Joseph Opala shares memories of his father during Justice Marian Opala's funeral at All Souls Episcopal Church in Oklahoma City on Monday, Oct. 18, 2010.
About 1,000 mourners gather to remember Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Marian Opala on Monday, Oct. 18, 2010, at All Souls Episcopal Church in Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Marian Opala's life mission was the law, Joseph Opala told about 1,000 mourners at his father's funeral on Monday.
Opala, 89, died last week. He had served on the state's highest court since 1978.
During the funeral at All Souls Episcopal Church in Oklahoma City, Opala said his father's experiences in his native Poland during World War II shaped his life.
"He was the child of a prosperous family. His father was a banker. He got the best education that money could buy as a secondary student in Poland between the wars. And then that entire life came crashing down in an instant, when his country was invaded by Nazi Germany from the West and Communist Russia from the east," Joseph Opala said, "and everything that he'd ever expected in his life was gone in an instant."
Opala said his father was captured by the Germans in the Battle of Warsaw in 1944.
"By an act of God, the concentration camp he was in was liberated in part by the 45th Infantry Division from Oklahoma, and he met Gene Warr (of Oklahoma City), and they became mates, buddies, inseparable for the rest of their lives," Opala said.
That friendship brought Marian Opala to Oklahoma in the late 1940s.
Joseph Opala said his father had a passion for the law.
"He saw civilization itself brought down," Opala said of his father, "and he needed to take something from that lesson, and the lesson that he took from it was that there is no civilization, there is no decency, there is no humanity -- none of that can be preserved without the law."
Opala said the law was his father's passion.
"I think the key to understanding my dad is that, for him, the law wasn't just a profession, it wasn't even a calling. It was a mission," he said.
Marian Opala "never left the ramparts from World War II in his mind, every day, but he stood by the law and did what he could to preserve the due process of law," his son said.
"He was still a soldier, to the very end."
Opala said his father had "a peace in his last years that was evident to everyone who knew him well."
His father was never a religious man, Opala said, but "he would always just say to me simply, 'I think it's important to believe in God.'"
He said his father lived an extraordinary life, "extremely well-lived, in good health, great accomplishment, among people who loved him, right down to 90 years minus three months."