RED BANK – Patricia Apy, of the law firm of Paras, Apy & Reiss, was recently honored for her leadership in addressing legal needs of military families and was awarded the prestigious Grass Roots Advocacy award by the American Bar Association. The award was presented at the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC at the annual ABA Day in the nation’s Capitol that brings attorneys from all 50 states to Washington to connect policy makers with constituents in the legal profession.
Apy was one of three attorneys to receive the award, and the only one from New Jersey among the 400,000 members of the ABA. That she was honored by the presentation was best exemplified in her acceptance remarks when she said “to be distinguished in an association of 400,000 professional advocates is a remarkable honor and I am humbled by this recognition.” Apy, a Little Silver resident, said she felt further honored by her selection with Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito, a New Jersey native, in attendance at the ceremony.
But there is no doubt Patricia McHale Apy is more than deserving of the honor selected by the Board of Governors of the ABA.
Specifically, Apy was cited for her leadership over the past eight years in helping the ABA oppose federal legislation that would have adverse consequences for militar y parents involved in child custody disputes.
The specific case which was the foundation for HR 3212, the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2014, involved the Monmouth County man whose son was taken illegally by his mother to Brazil and subsequently, after she died, custody was given to her second husband in Brazil. Congressman Chris Smith led the fight to have the child returned to his natural father. Apy worked closely with the congressman throughout the ordeal; she was then also instrumental in crafting a New Jersey state statute that served as a basis for the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act. This act has already been adopted in many states and under consideration in others.
“Patricia Apy has been a leader in addressing the legal needs of military families,” said William C. Hubbard, ABA president, in announcing the award. “She has helped the ABA oppose federal legislation that would have hurt military parents working through child custody issues and she has spent endless hours educating members of Congress about this issue. We are delighted to honor her work.”
So why does this effervescent, quick-talking, fast-moving, award-winning attorney who is as comfortable giving a presentation before the US or New Jersey Supreme Courts, as she is lecturing a World Congress or an International Bar Association meeting take on such troublesome work to help the military and their families?
She’ll tell you – quietly, firmly, sincerely, and definitively. “On the wall of my home hang the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, an Oak Leaf cluster in lieu of a third Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart. They were each earned by my father during World War II. He was injured at the Battle of the Bulge in 1945, taken prisoner by the Germans, and a prisoner of war in Germany. He escaped, was recaptured, and remained in prison until he was liberated by American forces at the end of the war.”
If that isn’t enough, this woman who is a strong believer in faith in God and commitment to her profession, will tell you more. “My father died in a VA hospital when I was 9 years old. I can still remember my mother turning in her life insurance policy to get the money for gas so she could drive to Tulsa, Oklahoma, we three kids in the backseat, to see my father in the hospital. I can still remember when children weren’t allowed in the hospital but we could wave to my father as he stood by the window. And I can remember when we weren’t allowed to play in the snow in front of our house.” The last, a story in itself.
Apy explains that her father, home from the POW camp, suffered what is now termed Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome but which didn’t have a name in the 1950s. She recalls when she and her brother were making snow angels in the backyard when she was in primary school, and her mom coming out to tell them they could not play in the front of the house. It wasn’t until she was much older that Apy learned them reason for her mother’s strange instruction.
“My father was in and out of the hospital for years before he died in the VA hospital,” she explained, “and we later learned that the Germans had tracked his footprints in the snow to capture and imprison him. Anytime he saw prints in the snow, it brought back all the agony, pain and incarceration of his time as a POW.”
Today, Apy’s mother, Gloria McHale, lives with the Apys in Little Silver, and the proud daughter gives full credit to her for any accomplishment she herself has achieved. “We were raised in Neptune, in extremely modest means. But my mother made sure we all had an education, we all learned the right things to do, we all did our best. My mother invested tremendously in us. I try very hard, but I can never repay her.”
A partner in a law firm that is based on a handshake more than 20 years ago, her work is as diverse as what she is currently handling: children kidnapped and now in Japan and another involving an American citizen who with her children was restrained in Pakistan and the practice of Shar’ia law in New Jersey figures into the equation.
She has conducted more than 600 education hours for Judge Advocate Generals of the armed services both on military bases and vessels throughout the world. She’s been a legal advisor for the US at The Hague and has served as consultant for the Departments of State and Defense.
She does it all because she never wants the military to forget that because of them, she knows that her family “sleep in peace at night due to their service and sacrifice. For this … I remain profoundly grateful.”
– By Muriel J. Smith
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