Stanislaus County's first Latino judge, Charles Edward Aguilar, died Friday, Feb. 17. Monday (Feb. 20) would have been his 86th birthday.
Aguilar was appointed to the bench by Gov. Jerry Brown in 1977 after working as an attorney for 15 years.
"He was always a gentleman in all aspects of his career and social life," said retired judge and friend Richard Allen. "I never saw him lose his temper in the 36 years that I knew him. Over the years, I adopted some of his judicial philosophy."
Allen said Aguilar's mild manner had a way of extending to others. Even in the most heated moment in court and in front of some of the worst criminals, Aguilar maintained his composure.
"He was a professional, sincere and gracious person," said Aguilar's longtime friend and bailiff Rodney Stancill.
While he treated everyone with respect, Stancill joked that Aguilar did let his disapproval be known when defendants referred to their mothers or wives as "my old lady."
Born in Madera in 1926, Aguilar was the eldest of nine children born to migrant workers from Michoacán, México.
He was the first in his family to attend college and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1950 with a business degree.
"He saw that people who went to college were officers in the service or had better jobs," said daughter Kathy Aguilar.
Inspired by their brother's achievement, Charles Aguilar's two sisters and six brothers followed suit and attended college.
Aguilar used his business degree to work as an accountant and salesman but became interested in law when two of his brothers started attending law school.
A father and husband in the late 1950s, Aguilar was working as a traveling salesman during the day when he started taking night classes at law school in San Francisco.
He started his legal career working for the Stanislaus County district attorney's office, then opened a private practice with a partner in the mid-'60s.
Kathy Aguilar said her father's appointment as the county's first Latino judge was a proud moment -- as were the births of his three children, her becoming an attorney in 1982 and watching his wife, Ann Aguilar, graduate from California State University, Stanislaus, after raising their children.
Charles Aguilar was a traditionalist at work and home. He would bring his barbecue to work on Fridays and grill for his staff in the parking lot. Up until recently, he had dinner every Friday at Gervasoni's Restaurant and watched 'Monday Night Football' with his friends every week during football season, Cathy Aguilar said.
Apart from practicing the law, Charles Aguilar enjoyed reading, spending time with family and friends, and traveling.
He was in Hong Kong with his wife 19 years ago when he suffered a stroke, which precipitated a slow decline in his health.
"We loved him very much, and he will be sorely missed," Kathy Aguilar said.
Charles Aguilar also had a daughter, Leslie Aguilar, and a deceased son, Gary Aguilar.