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Honorable Joseph F. Rodgers, Jr.

December 6, 2019
Honorable Joseph F. Rodgers, Jr.
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Obituary for Honorable Joseph F. Rodgers, Jr.

The Honorable Joseph F. Rodgers Jr, 78, of South Kingstown, retired Presiding Justice of the Rhode Island Superior Court, died Friday at his home surrounded by his loving family. He was the husband of Donna (Boudreau) Rodgers to whom he was married for 53 years.
Born in Providence, he was the son of the late Joseph F. and Gertrude L (Moan) Rodgers.
Judge Rodgers was raised in the Irish Catholic neighborhood of South Providence where he was educated by the Sisters of Mercy, first at St. Michael’s School and later at Bishop Tyler Elementary School. In 1958, at the age of 16, he graduated from La Salle Academy. He then attended Providence College and graduated in 1962.
At the urging of the Honorable Edward P. Gallogly, he received his law degree from Boston University School of Law and was admitted to the Rhode Island Bar in 1967. While attending law school he was the Recreation Director of the Joslin Recreation Center from 1964-1968 and also a signal switch operator for the New Haven Railroad. He began his legal career with the firm of Brown, Rosen, Gentile, and Rodgers in Providence in 1967. He remained an associate of the firm until May 7, 1974 when he was appointed by Gov. Philip Noel to the position of Associate Judge of the Rhode Island District Court at age 32, the youngest judge ever appointed to that or any other statewide court in Rhode Island history.
Prior to his appointment to the District Court, he was elected to the State Senate during a special election in January 1968 to complete the term of one his many mentors, Edward Clement, and served three more terms. As a member of the Senate, he was vice chairman of the Senate Labor Committee (1970-72) and chairman of the State Judiciary Committee (1973-1974). He was selected by the National Democratic Party in 1972 to serve on the Commission to Study the Method of Selecting a Vice President Nominee. At that time, he was also President of the Young Democrats of Rhode Island. In November 1976, at the age of 35, Governor Noel once again asked him to serve the state and elevated him to the to the position of Associate Justice of the Superior Court, the youngest ever appointed to that court at that time. On June 19, 1991 Governor Bruce Sundlun appointed him as the Presiding Justice of the Superior Court, which he held with distinction until his retirement in August 2009.
During his judicial career he was appointed by Governor J. Joseph Garrahy to chair a commission to study the election laws in Rhode Island and also was appointed by the Supreme Court to chair the Commission on Judicial Tenure and Discipline from 1980-1986. In 1983, he was appointed to the National Conference of the Rights of Victims of Crimes, one of two judges from each state, which conference significantly altered the way crime victims were treated in the justice system. While a judge, he taught courses on law at the National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada, Providence College, Roger Williams University, and the Community College of Rhode Island, educating many members of the law enforcement community. As Presiding Justice of the Superior Court, he implemented many changes that made the court more customer friendly for the public, litigants and jurors.
He was a member of the Board of Directors at Butler Hospital and Ocean Tides in Narragansett. He was elected to the Providence Recreation Hall of Fame, La Salle Academy Hall of Fame (2004), the R.I. Heritage Hall of Fame (2009), and received an honorary degree from his alma mater, Providence College. He belonged to a number of fraternal organizations, including the Irish Kings and the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, and he was a longtime member of the Pt. Judith Country Club. Judge Rodgers was an avid fan of Providence College basketball and New England sports and enjoyed stumping his friends with obscure sports trivia. Prophetically, when asked in the spring of 2004 what he wanted to see occur first - Providence College winning the national championship or the Boston Red Sox breaking the Curse of the Bambino - he chose the latter because he believed that more people would enjoy the experience. He may have celebrated the Red Sox victories with all of New England, but he still awaited the chance to celebrate the Friars with some of his closest and longest friends.
Besides his wife, Donna, he leaves his sons Joseph F. Rodgers III and Edward (Ted) Rodgers; his daughter, Superior Court Associate Justice Kristin E. Rodgers and her husband Scott Raynes; and his cherished granddaughters, Leigh Ann Rodgers and Sydney Raynes; a sister, Jean R. Patterson. He was the brother of the late Marjorie McDonald.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend a Mass of Christian Burial in St. Veronica Chapel, 1035 Boston Neck Road, Narragansett on Tuesday at 10 AM. Calling Hours Monday 3-8 PM in the Fagan-Quinn Funeral Home, 825 Boston Neck Road, North Kingstown. In lieu of flowers donations in his memory to RI Community Food Bank 200 Niantic Ave. Providence 02907; Special Olympics of RI 370 George Waterman Highway Smithfield 02917 or Friends of RI CASA PO Box 20059 Cranston RI 02920 will be appreciated. Burial will be private.

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Previous Events

Calling Hours




3:00 PM 12/9/2019 3:00:00 PM - 8:00 PM 12/9/2019 8:00:00 PM
Frank P. Trainor & Sons Funeral Home

982 Warwick Avenue
Warwick, RI 02888

Frank P. Trainor & Sons Funeral Home
982 Warwick Avenue Warwick 02888 RI
United States

Mass of Christian Burial




10:00 AM 12/10/2019 10:00:00 AM
Saint Veronica Chapel

1035 Boston Neck Road
Narragansett, RI 02882

Saint Veronica Chapel
1035 Boston Neck Road Narragansett 02882 RI
United States

Cemetery Details


Burial will be private. Final Resting Place
United States

Memorial Contribution

Friends of RI CASA

P.O. Box 20059
Cranston, RI 02920

RI Special Olympics

Attn: Memorial Gifts
370 George Washington Highway
Smithfield, RI 02917

Rhode Island Community Food Bank

200 Niantic Avenue
Providence, RI 02907

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