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Attorney embodied best qualities of small-town lawyer

Friends and colleagues called J. Raymond Ambrose of Lower Burrell the quintessential small-town lawyer.

“He was a lawyer who didn't put making an income over helping his clients,” said Dan Joseph, a fellow attorney. “He was a very kind-hearted lawyer. I watched him go out of his way many, many times to help his clients.”

At 70, Mr. Ambrose continued to work at his Freeport Road law practice in New Kensington until his death on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012.

He is survived by his wife of 40 years, U.S. District Judge Donetta W. Ambrose; their son, Joseph Raymond “J.R.” Ambrose and his wife, Eliza Swann; and grandson, Edward Swann Ambrose.

A New Kensington native, Mr. Ambrose was a graduate of Ken High, Westminster College and the Dickinson School of Law.

Joseph said Mr. Ambrose doted on his family and was proud when his son followed him into law. They also shared a love of basketball, often attending NCAA Final Four playoff games, Joseph said.

Mr. Ambrose's other interests included golf and sports in general, train collecting, reading and discussing politics.

But above all, he will be remembered for his friendships and his commitment to clients and fellow lawyers, according to those who knew him.

“He was a very gregarious guy,” Joseph said. “I don't know of anyone who didn't like Ray. He had an infectious laugh. He was a great storyteller.”

Becky Fenoglietto, a lawyer who shared an office with Mr. Ambrose, also referenced his storytelling.

“He had these Big Ideas — capital B, capital I,” she said.

She said that following J.R. Ambrose's wedding at a Massachusetts farm in 2007, Mr. Ambrose talked of finding a similar parcel of land in this region where he could have a vineyard and host banquets.

“We were ‘this close' to stomping grapes in Indiana County,” Fenoglietto joked.

Fenoglietto said she knew Mr. Ambrose for years as a friend of her father, attorney Aaron Kress. It wasn't until the last eight years she witnessed him working firsthand.

“Ray just taught me a perfect example about what it means to be a small-town lawyer,” Fenoglietto said. “His door was always open. There was nobody he wouldn't help.

“I would see him leave the office to take clients to doctor appointments, go to their homes,” she added. “He went above and beyond for his clients and all the people that mattered to him.”

Fenoglietto and attorney David Regoli of Lower Burrell said Mr. Ambrose provided a great example to a younger generation of attorneys.

“He was a stand-up guy,” said Regoli, who also is a Lower Burrell councilman. “If you dealt with him as a lawyer, you didn't have to follow anything up in writing. He stood by his word.

“He was viewed as one of the top legal minds in the Valley,” Regoli said.

Even Joseph, only a few years younger than Mr. Ambrose, said Mr. Ambrose helped him get started as an attorney.

“Ray was a very smart guy. I was always impressed with his level of intellect,” Joseph said. “He had friends across the spectrum.

“He's lost to all of us,” Joseph added. “He's certainly going to be missed.”

A memorial service is planned for 3 p.m. Sunday at Churchfield-Peters Funeral Home, Fifth Avenue, New Kensington.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at (724) 226-4680 or [email protected].

The Valley News Dispatch will occasionally run obituary stories on notable local residents. They are news items and as such, no charge is applied. The subjects of these stories are solely the discretion of the editors.


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