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Ginny Hurley, at 57; maven and mentor in court clerk’s office

Ms. Hurley, 57. a lifelong resident of Framingham, helped many over the years.
Ms. Hurley, 57. a lifelong resident of Framingham, helped many over the years.

Not yet 20 when she was hired as a deputy clerk at US District Court in Boston, Ginny Hurley spent nearly four decades becoming the staff’s keeper of all knowledge, from the obvious to the arcane.

Even more, said Judge Mark L. Wolf, “she became the heart and soul of the clerk’s office.”

When new judges were sworn in, Ms. Hurley knew where everyone should stand, when they should speak, and she often helped them decide what to say.

As the court became fully computerized, she taught judges and clerk colleagues how to file documents electronically. And she could be firm when her fledgling students needed a nudge out of the nest to fly on their own — whether students on a fellowship or her bosses, clad in black judicial robes.

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“She would let you ask questions for just so long and then she’d say, ‘OK, get going, you’re using up the air in here,’ ” Magistrate Judge Judith G. Dein recalled in a eulogy. “And with a gentle push she would send us out into the world, but with the knowledge that we were supposed to come back and tell her how it went.”

Ms. Hurley, who coordinated the court’s Lindsay and Nelson fellowship programs, died of cancer Sept. 8 in Whittier Rehabilitation Hospital in Westborough. She was 57 and lived in Framingham.

“Ginny didn’t command the spotlight and did not seek recognition,” Judge Joan N. Feeney of the US Bankruptcy Court wrote in a eulogy. “She could throw a great party; every event was meticulously planned and seamlessly executed.’’

“She filled the room with common sense, but never took herself too seriously,’’ Feeney said. “She was savvy and smart, yet unobtrusive. Ginny could tell people what to do without them ever knowing it.”

That last point required a more judicious touch than in most offices. Imagine working at a place where most of your bosses have their job for life and are appointed by the president of the United States.

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“Sometimes people get intimidated by federal judges. Not Ginny,” Chief Judge Patti B. Saris said. “She was smart, quick, and had good sense of humor. Sometimes she’d tease you with a little irreverence, but always with respect.”

Now and then, a judge might have a bit of a meltdown during a trying day. “I can see her standing there, either with her arms crossed or her hands on her hips,” Dein recalled in her eulogy. “And after a few minutes, I can hear her say, ‘OK, judge, now that you’ve gotten that out of your system, do you think it’s time to get on with business?’ ”

Ms. Hurley’s responsibilities were so wide-ranging, Saris said, that they had to be divided among six clerk colleagues. For the trials of James “Whitey” Bulger and Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, for example, Ms. Hurley was the point person for hundreds of journalists around the world who had to secure credentials and often needed guidance on the logistics of filing their stories or proper decorum.

Her presence was just as significant among judges and colleagues. “One of the things I really admired about her is she had a tremendous capacity for growth,” Wolf said. Though Ms. Hurley began at the court before computers were used, he noted, in recent years she was “teaching everyone in the court how to use our computerized filing system.”

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“She also had an acerbic wit,” Wolf added.

Virginia A. Hurley was born in Boston and lived her entire life in Framingham. Her mother, the former Grace Crowley, still lives in Framingham. Her father, Walter J. Hurley, handled prominent cases as a defense attorney and was a longtime Boston Municipal Court judge. He died in 1993.

As the oldest of six children born within 5½ years, Ms. Hurley was at her mother’s side learning to cook and keep order. After high school she attended what is now Framingham State University before joining the court staff. Also, she and a friend took a cooking class “and she just fell in love with it,” said her sister Joyce of Framingham.

“She loved holidays and entertaining,” Joyce said, adding that Ms. Hurley took particular joy in spending time with her niece and five nephews. “And she was just a ball of fun. Whatever room she would walk into, she would just light it up.”

Ms. Hurley was hired in 1976 to work at US District Court. Rob Farrell, clerk of US District Court in Boston, said that after she died, “so many people came up to me to say, ‘Ginny took me under her wing. When I first started here, she was the first one I talked to, she always answered my questions.’ I heard ‘she took me under her wing’ from 15 or 20 people.”

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For years, Ms. Hurley was a mentor to college students chosen for the Lindsay Fellowship Program, which is named for Judge Reginald C. Lindsay, who died in 2009, and to high school students participating in the Nelson Fellowship Program, named after Judge David S. Nelson, who died in 1998.

“She would often refer to herself as my fairy godmother, which was a very accurate way to describe her,” said Taisha Sturdivant, a Boston College Law School student who was a Nelson fellow and later a coordinator for the program.

When Sturdivant interviewed at law schools, “Ginny would always say, ‘How did you feel while you were there? What are the benefits it would have for you? What will be the impact on you?’ To her, my happiness was always paramount, and I was so grateful for that,” she said.

A service has been held for Ms. Hurley, who in addition to her mother and sister leaves three other sisters, Nancy of Milton and Lois Saunders and Miriam Kent, both of Framingham; and a brother, Joseph of Bridgewater.

“My mother used to say, ‘You’ve got to make the world a little better than when you came,’ and Ginny made it much better,” Dein said.

In her eulogy, Feeney wrote that “the world would be a better place if it had more people like Ginny Hurley. Ginny’s life is a lesson on how to do things right — how to be the best daughter, sister, friend, colleague, and professional.”


Bryan Marquard can be reached at bryan.marquard@globe.com.

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