Longtime Hamilton attorney, former councilmember dies

Longtime Hamilton attorney, former teacher and city councilman, James E. Cooney died Saturday after a long fight with cancer.

Cooney, 75, was a Hamilton native and a graduate of Hamilton Catholic High School, Ohio University, University of Oregon and Salmon P. Chase School of Law. He worked in the Hamilton City Schools for 10 years and was a criminal attorney for 45 years.

“He loved his family, his work, his colleagues, Hamilton, Key West and of course Ireland,” his wife Holly, stated in his obituary.

Jim and Holly Cooney were married on St. Patrick’s Day. She said they met while Cooney was a teacher at Garfield High School.

Holly Cooney said her husband waged a battle against cancer for about eight years ago and won several bouts, but in the past year he had been “very ill.”

“I am relieved his is not suffering anymore, but it’s starting to hit me that I am not going to see him,” she said. “He had many cancers and heart attacks. But his nickname was Superman because he kept beating everything. And to the end he thought he was going to beat it.”

She added he got “every bit out of life that he could.”

Butler County Recorder Danny Crank went to school with Cooney and remembered their teen days in the band Zip and the Doodahs, with Cooney was the lead singer.

“Jim was Zip and I was a Doodah. We sang around town and really had too much fun,” Crank said. “Jim as a great guy and we had a lot of great times together.”

Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller, a fellow lawyer, said he knew Cooney primarily from the courtroom, but as a former council member, he also voiced his opinions on how the city was evolving.

“He loved Hamilton and he would always call me aside to say ‘I like this that’s going on.’ He served Hamilton on city council and kept up on those things that were going on,” Moeller said. “When he pulled you aside to talk, he always had a funny story, That really made him a special person because he was a very smart attorney, but he also made you laugh. That’s a good combination.”

Moeller said the last time he talked with Cooney, he indicated there had been a health setback.

“He said he was taking off the Superman lapel pin and putting on one for the luck of the Irish. I think the luck of the Irish and his motivation helped him beat the cancer for as long as he did.”

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said, “He was a very spirited fellow, who just kept coming back from his heath issues and an excellent lawyer.”

Many remember Cooney for his love of Irish whiskey and storytelling.

“He was a great storyteller in the Irish tradition. Had a great heart and and even better sense of humor. He will be missed,” said Butler County Common Please Judge Noah Powers II.

In addition to his wife, Cooney is survived by his daughter, Jamie Erin (Rod) Collins; his son, Andrew Patrick Cooney; his grandchildren, Zachary, Kassidy, Levi, Sarah, Camilla, and Kobe; his sister, Colleen (Ronald) Fiehrer; his brother in law, James Thomas; his loving pets, Bonney and Luvvy; and many other nieces, nephews, other family and friends.

Mass of Christian Burial will be at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at St. Peter in Chains Catholic Church, 382 Liberty Ave., Hamilton. A celebration of life will be March 17 at a yet to be announced location.

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