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Jay Michaelson 1941-2009

Family Man, Attorney, Passionate Politico


Jay Michaelson died on January 13, 2009. He was a wonderful husband to his wife Michele, a dedicated father and grandfather, a highly respected attorney, a close friend to many, and a man of varied talents. What follows are some personal reflections from those who knew him best.

Kids are quick to forgive, but my father never relied on that.

He never made a promise he didn’t keep. He never brought work home. He never snapped in anger or grew surly. He never seemed lost in his own concerns. He never failed to have dinner ready, even during the years when he was the only one to make it.

My father was handsome-and he enjoyed dressing well. But as much as he cared about how he looked, he never cared about his image. He was the least affected person I’ve ever met. I don’t own a suit, but I have my father to thank for urging me into a career I love. The day he came to watch me teach was the proudest moment of my life.

Near the end, when I had many hours to hold his hand and look into his face, all I could think was how much it matters to be decent and dependable, to live with integrity. The days were agonizing, but those were the thoughts that came back again and again. I love that.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be as good a father to my own children as he was to me. But I’ll try. - Jeremy Michaelson

Jay Michaelson 1941-2009
Click to enlarge photo

Jay Michaelson 1941-2009

My dad told me before he died that my brothers, Jon and Jeremy, and I were his greatest accomplishment and that he could not have been prouder of each of us. Losing the opportunity to make my father proud was profoundly sad for me in those first few days after his death.

I realize now that I will spend the rest of my life making him proud even in his absence. While I will miss seeing his beaming face and hearing his accolades, I will always carry his final message with me. It is my hope that at the end of my life that my greatest accomplishment is the same as my father’s, that I have raised my two sons, Isaiah and Julian, to be outstanding and wonderful men like my dad. I know he would be proud. - Jenny Michaelson

Jay was a founding partner of the law firm Michaelson, Susi, and Michaelson and one of the most respected attorneys in town.

Jay was the dean of the local bankruptcy bar. During the last 30 years, Jay was involved in most of the major cases filed in the Santa Barbara bankruptcy court, representing hospitals, farmers, developers, and other businesses in financial trouble. Although he spent most of his time working on complex business bankruptcy matters, Jay was always willing to take on cases for people in financial straits due to an illness, divorce, or other tragedy. To him, these clients merited special attention, and he spent untold hours both giving them legal assistance and counseling them about how to deal with the vicissitudes of life. His wisdom and compassion touched many lives in our community. - Peter Susi, Frank Michaelson, and Joe Sholder, Jay’s law partners

Jay’s commitment to justice, his effective advocacy, and his willingness to take action-whether walking precincts in Santa Barbara or traveling to New Mexico to get out the vote in a close presidential election-are testaments to his political passion.

Walter and I were introduced to Jay Michaelson’s political passion and energy when he offered to organize an Attorneys for Capps fundraiser for Walter’s 1996 Congressional campaign. Jay soon became a trusted friend and served as a tireless volunteer for Walter’s campaigns and mine, recruiting friends and fellow attorneys, walking precincts, and enthusiastically performing every campaign task, large or small. He was a passionate and effective advocate who enjoyed sharing his views (or occasional disagreements!) with me. His great mind and huge heart inspire all who knew him. - Congressmember Lois Capps

There are many more who would love to share their stories about Jay: Justin, the student for whom Jay served as mentor and role model, literally changing Justin’s life; Jay’s ski pals, who well remember Chez Jay, the skiing chef, whose ski trip carry-on luggage included his homemade lasagna sauce and favorite cooking pot; his lawyer friends who gathered recently to reminisce about Jay the outstanding attorney and genuine friend. All will miss this good man who touched each of us and made the world a better place.

Readers can add their stories and reflections as comments to this story, by going to independent.com/jaymichaelson.



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