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In Memoriam

November 29, 2021


Mark Levy

October 25, 1948–October 30, 2021

Mark Levy, 73, passed peacefully in his home on October 30, 2021, in the mountains of Colorado, the place he loved. He is survived by his loving wife and first love, Arlene Mantin Levy; his two daughters, Lora Cover and Lisa Del Pozo; his four grandchildren, Ruby, Solomon, Sonya, and Sebastian; and his three sisters, Mimi Frank, Judy Safran, and Janet Pahima.

The Mortal Coil Shuffle: A Eulogy by Jack Dann and Other Friends

One of my best friends is dying. Of course, I’m devastated, as is everyone who knows and loves him. I know right down to the bone that his passing is going to shut off all the lights and force me to rely on apothegms such as this from science fiction writer Philip K. Dick: “Grief reunites you with what you’ve lost. It’s a merging; you go with the loved thing or person that’s going away. You follow it a far as you can go. But finally, the grief goes away and you phase back into the world. Without him.”

Yeah, dammit, grief.

But I’m betting that Mark will be right there in spectral memorial form. He’ll be grinning at me and waving me back into the world. (Or maybe he’ll be just giving me the finger!)

Right now, right this very minute as I think about Mark Levy, I’m flooded with happiness, and laughter. And love.

Okay, who else but Mark would have the ironic sense of chutzpa to send me an email with this kind of a crazy narrative hook?

—“Maybe it’s time for me to call in that favor we talked about years ago, Jack: you agreed to write my obituary when the time came.”—

No one else but Mark Levy, the Don Corleone of patent attorneys!

But to describe Mark as a patent attorney would be like trying to describe a high order polynomial as just “an expression.” Obviously, Mark was an editor, for who in the world demands to edit his own obituary? He was also an author, whose work appeared in The New York Times, The Skeptical Inquirer, The Baker Street Journal, the New York State Bar Association Journal, Colorado Lawyer,* Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine, and the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. He was a contributing editor to Ragazine.cc, Videomaker magazine, and The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and an essayist for the public radio show Weekend Radio. His books include Trophy Envy and They’re Only Words.

As Prudy Taylor Board, author and president of the Writers’ Network of South Florida, wrote: “Mark Levy has a rare gift. He can write about the travails of everyday life with a wry wit that makes the reader laugh out loud! I know I did.”

Aside from being a writer and radio personality (and a patent attorney!), Mark was an inventor (Hell, we have our own patent registered: Synthesized Voice Production, US 7,657,289), independent movie maker, perspicacious collector of books, philanthropist, out-of-the-closet-atheist, active member of MENSA (only God knows why!), Baker Street Irregular (“Don Murillo,” the Tiger of San Pedro), husband, writer, friend, and optimist who saw the world through the eyes of a child and navigated it with wisdom and generosity. And like Jupiter, the king of the Roman gods and “the cheery uncle of all the planets,” he was the bringer of joy and jollity.

Oh, yes, this bringer of joy and jollity held a BS degree in physics from Polytechnic Institute of New York University, a JD degree from New York Law School, and an MA degree in creative writing from Wilkes University. In 2013 he won the American Literary Merit Award—first prize. And as a patent attorney (Remember? Mark really was a patent attorney seemingly in his spare time!), he drafted and filed over a thousand patent applications for his clients.

For all his “real world” professional accomplishments, Mark really did bring joy to everyone who knew him. Here’s some proof from some of his pals.

So herewith, a selection of eulogies. A flock of eulogies? A parade of eulogies? A convocation of eulogies? How about a pandemonium of eulogies?

(I personally prefer a zeal of eulogies.)

***

I’ve known Mark since 7th grade. At one sleepover at his house in Jamaica, the 13-year-old physicist demonstrated equalized pressure. Holding a bright yellow paint can over his second-story terrace, he explained that when it dropped perfectly, cover landing flush with the ground, it would stay intact. Needless to say, it didn’t drop perfectly. His father rushed upstairs, incredulous: paint splattered everywhere, especially the neighbor’s garage. “What paint can? I didn’t do that!” We cleaned it up together.

A few years ago, Mark and Arlene stayed with me and Kathy in Austin, Texas. He drove from Colorado, car loaded with fantasy novels. He wanted authors’ signatures. We drove to a convention hotel in San Antonio where Mark and so many other nerds wheeled luggage filled with books. I shadowed Mark as he recognized and approached authors. He pursued this and so many other weird and wonderful passions: science fiction, MENSA, young inventors . . .

Mark solicited donations for an Elvis memorial. He erected a gruesome statue in his backyard. He received cash donations of $1 to $10 with photos of sad, depressed-looking donors, mostly women. He returned all of it. He did this when he was just a middle-aged child.

About 30 years ago I was unemployed, anxious, worried, job-searching. Mark sent me a $1,000 check with a note: “Only use this for fun.”

Thanks Mark. I love you more.

—Alan Reiman

 

I had a chance to be with a great friend who is in very bad health. That was a great day. I have known him 20 years. What a great man. He has helped so many.

Mark ran the Invention Convention for kids for 35 years. It touched tens of thousands of kids and showed them that they could be an inventor. Mark loved being a part of that event, especially when he saw their eyes light up because they were so proud of what they invented and how excited they were to be there showing their prototype that they built at the event.

He helped countless inventors with infinite patience and class, and he worked tirelessly to make sure they were officially called inventors when recognized by the US Patent Office. For 15 years, he worked with Marty, a Vietnam veteran, to make sure his invention was finally allowed at the US Patent Office. He helped people that no one else would work with. Whatever they needed, he would provide.

We all have a choice. We can be a blessing or a curse to those around us—our family, friends, even strangers. It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you handle it, because bad things will happen to all of us.

He helped me countless times with his time, talent, and skills, always with a willing heart. I am blessed way beyond words to have known Mark because he left a great “Mark” in the world and on my heart.

—Mark Pierson

 

The first two things that popped into my head: Whenever I would write something, Mark would edit it down to nothing. He hated long sentences: a verb and a subject, anything more and his attention span would expire. He never understood a pun if the words sounded the same but were spelled differently. I would have to explain it to him.

My all-time favorite was the lawyer eliminator joke I pulled on him. Remember the Invention Convention? I sent him one of his own forms and signed it “Todd Sweeney.” The invention showed a lawyer dropping through a trap door and getting made into a meat pie. I remember him reading it in his office and laughing so hard. I had to tell him it was me. He never got it.

And then there was boys’ night out. Those were some of the best times—our own little round table get-togethers. I’m sure as the day goes on, I will think of more. Right now, my fingers are stuck in sadness.

—Gary Barnes

 

While recovering from various leg surgeries that kept me housebound for two consecutive upstate winters, I called Mark to come rescue me and take me out to lunch. We had always enjoyed our occasional pre-injury lunches, where conversation jumped from topic to topic of mutual interest. These particular lunches took place at a small strip mall restaurant in Binghamton, whereby happy circumstance one of the local OTBs (off track betting) branches was located.

After our meal, Mark kindly indulged my degenerate horseplaying habit and let me take in a couple of races before driving me back home. While I did my level best to bring some ratiocination to my wagering picks (“Gotta love Edgar Prado on the turf,” “Third off the layoff with Lasix”), Mark showed an alarming tendency to land only on throw-out longshots. The bigger the odds, the bigger his smile as he made his bet. I soon dubbed him “Longshot Levy” and tried to break him of this tendency. His rationale was simple: If he was going to wager $2, why put it on a nag that would return only $2.40 in the winner’s circle, when he could have a double or even triple-digit payout? Big, long sigh. My only success was convincing him to use those longshots as second-place runners in exactas with low-odd favorites; the first time he cashed one of those, at Gulfstream Park, I recall, it was a win-win: he got a decent payout, and I got the “priceless” satisfaction of “I told you so!”

My legs healed, the restaurant and OTB closed, but “Longshot” continued to play those long odds in life and love, and he collected, for which I am so grateful, as I am for the precious gift of his decades-long friendship.

—Katherine “Kate” Karlson

 

Dear Mark,

My often-misleading memory tells me that I first met you when George and Jack and I arrived at the Vestal Public Library in 1994, where I was to give a talk on Tracy Kidder’s book The Soul of a New Machine. (As if I knew anything about computers back then, or now for that matter.) I think you asked me afterward if I was interested in joining MENSA, and I admitted that I probably wouldn’t qualify.

But one of my favorite memories was when you made it possible for us to come to Binghamton for Warren Wagar’s memorial service on the SUNY-B campus, sending a car to pick us up and having us as guests in your home. Warren was a close friend of ours and his sudden loss was a blow; we miss him to this day. The warmth of your welcome and your hospitality was such a comfort at that sad time. And now we’re losing another friend, which makes me even angrier at the universe than usual.

Another fond memory was of the time you and Arlene came to visit us and we took you to our favorite neighborhood restaurant, the Hidden Cafe (now closed, alas). So I can only hope that in some alternate timeline of the multiverse, that restaurant is still open and you two are preparing to board a flight to Albany—or else that we have finally overcome the increasing infirmities of age to get on a plane to Colorado.

With so many fools in the world, I’m really mad that we’re losing one of the truly smart ones.

Ave atque vale, Mark.

—Pamela Sargent

***

I, too, have memories of Mark—so many that I don’t know where to start. However, I do know that brevity is a virtue. So here is what comes to mind. My own “top-of-mind” awareness of Mark, just one eulogistical anecdote:

There is one phrase that I never allowed Mark to live down. After all these years, I can’t even remember the context of the conversation. I just remember him shaking his head and saying, “I’m sorry, Jack, but I’m down to one limo.”

Down to one limo!

Ah, we should all be down to one limo.

What I hadn’t mentioned before, however, is that whenever I needed to go out of town, Mark would find out and insist that I allow him to get a driver to take me to my destination. Mark was one of those special souls who was joyously generous. It wasn’t ego. It was . . . Mark.

Of course, there’s so much more to say, to tell, to reminisce about. But I want to get this eulogy to my editor (Mark) before he shuffles off his mortal coil in impatient frustration.

—Jack Dann

* Editor’s Note: Mark wrote several articles for Colorado Lawyer over the past few years, and he was a delight to work with. We’ll miss his witty and lighthearted take on patent law. See “Student Inventions” (May 2020), “The Perpetual Discussion” (July 2020), “Clocks and Calendars” (Dec. 2020), and “What Took So Long?” (Apr. 2021).

 

Lester Ward Jr.

December 21, 1930–October 21, 2021

CBA Past President Lester L. Ward Jr., 90, passed away peacefully in Denver on October 21. Les was born and raised in Pueblo. He graduated from Central High School, where he was class president, active on the debate team, involved in theater, and a proud founding member of the Thanatopsis Poker Club. He was inducted into the Central Hall of Honor in 2011. He attended college at Harvard University, where he was a member of the famed Hasty Pudding Club, served as president of the Debate Council, won the Coolidge Prize for debate, and was chosen as Class Day Orator at commencement. He continued on to Harvard Law School, where he was a member of the Harvard Voluntary Defenders. He then served in the US Army from August 1955 to August 1957, primarily near Orleans, France.

Post-Army, Les returned to Pueblo and practiced law for 32 years with Predovich, Ward and Banner. He was a member of the Pueblo County, Denver, and Colorado Bar Associations and was CBA president in 1983–84. In 1964, the Pueblo chapter for the US Junior Chamber of Commerce named him Outstanding Young Man of the Year. The Pueblo County Bar Association presented him with its Outstanding Young Lawyer Award in 1965 and 1967.

In addition to his primary responsibilities in the legal field, Les had many other duties. He served as president of the St. Mary Corwin Medical Center, Pueblo Public Library, and Pueblo Kiwanis Club. He was a trustee for the Thatcher Foundation and the Frank I. Lamb Foundation, was a founder of the Broadway Theater League of Pueblo and was appointed by Gov. Richard Lamm as one of nine members of the Colorado Commission of the Bicentennial of the US Constitution. He was a lawyer for The Denver Post and served as president of the Helen G. Bonfils Foundation, which left an endowment to start the Denver Center of the Performing Arts (DCPA). Les served as the DCPA’s attorney from its inception in 1972 and, in 1979, he helped Don Seawell create the DCPA Theatre Company and open the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex, where he served as a board member.

In 1989, he retired from law practice in Pueblo and moved to Denver when the DCPA recruited him to become its first president and chief operating officer, and he excelled at his post until retiring in 2005. During his tenure, Les supervised the creation of the DCPA’s National Center for Voice and Speech, and the building of the Seawell Ballroom in the early 1990s. He worked with the city to open the Buell Theatre in 1990 as a home for Broadway touring productions. He was elected chair of the Performing Arts Centers Consortium, a group of 27 performing arts centers from New York City to Australia. In 1998, the DCPA Theatre Company won the American Theatre Wing’s Tony Award as the nation’s Outstanding Regional Theatre. The DCPA became one of the top places in the country for the marketing of Broadway shows and was the national launching point for many of them. The center was also the home of the National Theatre Conservatory, a training center for actors. He was active with the Denver Metro Chamber and Denver Civic Ventures, and served on the board of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance.

But that was the public man. To those who knew and loved him, Les was first and foremost a family man: a loving, generous, and supportive husband, father, grandfather, brother, and uncle. His family was his pride and joy. He lit up whenever he saw family or friends, and he whole-heartedly supported every endeavor undertaken by his children and grandchildren. He was a loyal and trusted friend, and a kind and gentle soul. Les was a theater buff, a travel enthusiast, an avid Broncos and Rockies supporter (even in their down years), and a voracious reader. Almost everyone who met him described him as “sweet,” “kind,” or “nice,” which is a source of pride for his family. He lived a life of integrity. He was also smart, interesting, endlessly curious, and always warm, welcoming, and generous beyond measure. Les had a long, full life, and it was very well lived.

Les was preceded in death by his parents Lester and Alysmai Ward, and his brother Harry (Betty Jo) Ward. He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Rosalind; their children Ann (Paul) Witherspoon, Alison Ward (George Mills), and Lester (Eva Swoboda) Ward; and four grandchildren, Grant, McKenna, and Landry Witherspoon, and Sebastian Ward. He is also survived by his brother Jack (Donna) Ward as well as numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews.

Donations can be made in his honor to the DCPA (https://www.denvercenter.org/support-us) or the Rawlings Library (https://www.pueblolibrary.org/donate) in Pueblo.