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Toledo Legal News - News From Orphan to Perrysburg Municipal Court Judge…S. Dwight Osterud


photo of Judge Dwight OsterudAs a general rule of thumb, important people are not necessarily kind people. The combination of ambition and drive that it takes to make men and women great does not always leave room for amiability and sincerity. What makes Perrysburg Municipal Court Judge Dwight Osterud so appealing is the way in which he has succeeded in life while maintaining an air of quiet humility and genuine concern for others.

This warmth manifests itself in ways both large and small. It shows when he personally offers to serve refreshments, rather than having a member of his staff do it, or ignoring your thirst all together. It is evident as he glows with pleasure when talking about the 55 plus weddings he officiated at in 2006 alone. And it is made plain by his selfless devotion to the Perrysburg Explorer Post, a group of local high school students interested in careers in law and politics who compete in Mock Trial competitions.

If his concern and compassion make him appealing, then it is how easily his life could have been bitter that makes him fascinating. Sadly, the Judge was made an orphan at a young age when his parents died.

The Judge’s parents died within two months of each other in 1957. First his father, then his mother. He was taken by leukemia, she in an auto accident. He was put into the care of an aunt, although as Judge Osterud tells it, “Really, it was more my older sister who raised me.”

Judge Osterud attended Libbey High School and worked at a pharmacy for 60 cents an hour restocking shelves. When he was nearly 18 years old his aunt put him out on his own. He accepted the invitation of family out West and moved to Topeka, Kansas.

Once settled, the Judge began attending college and began taking classes with the goal of one day teaching English. He also got an early morning job working for radio station WREN. “My day began at five in the morning. I had to go over to the police station and the two hospitals for news updates. Then I would go to the radio station, hand over the information and begin rewriting the early morning newspaper stories for us to broadcast. Then my classes started at eight a.m.”

Finding himself missing his old friends and home town, Judge Osterud returned to Toledo to finish his undergraduate work. To support himself he took a number of odd jobs, including work at Channel 30 where he wrote copy and worked a camera. If money was especially tight he would go down to the shipyard. “They would let anyone who showed up work and for the time the money was good. Sixteen dollars a day. I could always make rent that way.” Upon graduating with a Bachelors of Education, he began attending law school at the University of Toledo. To support himself he worked as a social worker for the county and substitute taught grades 5 through 12 for the Toledo Public School District.

After graduating UT Law in 1974, Judge Osterud began to practice privately with five other attorneys. “What’s really interesting about that group is that of the five of us, four went on to become judges. So that’s something.”

Judge Osterud himself remained in private practice until becoming the Perrysburg Municipal Court Judge in 1990. He has been continuously re-elected ever since.

As a judge, Osterud has had many successes. He created a probation department for the Municipal Court as well as a mediation program and night traffic court with hours more convenient to the working public.

It is in the Judge’s work outside of the courtroom though that his greatest achievements, and signs of his basic goodness, can be found.

Judge Osterud is vice-president of Historic Perrysburg, Inc., a non-profit organization, which is dedicated to ensuring that Perrysburg’s historic building and landmarks remain preserved and not paved over. One of the non-profit’s big efforts is the preservation of Perrysburg houses that capture and represent the many architectural styles that have swept the nation. These houses include Perrysburg’s many Sears & Roebuck homes, houses bought out of the company’s namesake catalogue by people at the turn of the century. “All the building materials come by rail. The wood was pre-cut and you could put one together with just a few friends. All told, even the most expensive house was only about $2000.00. So that was very affordable at the time.”

One of his greatest achievements is his long lasting marriage to his lovely wife Judy. The two of them share many similarities, including a love of travel and semi-annual vacations to France.

When not enjoying romantic dinners with his wife in Nice, France, Judge Osterud stays active mentoring area high school students and founded the Perrysburg Court Law & Government Explorer Post. For the past six years he has helped coach several very auspicious Mock Trial teams composed of young adults involved in the Explore Post. In addition to providing advice and guidance, Judge Osterud also teaches CLE courses and uses the profits to pay the expenses of the Mock Trial teams. His teams are some of the very few Mock Trial teams not affiliated with an established high school, although he is quick to thank the schools for all the help they provide. “Of course, we couldn’t do it without the help and understanding of the schools they attend. The schools are always very good about excusing absent students when they have competitions.”

For a relatively new program, the Explore Post Mock Trial teams do very well for themselves. Three teams have qualified for regional competitions and two have gone on to State. This past February, one of the Explorer Post's three teams made it to the regional level of Mock Trial and Judge Osterud is deservingly proud of them. “All the students on the three teams are very bright, very hardworking. They’re really all just great people and to do so well in competition is really reflects very well on them.”

And it must be said, even if the Judge is too modest to, that the time and attention he devotes to the students, to his wife, community and litigants in his courtroom reflects well on him. While Judge Osterud overcame a rough, rocky childhood thanks in no small part to his perseverance and willingness to make lemonade out of lemons; it is his willingness to pass that lemonade around in many glasses that makes him truly distinguished.

Michael Davisson, Toledo Legal News Staff Writer

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