Court, the first of its kind in Idaho. It helped establish a solid operational foundation and highlighted the successful retention of clients in treatment and the positive outcomes they achieved.

"They were really exceptional with what they did for members of the community that struggled," Behringer said. "(Marano's passing) is a significant loss for the community and the judicial community. He’s going to be missed."

District Judge Barry McHugh, a former longtime Kootenai County prosecutor, spent countless hours in Marano's courtroom. When his daughters were young, McHugh and his family lived just a few doors down from the Maranos. He said his eldest daughter would sometimes disappear down the street, but he and his wife knew she was just over visiting the Maranos' chickens.

"That memory is more about the fact they were a great couple, great parents," McHugh said. "Gene had a distinguished career. He did a lot, but the experience of being their neighbor was very impactful for me in terms of seeing how they modeled as parents and as a couple."

He said Marano maintained balance between his reputation as a tough judge and his community service beyond the courthouse.

"He cared to have people understand, outside of their unpleasant court experience, how the judicial system is supposed to work," McHugh said. "He was a very loving person, and certainly a loving husband and father who cared a great deal about the community. That’s part of why he did the job the way he did. He was hard on people because he wanted them to do well.”

For 14 years, Marano and his wife, Paula, a retired Coeur d'Alene educator, helped facilitate mock trials to show North Idaho's youngest citizens how the judicial system functions. In one mock case, the three billy goats Gruff stood trial against Mr. Troll, who sustained injuries after the goats threw him from a bridge.

After this case, Judge Marano answered questions from students about his job.

"Is it fun? Ninety-nine percent of the time it's not, but it's a job that has to be done," Marano said in a May 22, 2010, Press article.

Marano, a longtime resident of the Fernan Lake Village community, also actively served on the Fernan Lake City Council beginning in 2018.

"He's been a wonderful attribute to Fernan," Mayor Heidi Acuff said.

She said Marano always gave great advice in meetings, including: "Always have a lawyer."

"He's been a wonderful resident and person," Acuff said. "He was always a wonderful gentleman and a great asset to our community."

Marano's family shared a statement with The Press on Wednesday afternoon:

We lost a beloved husband, brother, father, Papa, uncle, friend, Vietnam veteran, attorney/judge, Gonzaga alum and overall remarkable human being after a decade-long battle with Parkinson's disease.

He was a rock in our family and pillar in the North Idaho community. His legacy of treatment court, judicial/educational partnerships and quick wit will be remembered for a long time to come. The ripples of his departure will be felt long and far.

The Marano, Wolfinger and Ragan families expressed their gratitude for prayers and support from the community in their time of loss.

Marano's funeral will be at 10 a.m. Nov. 18 at St. Pius X Catholic Church, 625 E. Haycraft Ave., Coeur d'Alene.

The Coeur d'Alene Press is a KREM 2 News partner. For more from our news partner, click here.

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