Old Betsey the Laptop has been singing, but not with blog material. Some things will be filed in Courts, some perhaps published in the Fullness of Time, some sent in private directions and some consigned to the Seventh Circle of Electronic Hell. But I’ve a bit to blog on this evening.
I went to Berkeley Springs (Morgan County) for a hearing yesterday. There was a young man, apparently a lawyer, watching the proceedings and I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to him because I was concentrating on the client and the case. After the hearing concluded, though, he came up to me and said that he knew that I was in the [WVU College of Law] Class of ‘78. How, I asked? Then he introduced himself as Dan James, son of my classmate Dan James who practices in Keyser. This was pretty neat. Dan was a good friend in law school, and we’ve stayed more-or-less in contact over the years. In the mid-80's, when I would go to Keyser to conduct hearings for the Workers’ Compensation Fund, Dan would usually have a few cases and he would make gentle fun of me getting frustrated at the way the lawyers over there liked to stretch the hearings out with pointless bickering. And we probably are in contact every couple of years as we have business on one or the other side of the mountains.
The funny thing was, young Dan is the age of Dan and I. We are frozen in time in my mind, we are fresh from school, self-conscious in ties, and ready to put our shoulders to injustice and make injustice YIELD. It is impossible that we are “A Yondering,” where “. . . the sword outwears its sheath and the heart wears out the breast.”
As I talked to young Dan, a public defender came into the Courtroom and joined the discussion. She was hired by another classmate, Jerry Dambro. I knew that Jerry had died a few years back, but hadn’t heard how. Turns out he was on a Pacific-to-Atlantic bicycle ride (that’s the kind of thing Jerry would do), and was within a few miles of the finish when a drunk driver killed him. We shared some yarns about Jerry - I remember the week he trusted me with his near-antique flawless Mercedes because it broke down in Fairmont. Right out of school, Jerry went into practice in Buckhannon with Jim Cook. Jim was the oldest guy in our class, and the first classmate to die. He was retired from the Postal Service and was a totally pleasant guy.
All the way driving back, I was thinking about classmates. Some are well known. Eric O’Briant would have been voted the most calm & friendly guy in the class while we were in school, but he was the first to become a judge. Not only did he become a judge, he did so in Logan County, which is known as a really rough place. He’s remained judge there and is well respected. Let’s see, Chuck Chambers is now a federal judge after a good political career as a decent guy after law school as a decent guy. Well, Chuck is just a decent guy. His decision against mountain-top removal coal mining was just reversed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, but the Obama Administration has proposed new rules which would virtually eliminate the practice. Jim Matish is a Circuit Judge in Clarksburg, and runs a very dignified Courtroom, and Rick Murensky is a judge . . . damn, I forget what town. I haven’t talked to Rick in a long time.
Let’s see - several of our classmates have been prosecutors – Mike Thompson was a prosecuting attorney for YEARS in the Eastern Panhandle, and young Dan says he recently retired. Paul Camiletti is an assistant U.S. Attorney and has been for 20 years. His wife, Terry Rieman Camiletti just retired, I heard, after a career as an ERISA specialist.
I’m back trudging up the (now vanished) drive to the College of Law on a hot August day in 1975, as I meet these people who would be my constant companions for the next three years and many of whom would be and are important to me for life. I’ve lost track of lots of them. Where is Geraldine Foucault Katz? She was a New Yorker or New Jerseyite, if I recall correctly. The don’t-fit-any-stereotypes formed a study group, and that included Gerry, and me. And Dan Ringer, who is still a close friend. And Glenn Schumacher. I shared an office with Glenn for a couple of years, and the last I heard he was practicing in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Let’s see - I haven’t been able to find Jo Walton Eaton who had an advanced degree in Literature. She was totally a classy person. Let’s see, I’ve known that Susan Woods Coffindaffer has been in the area, but hadn’t talked to her for quite a while. On Inauguration Day this year, I remembered that our pastor was part of a singing group that was performing at the state capitol, and I turned the TV in my room to that for background noise. I heard a rendition of a favorite song about West Virginia, My Home Among the Hills, heard a beautiful descant begin and said to myself, wow, that’s Susan’s voice. Sure enough, there she was. Hmmmm - Mandy Covey, haven’t heard from her in many years - last I heard, she was in the San Francisco area. Oh, Melinda Russell - She is a well-respected expert in juvenile
advocacy. She has a special place in my heart - in a very bad time in my life, when a family member was in big public trouble, she was one of the only classmates to call me just to check in and express love and support.
And when I go to the law school today, the building is mostly the same - but it’s not the same place. In my heart, it’s still about 1976, and all of my old comrades are there and we are at the beginning of life and have no limits, none at all.
I wanted this to be a happy reminiscence. But I’m growing sad and wistful.