MAQUOKETA — The local woman who became the first female chief judge of any Iowa judicial district died on Christmas Eve.

Bobbi Alpers, 69, died Dec. 24 at her rural Jackson County home from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

Chief Judge Marlita Greve replaced Alpers after she retired in 2013 and considered her predecessor kind, compassionate, and “alarmingly intelligent.”

“It is very easy to speak well about someone when they are gone,” Greve said. “However, it is very easy to speak well about Chief Judge Alpers at any time. For as small and petite as she was, she was really larger than life in her work as a judge and as a person.”

Born in Vinton in 1951, Alpers graduated from Maquoketa High School in 1969.

She majored in English and French, with a minor in history, at the University of Dubuque. Alpers taught middle school English for one year before earning a master’s degree in the subject and teaching high school English in the Pleasant Valley School District until 1980.

That’s when a career in law beckoned.

Alpers graduated from the University of Iowa Law School three years later and started her career as a law clerk for the 7th Judicial District in Davenport.

Alpers climbed her way up the judicial ladder, working as an assistant county attorney before opening her own practice specializing in family and juvenile law.

She was selected to be a magistrate judge in Scott County before the governor chose Alpers to serve as a district court judge for the 7th Judicial District, which includes Jackson, Clinton, Scott, Cedar, and Muscatine counties.

The Iowa Supreme Court chose Alpers to be the chief judge in the district in 2007, making her the first woman to hold that title in the history of the Iowa judicial system. She continued in that role until her retirement in 2013. Greve was then appointed to the seat.

“Believe me, it was not an easy act to follow,” Greve said. “Chief Judge Alpers was always compassionate and kind. That is a difficult thing to do as a jurist because of the constant conflict we have to handle. I never once saw Chief Judge Alpers lose her temper or become rude with anyone – another judge or litigant alike.”

Alpers also was known for issuing clear, grounded rulings, according to 7th Judicial District Judge Mark Cleve, who worked with her for more than 15 years.

“In her role as chief judge Bobbi led by example and her administrative decisions were consistently well considered and were never clouded by ego or other unhelpful considerations,” Cleve said. “Her judicial decisions were always well grounded in the law and she seemed to have an instinct for the fair and just result.”

Kelly Gerlach is a staff writer with the DeWitt Observer.

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