YAM Notes: March/April 2019

By Marty Snapp

The rest of the world knew Lou Sirico, who passed away on December 26, as one of the most brilliant legal scholars in the country. Professor at the Villanova University School of Law since 1981, he was an expert in academic legal research and writing. He created the highly regarded and much-imitated Legal Writing Program at the law school and taught an advanced legal writing course of his own design. He developed and taught a legal history course on the drafting of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, using James Madison’s notes from the Constitutional Convention as source material. He also taught Property, Land Use, Torts, and Professional Responsibility, and was the author of several books on legal writing, a book for students serving as judicial law clerks, and numerous law review articles, including one called “Supreme Court Haiku.”

Lou had recently received the William Burton Award for Outstanding Contributions to Legal Writing Education, awarded by the Burton Foundation in association with the Library of Congress, and the Thomas F. Blackwell Award for outstanding achievement in the field of legal writing from the Association of Legal Writing Directors and Legal Writing Institute.

But to us, who knew him as “Louie,” he was simply one of the nicest guys we ever met—unpretentious, compassionate, and kind. In 1995 he received a heart transplant from an unknown donor. He was grateful every day for the gift of life he received, and he remained active with groups promoting transplant medicine and organ donation for the rest of his life.

“I feel extremely fortunate to have known him from the day we arrived on campus and moved into neighboring rooms in Wright Hall,” says Mike Orlansky, “and that our friendship endured through the years, all the way up to a couple of months ago, when Lou and his wonderful wife Patti Brennan came up to Vermont for a most enjoyable and meaningful visit. Beyond a doubt, Louis Sirico was one of the finest people in our class. May he rest in peace.”

“He was a person of quiet firmness and compassion, dedicated to helping others and modest about his own substantial achievements,” says John Dillon. It was a joy to see him again at our 50th. Our class is diminished by his passing.”

“This one hits hard,” adds Alan Burdick. “For each of us, I’m sure, there are a special few friends we look forward to seeing and spending a lot of time with at the reunions. Louie was such a person for me. Like others, I had known him both from the Political Union and as a fellow Saybrugian. As is so often the case, it’s hard to pin down, particularly right after learning of a friend’s passing, what we specifically talked about at those four or five reunions that we shared. I hope the memories will return. For now, the aura will need to suffice.”

Peter Petkas also remembers the Political Union days. “Lou was of the Party of the Right; I, of the Progressives—radical centrists with liberal Republican roots. He, like Cliff Mann, of blessed memory, and I were on friendly terms then and remained so over the years—mostly at reunions. The POR consisted of a core of flamers, of which Cliff and Lou were not. At Lou’s core, as I learned later, was a deeply ingrained sense of justice, probably manifested in his years of teaching law. My regret is that I had no time—or took no time—to know him better. Lou was—and is—a fine human being, Yale classmate, and old friend. He will rest in peace, well-earned.”

“I loved and admired Lou for his sincerity, his love of his family, of Yale, and of teaching law, and above all, for his courage to live every day for the maximum good of those around him, knowing he was on borrowed time with a heart transplant,” says Barry Bardo. “He was fortunate to have had such a long-lasting transplant, and all of us who knew him were lucky to have known this fine person for as long as we did. He will be missed by many in the Class of ’67. As Mike said, Lou was truly one of the greatest and most inspirational people in our class. Rest in peace, dear Lou.”

In much happier medical news, my favorite pediatrician, George Lazarus, is discovering that life can still be fun after retirement. “I am enjoying the freedom of retirement from practice while missing the patients,” he reports. “The letters I received on retiring were emotional, heartwarming, and gratifying. I see my patients on a daily basis in the neighborhood. A bunch of them, including several second-generation patients, made me a wonderful party in June. I am teaching medical students in the newborn nursery at Columbia.” (BTW, the nursery has George’s name on it.) “One of the third-year medical students I taught recently was my patient from the day she was born until I retired. When I taught her how to examine a newborn, we kind of closed the circle. The icing on the cake is that she is planning on becoming a pediatrician!”

Meanwhile, Jim Miller just sent me a photo of him, Bob Allison, and Sefik Buyukyuksel aboard a gulek, or wooden sailing vessel, built by traditional craftsmen on the southern coast of Turkey for more than 1,000 years. “They’ve added some modern conveniences, however, that contributed to a marvelous Aegean ’67 mini-reunion hosted by Sefik and his wife, Idil Biret,” says Jim. “Bob and his delightful wife Nancy Sullivan added much to the pleasure of our one-week sojourn on the sea. One highlight was seeing Bob and Idil (certainly one of the great concert pianists of our generation, who has released more than 100 recordings of Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Liszt, Schubert, Schumann, Ravel, and others) seated side-by-side at the electric keyboard. With great aplomb, Bob taught her the blues, and they joyously played a number of songs—Idil improvising fantastic blues arpeggios in the treble clef as she watched Bob’s hands to her left, as my wife Alden and I looked on, transfixed.”