Lowell Rothschild RIP
Lowell Rothschild died on Friday, December 29, 2017. Survivors include his children, Jonathan (Karen Spiegel) and Jennifer (Julian Izbiky), grandchildren Isaac Rothschild (Tanya Miller), Nathan Rothschild (Jenny Stash), Molly Rose Rothschild, and Alex Izbiky, two great-grandsons, and scores and scores of friends and colleagues and admirers.
Many words will be written about Lowell. They will surely understate the depth and breadth of his impact on so many lives. He was – he’d never use this word about himself, but used it often to describe others – a magnificent attorney. Bankruptcy gave him his reputation, but he was a leader nationally in the field of law office management. In other areas he worked at a high level on behalf of clients with a variety of problems. (Early on that meant a murder trial and personal injury cases.) In law he found his true self: problem-solver, counselor, and friend! (You can read more in Tucson’s Lowell Rothschild reflects on legal career that spans 6 decades, by Carmen Duarte for the Arizona Daily Star.)
Lowell was a civic leader but here, too, he stretched. He left his mark on the business and political communities, the Jewish community, the delivery and regulation of healthcare services, and bowling. (Bowling? Lowell served as a board member and President of the American Bowling Congress, and is also a member of the United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame.)
Lowell was also a devoted husband for more than 62 years. (His wife Anne died late last year.) He and Anne raised two fine children, and the grandkids are all great souls, on their way to making a difference. (With Lowell’s passing the number of attorneys in the immediate family went from 7 to 6, and when Molly finishes law school in 2020, 7 will be the number again.)
For me Lowell became Mr. R and Boss in January 2010. I’d known Lowell for decades. I learned early on that he was a tough customer, and that success required a gentle “shove” here or there. So he was Lowell to me, notwithstanding a 30-year age gap.
How did the name thing change? In late 2009 I had an office flood. Nothing dramatic, but I was shut down for about three weeks. I got anxious. One thing led to another, which led me to Lowell, who wanted to know why I wasn’t at Mesch, Clark & Rothschild. “No one ever asked me,” I said. “Jonathan will call you in the morning,” said he, and I became a shareholder a few months later. (I wasn’t looking for a job, truly.)
When I left MCR – the firm Mr. R started 60 years ago – he wished me well, and told me I needed to pass on the law firm deal in the future. He said I didn’t need the structure, the processes, or the support. (Stay tuned on that front!) Still, I felt awful. Anne came first, with the children and grandchildren a close second, but the firm was right there, in third place coming around the last turn! Guilt!!!
I saw Mr. R many, many times after I left in 2015. (My new office was only a couple of blocks away from the MCR building, and on my route back from the court house.) My visits to his office lasted an hour or more, generally, and always left me smiling. So much interest in me. The firm. The community. The world. And funny! Truly!!!
Then there were the dinners. At least six or seven dinners in the months between Anne passing and a few weeks ago. First night. “I’ll pick you up,” said I. We went back and forth, for I knew his driving was an issue. “I live close by Flemings,” he said, to explain why he could drive, ignoring the fact that his proximity explained just as well why I should pick him up.” He won, always, until the last night.
Those evenings were always fun, but never lasted more than about 90 minutes. His glass of wine. My two martinis. Salads. A small steak for him; a potato for me. Him kvetching about my dietary choices. Done. Until … my GF joined us, once. I told her we’d meet at 7 and be done by 8:30. Not so much! Home at 10:15, and on a school night! Mr. R had someone new in his ambit, and that extended the evening greatly. Two great conversationalists and me, watching.
We had plans for what ended up being our last dinner together, a few weeks ago. I had a hard time reaching Mr. R to confirm the time and place. When I did I awakened him but he said, “Pick me up.” Remorseful I was, for waking an old man, but I followed his orders. He was ready. We dined. He was struggling, clearly, and fessed up to some problems, but he raved about his week in Italy with Jennifer and Julian. He wanted to know all about my upcoming three-week trial. And, halfway through dinner, he rose up, grabbed his cane, and held court, standing, for 15 minutes with the owner / chef and his nieces at a table across the way.
Mr. R was a joyful man who loved people. I recall a Monday morning recounting, a few years ago, of a black-tie affair on Saturday evening. The Rothschilds arrived, and Mr. R reported that, when they left, Anne wanted to know why at 84-ish he had to work the cocktail hour crowd as if he was 40. “People interest me,” he said, as if that said it all.
Mr. R was, though, more than someone who found himself interested in what surrounded him. He was a man who felt lucky, always. From the most modest circumstances – G-d was smiling when the Ellis Island guy named Mr. R’s grandpa Rothschild – he made an extraordinary life for himself and those in his ambit. And he relished that juxtaposition.
Mr. R had a ton of stories about his style of lawyering. Turning off light switches to remind slow-pays their fees kept the lights on. Sending back large retainers when they arrived a shade lighter than they were supposed to be. Getting worked up about someone – in one case, me – taking a case he thought he should have, until someone told him that young attorney needed to feed his family. (As recently as a year ago he was mock-bitching about my taking the circa 1990 case away from him.)
My favorite? The Boss announcing from time to time that “everyone walks through our doors, someday.” My former firm provides a range of legal services but, at root, my former partners help people reorganize their financial affairs. And Mr. R appreciated over his 65-year career that no one rises above everyone else, always and forever. We have our ups and downs, all of us, and every one of us deserves a fresh start, if we need it. That Mr. R had skills which allowed him to help people and businesses – and, in one instance, a municipality – start over empowered him.
G-d Speed, Boss. LB told me last week to prepare myself. It helped, but only a little bit! You made a difference, and those of us who loved you miss you dearly. May your memory be for a blessing. Thoughts and prayers are with your family and dear friends.
P.S. Mr. R got plenty of mentions here at Mark Rubin Writes. I will miss his private comments greatly and, especially, the two or three times when I got a call to make sure I was OK. He never missed the underlying threads in a piece, and always said he was a cheap therapist.