During his tenure as the first justice for the Dukes County family and probate court, the Hon. Peter Smola served with care and compassion for the Vineyard community, speaking directly to litigants from all walks of life from behind the bench.

The community returned the favor on Tuesday, honoring the retired judge with a portrait that will hang in the Dukes County courthouse for decades to come — the picture a permanent reminder of Judge Smola's presence in the courtroom.

Judge Smola presides. — Ray Ewing

“Everyone had a voice in Judge Smola’s court,” attorney Linda Jackson said at the ceremony Tuesday afternoon. “He always let everyone be heard.”

Originally from New Bedford, Judge Smola practiced law for more than three decades before his appointment to the bench at age 62. He retired as the first justice last October at age 70.

At Tuesday’s touching portrait ceremony, Ms. Jackson, who found herself practicing in front of Judge Smola for much of the past decade, described him as a thoroughly unique judicial presence — kind and patient — and an expert leader for the Dukes County family and probate court. She said his experience as a lawyer for three decades shaped his views from the bench.

“He had a unique way with parents,” Ms. Jackson said, describing an instance when he asked a litigant whether they were attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. “It was the first time that I had heard a judge speak directly to a client, saying, ‘Are you going to meetings?’ Pause. Listen. Wait for an answer. And then say, ‘Perhaps you should think about going to meetings. Your child needs you.’”

Dozens of lawyers, courthouse staff and probate judges from across the state came to Tuesday’s portrait unveiling, describing everything from Judge Smola’s fashion style to his shipshape courtroom. The Hon. John Casey, first justice of the Norfolk Family and Probate Court, said it was all part of the Peter Smola package, even before he became a judge.

“There was Peter Smola, impeccably dressed, just like he walked out of a GQ advertisement. Calm, confident, poised — a gentleman, always prepared and well respected,” Judge Casey said. “When he became a judge, he didn’t change. He was the same person, hardworking, caring, and a great colleague.”

All rise for Judge Smola. — Ray Ewing

The Hon. Susan Jacobs, who took over for Judge Smola as first justice of the Dukes County family and probate court after his retirement, said it was a joy to follow in his “very elegant shoes,” describing their shared background and process rising through the ranks together, learning from Judge Smola how to manage a courtroom and preside over cases involving substance use disorders — an issue both found particularly important on the Vineyard.

When it came time to make his remarks, Judge Smola thanked his colleagues, court staff, the Vineyard community and his family — in particular, his wife Beth, who Judge Jacobs called his “secret weapon” and honored with a bouquet.

Beth and artist Rich Maclone then unveiled the portrait — a photograph on canvas of the judge sitting at his desk, crossed fingers and a soft smile on his face.

“Folks today said such humbling things,” Judge Smola said. “What the community gave to us is much greater than anything I gave back to it. Thank you all.”