Thursday, July 17, 2008

In Memory of Gray Byron Jolink, 1946-2008

The Central Texas bankruptcy community lost a valued friend and colleague when Gray Byron Jolink passed away unexpectedly on June 23, 2008. Gray graduated from the University of Texas Law School in 1974 and was a solo practitioner in Austin. Much of his practice involved representing the debtor in small chapter 11 cases.

Gray is survived by his mother Bette; wife Kathy; children Luke, Radkey, Georgia, Tatum and Willa; daughter-in-law Christine; brother, Dirk; sister-in-law Carol; mother-in-law Bea Cromack; grandchildren, Mason and Miles; eight nieces and nephews; and numerous other relatives and friends.

Gray’s obituary did a good job of summarizing his life. It stated:

“He was many things during his full life: pilot, photographer, attorney, birder, coach and nature lover. But the titles of which he was most proud were husband, father, grandfather, son, uncle, brother, cousin and friend.”

“He spent the last thirty years practicing bankruptcy law in Austin. His passion for the law lay in his desire to help others, and he saw his bankruptcy practice as a means to help those who struggled financially to get back on their feet.”

After Gray’s death, his colleagues shared memories of his life.

I first met Gray in the late 1980s at a hearing on a motion for relief from the automatic stay. I managed to show up after the court had already called my case and ruled without me. I located Gray in the back of the courtroom and asked him if he would object to a motion for reconsideration. He went up to the podium with me and asked the judge to let me go forward. Afterward he told me, “One of these days someone may need a favor from you. Be sure to remember when the time comes.” For a young associate, it meant a lot that a more experienced lawyer went out of his way to be nice.

Ronnie Hornberger of San Antonio said:

“Gray was one of the good guys; he was knowledgeable, gracious, easy to work with and you could always count on a hand shake deal to be honored. He truly will be missed.”

Joe Martinec recalled:

“Gray called me just about every Friday to ask ‘what are you seeing?’, at which time we would discuss the state of the Austin bankruptcy market and the crazy, outrageous or comical things the ‘young pups’ were doing. Gray was someone whose call I was always happy to take because it was almost invariably upbeat and informative. He was a great fan of history, he knew all about my distant relative being defenestrated in Prague, and he was an avid birder. I hate that I did not call him last week to tell him I had just seen a nesting pair of black-bellied whistling ducks on my brother’s stock tank. He would have told me their range, mating habits and maybe their call. I always envied Gray’s ability to get an adverse ruling or criticism without over-reacting. Most of the time, he would just chuckle and say, ‘You may be right. I’ll think about that.’ I could learn from that. He will be especially missed by those of us who are his contemporaries (a dwindling number).”

Steve Ravel said:

“I tried the first contested bankruptcy matter of my career against Gray before Judge Elliott in 1983. He was unfailingly gracious that time and every time since. When my twins were born only about 3 years after his, he went out of his way to share tips and wisdom. He coined the phrase, ‘Twins, twice as much work and four times as much fun.’”

Gray’s funeral was held at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd on June 27, 2008. The church was packed to capacity as friends,family, members of his church, clients, lawyers and court staff gathered to remember him. Bankruptcy Judge Frank Monroe gave one of the eulogies. He said:

“I’m not sure that I ever met a man that enjoyed life more fully or exuded more joy in his life than Gray Jolink. Gray was a man who drew others to himself. He had a magnetic and upbeat personality. You knew instinctively that he was a person you could trust—with anything. In many ways he lived his life with the heart of a child—every new discovery was viewed with great delight and excitement.

“The last time I talked with Gray was after a Court hearing one day last week. He wanted to tell me about his experience of seeing the people who ‘danced’ on the side of the federal courthouse and the federal building. He had gone to the performance with Kathy and was obviously greatly impressed by the performance. The excitement in his eyes as he told me of his experience reminded me of a young child seeing some new wonder for the first time—not fully understanding how it could have been done but fully appreciating what he had seen.

“Gray was the consummate gentleman attorney. He was always prepared, always well mannered, polite and respectful of his fellow attorneys, the parties, the witnesses, the Court and the Court’s staff. He was unfailingly honest and forthright and always looked for a solution that would be fair to both sides. He was also an excellent litigator and cross-examiner of adverse witnesses. He was exceptionally bright, and he was an absolute joy to have in one’s courtroom.

“Gray viewed the practice of law as a profession—a way to help people—and not just a business to be run for profit, and he always conducted himself in that mode—always the gentleman.”

Judge Monroe was kind enough to type up the complete eulogy and provide me with a copy. I would be happy to send copies to anyone who asks.

Donations can be made to the Gray Jolink Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 5516, Austin, TX 78763 or to the Travis Audubon Society.


Leif Clark said...

Thanks, Steve, for this remembrance. I'm part of that "dwindling number" of old hands that Joe M. mentioned. In the early 80's, one of our firm's clients had work that took me frequently to Austin. Like so many others of his generation, Gray was welcoming and generous with this "out of towner" from San Antonio. What I remember most about Gray is that wonderfully whimsical expression that Gray always seemed to wear -- it was a constant smile, an amused take. It kept everyone that he was dealing with from taking anything too seriously, especially themselves. What better can you say about anyone than that everyone (myself included) is a little bit better for having known Gray Jolink.

Anonymous said...

I am a native of Austin, Texas and I used Gray's services in 2000 under Chapter 7. At the time, my life was in disarray and I was dreading meeting an attorney, thinking that I would have to defend myself from him too. Boy, was I wrong. From the very beginning, Gray was caring, responsive, sensitve, always my advocate. He was more than an attorney. His good humor and charm helped me to keep going at my most difficult time. I sat in his office more than once looking at pictures of his family and nature to relax and find peace. The most poignant moment came during the hearing. I was so tired, I could barely speak, but Gray carried me through, with grace, and got me back on my feet. He was one of the most genuine people I have ever met. I am saddened by his premature passing.

Anonymous said...

I am so sad to read of Gray's passing. He helped my family through a Chapter 13 a few years ago, and we were very grateful to have found him among the sea of attorneys. My father was also an attorney who made this kind of impression on people. My sympathy to Gray's family for your loss - I did not know him well, but it was obvious he was an exceptional human being who touched the lives of many people in a positive way.