Nothing Robert X. Medonis Sr. did as an assistant public defender, an assistant district attorney or a lawyer in private practice prepared him for handling an 1989 case in Beijing.
The Chinese judge overseeing the proceedings admonished him to stop objecting, Mr. Medonis told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in a 1994 interview. Objections were disrespectful, he was warned. The Pittsburgh attorney also discovered that his Chinese colleague had been feeding information to opposing lawyers in the contract dispute. "How do you think you do business in China?" he was asked.
He still won that case, and his experiences in China did not reduce his lifelong affection for practicing law, his son, Robert X. Jr., said.
Mr. Medonis died Monday of a heart attack. The longtime resident of Mt. Lebanon was 81 and had been an attorney for 52 years.
He was born on Pittsburgh's South Side on the second floor of a drugstore in the city's largest Lithuanian neighborhood. Both his parents were musicians. His father, Vincent, was organist and choir director at St. Casimir Catholic Church on Sarah Street. He and his wife, Anastasia, also ran a neighborhood music school.
A graduate of Central Catholic High School and Duquesne University, Mr. Medonis received a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh. He also earned a master's degree in English at Duquesne.
During the Korean War, he served as a U.S. Army captain and company commander with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, known as the Blackhorse Regiment, at posts in Oklahoma and Kentucky.
His professional life included stints both defending and prosecuting people charged with crimes. The bulk of his career, however, was spent in general practice with law firms and as a solo practitioner. "He loved the law," his son said. "And he always said he did everything that came along to pay the bills."
Lawyer Gerald C. Paris got to know Mr. Medonis when the two men were Allegheny County assistant district attorneys in the late 1960s. In a profession that has tended toward specialization, Mr. Medonis "had a facility for handling [myriad] different kinds of cases," Mr. Paris said. "He was a very competent guy who could take up a case at a moment's notice and do an excellent job."
Mr. Medonis also had been active in Lithuanian-American activities. Joining the Lithuanian Citizens Society of Western Pennsylvania in 1968, he served as its legal counsel from 1972 to 1983. He also was chairman of the Lithuanian Nationality Room Committee at the University of Pittsburgh from 1975 to 1977.
In his later years he appeared on stage as a supernumerary -- someone with a non-singing, small part -- in several Pittsburgh Opera productions. They included Beethoven's only opera, "Fidelio."
His survivors in addition to his son include his wife, the former Mary Kathleen Castor; a son, Mark D. of Portland, Ore.; a daughter, Margaret E. "Meg" Medonis of Paso Robles, Calif.; and three granddaughters.
There will be a blessing service at 9:30 a.m. today at the Laughlin Memorial Chapel, 222 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon, followed by interment at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies.
Memorial donations can be made to the Wounded Warrior Project, 4899 Belfort Road, Suite 300, Jacksonville, FL 32256, or St. Joseph's House of Hospitality, 1635 Bedford Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15219.
Len Barcousky: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1159.