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Legally Speaking


Issue: October, 2006
Author: Jeffrey A. Schalow

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Executive Director's Report

Today I attended the funeral service held at St. Mary’s Cathedral for Mr. Ken Koski, a member of the Wyoming State Bar. I didn’t know Mr. Koski. I was there for those of you who could not be. I was there on behalf of the Bar. It’s one of my duties.

On Monday a member of the Bar staff gave me a copy of Mr. Koski’s well crafted obituary. Reading it gave me a sense of who he was and by observing his friends and family at the funeral, it became clear that this was a good man—a man with many friends, an honorable husband, a loving father, and respected colleague. May his family and all who knew him be blessed with love and understanding.

When I got back to the office there awaited me an announcement of the death of another member of the Bar as gleaned from the pages of the Cody Enterprise by our news clipping service. It simply read “Robert John Garrett, 76, died August 13, 2006, at West Park Long Term Care Center.”

I was struck by the contrast, by the fact that here was another member of the Bar who had died in relative obscurity, as far as the rest of us were concerned. His passage unremarked. So, I took the time to learn more about him, on behalf of all of us.

Searching the archives of the Cody Enterprise, I learned that he grew up living in the Escabana Lighthouse on the shores of Lake Michigan. He worked during his summers in high school on the giant ore ships plying the Great Lakes. Garrett flew an F-86 in Korea, graduated from the University of Michigan Law School and lived and practiced law in the Chicago area. He married and raised three children. In the early 1980s, he gave up golf and smoking and took up distance running. He ran in and finished five Chicago Marathons! (He was in his fifties! So, now I’ve hope for me. Thank you, Robert.) He retired to Wyoming in 1994 and lived with his wife along the South Fork of the Shoshone River.

Mr. Garrett was recognized as a man of integrity who loved practicing law – so much so it seems that in 1995 he joined the Wyoming State Bar, came out of retirement and worked as a real estate attorney in Cody until September 2003.

Bright blessings be upon the friends and family that Robert Garrett left behind.

So now I think of two men dying alone. (When it comes right down to it, no matter the circumstances, nor the time and place of our passing, we all die alone.) No comfort or aid, no one to mark the moment life fled. One died at the base of a cliff in the wilderness, the other in his bed at a nursing home. But I feel that each of these men at his end must have smiled in satisfaction for a life well lived, for a life full of friends and family and love. And, I believe that to each there finally came a sense of total calm, a certainty that all is as it should be, and an understanding of the why of it all.

I pulled Ken’s and Robert’s files and placed them in an oak filing cabinet in my office in keeping with a trust my predecessor, Mary Guthrie, placed upon me. She said to me at the time that she kept the filing cabinet because “it didn’t seem right to just throw away the files of deceased members” nor even “to simply shuffle them off to storage somewhere stuffed in a cardboard box.” She told me “to do with the files as I pleased.” It pleases me to keep and establish the tradition that Mary started.

I pulled a third file to place in that cabinet. That of an old friend, a dear friend and law school classmate, a man who had been best man at my wedding, but a man, I am remorseful to admit, whose death over a year ago went unnoted ‘til recently by me. We’d lost touch so long ago. What a sad and self diminishing thing we do in losing touch with, in letting go of, friends and family. Do we have so much of love and friendship in our lives that we should surrender any of it to neglect or indifference? Or, to carry a grudge? To nurture a hurt? To avoid the burden of caring for someone who is sick or depressed?

This column is dedicated to my beloved friend, Rich Leonard.

This column is under construction. They told me I could write whatever I liked. I intend to do just that. I intend to have fun doing it. I intend to make this column uniquely my own. I may philosophize, moralize, chastise, humorize or simply temporize if nothing special comes to mind to write about. Expect the unusual, the unconventional and uncustomary. And with that said, this column needs a new title. “Executive Director’s Report” is too mundane. So, let’s have a “Name the Executive Director’s Column” contest. Leftover vendor giveaways from past bar conventions and maybe a few of the coveted “Proud to be a Wyoming Lawyer!” pins to the winner and to honorable mentions. Send your entries to jschalow@wyomingbar.org.

When appointed your new executive director I promised the Bar’s Officers and Commissioners that I would serve with distinction and honor for many years. I pledged as the theme of my tenure to help you find enjoyment and fulfillment in your practice of law here in Wyoming. I extend now that promise and pledge to all of you.

Thank you for the privilege of serving as the Wyoming State Bar’s 8th Executive Director. I am humbled and honored and so very pleased to be back home in Wyoming.

PS: Call a long lost friend or estranged relative. Do it now.