We were so proud to call Judge Bonavitacola a friend and to have worked with him during our time with the Philadelphia Bar Association.
The Judge was a pillar of the Italian-American community in Philadelphia and an inspiration to so many of us. He was a gentle, cooperative figure in the court system -- a pragmatic man who charted new paths to make the system work better. Never overwhelmed by his duties not overly impressed by his position, he retained his sense of humanity and decency throughout his time of service and beyond.
Judge Bonavitacola enjoyed a distinguished career as a jurist, one of a select handful of judges who served in all three divisions of the Philadelphia Court system: the Trial Division, the Family Court Division and the Orphans Court Division.
Alex Bonavitacola grew up in South Philadelphia, graduated from Central High School, and earned his Bachelor of Science from Temple University in 1953. He then went on to earn his Juris Doctor and LLM from Temple University School of Law in 1956 and 1962, respectively.
After stints in both the Philadelphia City Solicitor's Office and Zoning Board of Adjustment, he started a law firm with colleagues from Temple, prior to running for Judge of Common Pleas Court. He met his future wife, Flora Jane Catalano, at a Sons of Italy banquet in South Philadelphia. They married in 1963 and had two children, Marc Bonavitacola and Portia Bonavitacola.
They lived in the Packer Park section of South Philadelphia for nearly 50 years.
In 1992, Judge Bonavitacola was appointed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to serve as Administrative Judge of the Trial Division of the First Judicial District. Four years later, he was unanimously elected by his fellow jurists as President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas.
He was then appointed by Order of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to serve as Chairman of the Governing Board of the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, with oversight and governance of the Common Pleas, Municipal and Traffic Courts.
Judge Bonavitacola received numerous awards and commendations over the course of his career to including the Justice William J. Brennan Distinguished Jurist Award and the Philadelphia Bar Association's "Gold Medal" award. Perhaps his most notable professional accomplishment was his oversight and implementation of the innovative "Day Forward, Day Backward" civil case inventory reduction program for which he received national recognition as well as the Philadelphia Bar Association's "Golden Crowbar" award. This program eliminated a nearly 28,000 case backlog under his stewardship.
Additionally, at President Judge Bonavitacola's direction, the law library in City Hall was restored to its original splendor and was fittingly christened the "Alex Bonavitacola Law Library." In November 2015, the Philadelphia Bar Association Civil Litigation Section named their annual award for outstanding service in honor of Judge Bonavitacola, “the Hon. Alex Bonavitacola Award."
The judge was a member of, and held numerous leadership positions in, various organizations such as the Philadelphia Bar Association, the State Disciplinary Board, the Fairmont Park Commission, Unico Charities and Unico Village, Sons of Italy, the Justinian Society, and the Y.M.C.A, to name a few.
Off the bench, the judge enjoyed reading history books, traveling, following the Phillies and spending time with his family at his vacation home in Margate, New Jersey. In addition to his wife and children, the judge is survived by two grandchildren, Michael Alexander and Justine Jane.
Donations in his memory may be made to the St. John Vianney Scholars Fund, 1110 Vaughns Lane, Gladwyne PA 19035, would be appreciated.