Countless Greater New Milford area residents counted Suzanne Powers among their friends and remember the ground-breaking probate judge fondly.

Powers, 76, a New Milford native and for more than a half-century a law partner with her husband, John "Jack" Powers, died Oct. 22 following a battle with cancer.

She was remembered this week in her hometown for her caring nature, warm sense of humor and way of making whoever she dealt with feel important.

"Suzanne was very gracious," said Mayor Pat Murphy," and had a wonderful sense of humor.

"When I won my first election as mayor, she came into my office and said `I just wanted you to know we could tell there's a woman in the mayor's office," said the mayor. "All the windows in Town Hall have been washed.' Then she laughed and went on her way."

Powers practiced law with her husband for 50 years, with offices in New Milford and Bethel.

She was the first female probate judge for what was then theNew Milford-Bridgewater probate court, for which she served from 1982 to 1998.

Powers was also the first female president of the Connecticut Probate Assembly in 1986.

"My mother was a very caring person," said James Powers, also an attorney. "She was dedicated to our family and, although she practiced law and was probate judge, she raised four children, always making us her priority."

Playing golf with her husband, spending time at the couple's second home in Maine and being with her nine grandchildren were among Powers' joys in life.

She was an involved member of St. Francis Xavier Church in New Milford and served on boards of many civic organizations.

Longtime friend Barbara Mullen said the two women "shared our faith" and love of family.

"She made everybody happy," Mullen said. "She was a pleasure to know. Vital and filled with life."

Her son agrees with Mullen's take on his mother.

"She had a knack of relating with so many different people," he said. "She made everyone feel very important, whether they were someone she was helping through probate or a client in her law practice."

Born Suzanne LaTaif, Powers was the daughter of George LaTaif, the first orthopedic surgeon at New Milford Hospital.

As a girl, she had attended St. Francis School at the top of the Village Green, then attended Lauralton Hall in Milford for high school.

Her law degree was earned at Boston College Law School in 1963.

Powers surprised the local establishment in 1982 when she defeated 12-year incumbent probate Judge John Durling.

She retired as probate judge in 1998, opening the way for present Judge Martin Landgrebe.

"I came into a very well organized court," Landgrebe reflected. "It was what I had always desired my court to be."

"The quality of probate services that we provide now are carried over from her tenure," he added. "She was a great judge and a great role model."

stuz@newstimes.com; 203-731-3352