PASCO -- Duane Taber retired from the Benton-Franklin Superior Court bench in 1997, but his 15 years in a black robe forever secured him the nickname "The Judge."
Today, Taber, 85, gets a new title -- Grand Marshal -- as he leads Pasco's Grand Old 4th of July Parade.
The Pasco native and longtime city Park Board member isn't known for his reserved nature, so he's not shy about admitting he's waited for this.
"They knew I'd come screaming down if I didn't get it. They almost waited too long, you know, 85 years," Taber said with a laugh and a big smile. "It's not the biggest parade in the United States but it's my parade."
The parade, organized by the Pasco Parks & Recreation Department, starts at 10 a.m. today with the entrants gathering in front of the Franklin County Courthouse on Fourth Avenue.
From there, the parade moves down Sylvester Street to 14th Avenue, with the announcing stand near Memorial Park. Then it turns onto Clark Street and ends at 12th Avenue.
But before the fun begins, Taber must work at the Kiwanis Club annual pancake breakfast in Memorial Park. The public breakfast costs $5 and is served from 7 a.m. to noon.
Taber acknowledges it will be a hectic morning, but he is thrilled to partake in the Fourth of July festivities. He got his first taste for parades in 1939 as a member of the Pasco American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps.
"Obviously I like small towns. (The parade) is one of the greatest events for any small town in America. Just go ask," he said. "I think it's one of the closest things to exhibiting the national spirit than any other event. And I think today we need it the most."
Taber was born in Pasco and is proud to say he was a Pasco High Bulldog, Class of 1943. He went into the Navy for 21/2 years, serving on a destroyer in World War II, then attended Washington State University for a year with a focus on engineering.
Jobs were tough to come by in Pullman in 1947, so Taber switched to the University of Washington, where he studied prelaw and law. He graduated in 1952 and returned to Pasco with his wife, Carey, who fed and helped Taber get through law school.
The couple just celebrated their 61st anniversary June 25.
Taber worked briefly for the Atomic Energy Commission before going into private practice with Jim Leavy. Their partnership lasted 29 years until Taber was appointed a Superior Court judge in 1981 by then-Gov. John Spellman.
Taber likes to point out that a Republican governor chose him, "a strong card-carrying Democrat," to fill the new fifth position on the Superior Court bench. He ran unopposed the next three elections before deciding in 1996 that he would hang up his robe Jan. 13, 1997.
He had "thrived" on his job and the daily pressures, but at 71 Taber decided it was time. "I was enjoying life and golf and everything," he said.
Through all of that, Taber remained active in his beloved Pasco. The particulars have escaped him, but he has served on at least a half-dozen committees for the Pasco School District, participated in various ad hoc and communitywide boards over the years, worked as a Pasco Invitational Track Meet official and is now on the Franklin County Historical Society board.
Taber first served on the Park Board in the 1970s and rejoined the group at least 14 years ago. He is the current chairman.
Taber considers himself a lifelong resident of Pasco. The couple raised their three children here.
"I would say I never left Pasco. You don't leave Pasco to go to college. You don't leave Pasco to go to war," he said.
"Pasco is just kind of a nice place to raise kids and be part of. Not that Kennewick or Richland aren't also, but I don't have any experience living there," he added. "It's a great place to live. Thank God we've got Hanford and can make a living here."
The Taber clan, down to the two young great-grandchildren, won't be at today's festivities because they're saving up for a reunion later this month at Cannon Beach. But Carey will be right next to her husband as they ride in a Ford Mustang from the Mustang Club.
Allison Mathews, a Pasco recreation specialist and neighbor of the Tabers, said there's no better pick than "The Judge" to personify the spirit of Pasco.
"He's just a happy, giving person," she said. "He just always has a smile on his face and seems to enjoy life."