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James P Lavin, age 83, of Ridgewood, NJ passed away peacefully on March 2, 2023. Surviving him are his daughter Jean (Ian Morgan), sons James and Thomas (Amanda). Proud grandfather of Liam and Henry. His sister Barbara Tomany survives him, as do nieces Karen and Jennifer, nephews Tommy, Marty, Matthew and Patrick. He is predeceased by his wife Bridget Lavin, sister Priscilla Heatherton, brother Tom Lavin, nephew Robert Heatherton and sister and brothers in laws Katherine Lavin, James Tomany and George Heatherton.
Jim was born in The Bronx in 1940, to Thomas Lavin of Ballymote, County Sligo, and Jane Curran, of Bawnboy, County Cavan, Ireland.
Jim’s father passed away when he was 11, so he and his brother Tom took jobs to help their mother pay the bills. One gig was caddying at Wingfoot, where a very kind Ed Sullivan would occasionally drive them home.
Though he grew up in the Bronx, as a kid he always wanted to be an outdoorsman. When Jim got fixated on something, it became an obsession. He begged his mother for an outboard motor – though he had no boat. His mother acquiesced though – somehow scraping enough money together for a treasured birthday gift, which he kept under his bed. He also subscribed to “Trapper” magazine, in hopes of being a professional trapper one day.
Thankfully he shifted gears. He attended Cardinal Hayes High School, then rushed to join the Marines the first minute he could. He wanted adventure and adventure he got, travelling around the world – to Italy, and Lebanon, where he drove AmTracs. In Okinawa, the Bronx boy picked up some sophisticated musical preferences – Edith Piaf and Fado music, which he introduced his daughter to down the road.
If a contest were to be held for the messiest Marine alive, Jim would have won hands down. Much to the dismay of his family, those sloppy habits never changed.
His mind was not sloppy though. Determined and headstrong, he catapulted that drive into a successful career as a prosecutor. After attending Fordham Business School on the GI Bill, he worked several bank jobs. But after a chance viewing of “Anatomy of a Murder” he decided Criminal Law was his calling. He made his way through Fordham Law School, making Law Review.
He worked at Curtis, Mallet-Prevost before heading to the revered Southern District of NY as Assistant US Attorney from 1972 to 1979. He wrote and argued briefs on several high-profile cases and rose to become Chief of Narcotics.
While Rudy Giuliani was his “trial buddy” and initially taught him the ropes in the courtroom, Jim and others made a name for themselves on their own. He was most proud of putting away Herbert Sperling, a notorious and vicious drug kingpin who attempted to assassinate the mastermind of the French Connection. Many early cases focused on the Mafia’s attempts to infiltrate the narcotics trade.
After he departed the Southern District for private practice, he was appointed lead investigator on the notorious Hamilton Jordan / Studio 54 / narcotics case.
He was a voracious reader – often going through a book a day when he was on a reading jag. He read all the classics, loved history and would read any mystery or spy novel going. Jim enjoyed talking to his son-in-law Ian about every aspect of history. And was thrilled when his grandsons loved reading - buying them dozens of books one Christmas alone.
He read so many books that he started coding them in the library – little dots, dashes and checks – at first to let him know he had read that book. Then, he started leaving reviews…..sorry Mrs. McBride!
He also loved fishing and passed that along to his sons Jimmy and Thomas.
Jim met Bridget (Bridie) Coleman in a dancehall on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. After marrying, they moved to the Bronx, before settling in Glen Rock, NJ, where they resided for 30 years and raised their three kids. Bridie kept things going while he worked crazy hours.
Jim was not a “standard” suburban Dad, he was unconventional, with faults and foibles. He rarely attended sporting events to cheer us on, was late to almost everything, had a temper, and as mentioned, wrecked the house whenever he walked in the door. But he was quick-witted, sarcastic beyond belief, ethical, brilliant and tried the best he knew, though he was sometimes overwhelmed by work and cluster headaches.
Dad, rest in peace. We hope you’re up there cracking Uncle George up, having a glass of red wine with Uncle Tom, reading with Aunt Priscilla and ignoring Bridie’s pleas to straighten your mess up. And hope you’ll restart your voracious reading and crossword puzzling that wasn’t possible the last four years.
Wake and service will be held Friday March 10 from 3-7 at Feeney’s Funeral Home, 232 Franklin Avenue, Ridgewood, NJ 07450. Burial private. In lieu of flowers, donations to Cardinal Hayes H.S. in The Bronx are welcome.
The Military Honors Service and Prayer Service will be live streamed. Please click on the links below to view those services.
Military Honors: https://view.oneroomstreaming.com/index.php?data=MTY3ODM5MjQxMTI0MDE3MCZvbmVyb29tLWFkbWluJmNvcHlfbGluaw==
Prayer Service: https://view.oneroomstreaming.com/index.php?data=MTY3ODM5MjQ3ODI0MDE3MSZvbmVyb29tLWFkbWluJmNvcHlfbGluaw==
Military Honors: Click here to view a webcast of the service on 3/10/2023 at 02:55 PM, Eastern Standard Time.
Prayer Service: Click here to view a webcast of the service on 3/10/2023 at 06:25 PM, Eastern Standard Time.