It could be argued that former county Judge Paul Teilh lived to work as much as he worked to live. Three years ago, in a San Jose Inside story by Laura Fishman, Teilh, 93 years old at the time, was fighting off a suggested retirement.
“I’m going to work until the coroner comes for me,” he said.
Last week, on the day after Christmas, Teilh passed away in his home. He was 96.
Known for never cutting corners and being especially demanding of his staff, Teilh is the longest-serving judge in the history of the Santa Clara County Superior Court.
“Work was his life,” said Teilh’s daughter, Diane Eichhorn. “He loved being a judge. He took it as a great honor.”
Teilh started his career in public service as a secretary for the San Francisco County clerk’s office, then taking over as Santa Clara County’s clerk in 1955. In 1966, he was elected as municipal court judge, a role he held until 1980, when he was elected to be a Superior Court judge for the county. He retired in 1986 but soon found that he missed the job.
He returned to the county as an appointment judge, where he received assignments to work a case for two months at a time. He performed that job for 24 years, with his last day coming on June 30, 2010.
Teilh was born in 1916 in San Francisco to French immigrant parents. He attended Sacred Heart High School before graduating from U.C. Berkeley, where he studied chemistry. He served in World War II and was active in the California National Guard, where he held the position of commander of the Guard during the 1965 L.A. Watts riots. He was also president of the parish council of St. John Vianney Church.
Teilh will be buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery with military honors. A service in his memory will be held at St. John Vianney Church at 9am on Monday, Jan. 7.