Ligonier man spent decades in the courtroom |
Obituary Stories

Ligonier man spent decades in the courtroom


Most court stenographers are part of a pool selection system, bouncing from one courtroom to the next.

James Salay worked for only two judges in three decades.

“He was never in the pool,” said his wife Amy. “The judges always chose him, and that said something about the quality of his work.”

James W. Salay of Ligonier died Friday, June 22, 2018. He was 78.

Mr. Salay was born Oct. 19, 1939, in Monessen, a son of the late James and Julia (Chomosh) Salay. He grew up in the Belle Vernon area.

Following his first marriage to Nancy Anderson, Mr. Salay met Amy in 1982 through her job as a caseworker in the county’s aging office.

“We had similar friends,” Amy said. “The courthouse crowd used to gather at Mr. Toad’s and the places around there.”

The couple married in 1984.

Amy said Mr. Salay truly enjoyed his time working for judges Gilfert Mihalich and William Ober. Mr. Salay was the stenographer for the 1980 trial of convicted murderer Michael Travaglia.

“That was probably the highlight of his career, even though it was awful,” Amy said. “He enjoyed criminal cases. After a while, when Judge Mihalich was no longer president judge, he did (the) orphan’s court (division), which Jim didn’t find exciting at all compared to criminal cases.”

Daughter Becky Salay of Washington, D.C., remembers going to work with her father when she was younger.

“He knew everyone: the judges, the attorneys, the cops, the cleaning people,” she said. “And everyone would talk about his latest joke or latest hunting story. He knew people everywhere we went. The last time we went to a Penguins game, he recognized the guy sitting next to him from 30 years ago or something like that.”

Mr. Salay retired in the mid-1990s and spent more time doing his favorite activity: golfing.

“He was a fabulous golfer when he was younger,” Amy said. “He was Mon Valley Country Club champion and won several amateur championship tournaments there.”

Daughter Angie Oakes said her father loved bringing his family outdoors.

“In the summer, he used to take us to the park and pool in Youngwood,” she said. “We went to Pirate games, we went fishing and we went tubing on the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg.”

Family gatherings were also a staple.

“His family was Ukrainian, so we also had a lot of customs during holidays,” Amy said.

Daughter Lauren Salay of Washington, D.C., recalls getting together with the Ukrainian side of the family in Monessen at Easter time.

“It was about food: we had the traditional food like pierogi and halupki,” she said. “There was also this pea soup my Aunt Helen used to make, which was the only pea soup our Dad would ever eat.”

In addition to golf, Mr. Salay enjoyed fishing, gardening and making others laugh.

“He enjoyed simple stupid jokes that made people laugh,” Amy said. “He was known for always having a joke ready.”

His daughters said that while Mr. Salay was softspoken, he had a minor obsession with a very loud color.

“He carried a hot pink Motorola Razr cell phone,” Lauren said. “He thought it was hysterical. I bought a pair of hot pink pants to wear to the funeral, because I know he’d love it.”

Mr. Salay is survived by four daughters, Becky Salay, Katie Salay (Matthias Corrotte), Angie Oakes (David Oakes) and Lauren Salay; their mothers, Nancy Anderson and Amy Salay; and four grandsons.

Friends will be received from 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Snyder Funeral Home, 402 East Church St., Ligonier. A funeral service will be held 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church, 300 W. Main St., Ligonier. Interment will follow in Ligonier Valley Cemetery.

Memorials can be made to the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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