A farewell to a lifelong friend who loved a good story
Wickliffe’s senior attorney came within a few days of making it to his 90th birthday. But his 89-plus years were filled with about as much excitement, adventure, enjoyment — not to mention love — as anyone I have ever known.
When the lady of the house and I stopped in at Billy’s Martini Bar a week ago yesterday for the celebration of his life, the place was filled with lawyers. The first person we saw was Lou’s beautiful wife, Pat. And she is every bit as lovely as ever. We spent a lot of time with her, rehashing old times.
I have known Pat since around the day she and Lou met, on the ski slopes of Seven Springs, Pa., but I knew Lou long before that. I met him about 1939, when his late brother, Basil, and I were in the Daniel Boone Patrol of Boy Scout Troop 83, and Lou, the older brother, was always around the house, studying.
We were especially close in 1956 and 1957, when Lou, and then I, were successive presidents of the now-defunct Willoughby Jaycees. We had 100 members in those days. How sad it is to be without such a vibrant organization.
The summer of ’57 was one to remember. Six young men rented a cottage for three months in Chagrin Harbor on the shore of Lake Erie. Lou is gone now, as is Jack Vondran and Bill Sands. The only three left are me, Rol Winegar and Ed Warnock.
Lou and I often threatened to write a book, called “Fun at the Beach,” because we had 89 parties in 90 days, but the book never materialized. Perhaps it’s just as well.
We spent a lot of time at Seven Springs in those winters. It was on one of those trips that Lou saw the beautiful Pat Butters from Franklin, Pa., take a spill.
With his customary bravado, he told her he was a photographer from a newspaper in Cleveland (he had one of Basil’s cameras with him), said he was taking pictures of girls falling on skis, and would she mind taking a couple more spills so he could photograph her.
It would be easy to say “one marriage and seven children later,” but that would be covering too much ground in a single phrase.
They got married in Franklin in 1958, and a bunch of us went to the wedding. It was not without adventure. Lou hired Frank Daniels and his Continental Trio to play at the reception, the boys (Frank, Mel Rodgers and Hank Neubert) got lost on the way, and arrived at the reception just as it was ending.
But no matter. Lou and Pat had a great life together, raised seven wonderful kids, and in the meantime there were some highlights in Lou’s legal career that would make a great novel.
He was proudest of taking on the Ohio Water Service Co. when Bud Brichford was mayor of Willoughby and Lou was his law director. The case was in the courts for years before the ultimate victory that Lou achieved.
Then there was the Rudy Longo murder case. Rudy owned a lounge bar in Wickliffe and was romantically involved with one of his waitresses, much to the consternation of one Douglas Gott, husband of the lady in question.
So Douglas crept into the lounge’s basement one evening, discovered the couple in fond embrace, and took out his hunting knife. He stabbed the unfortunate Rudy 48 times — fatally.
Lou must have done a good job of representing Doug, because he served only 15 months in prison for what most people considered a premeditated crime.
A highlight of the trial came during Lou’s closing argument, when he told the jury of the unwritten law which declares that when a husband finds his wife in such an entanglement, he may proceed according to the dictates of his discretion.
A very stern Judge Winfield Scott Slocum said, “Young man, approach the bench.” He proceeded with his lecture: “Young man, there are no unwritten laws in Ohio. They are all in the Ohio Revised Code.” But Lou’s point was indelible in the minds of the jurors.
I wish I had time to tell you of all the nuances of the Floyd Hargrove trial. He was accused of murdering the husband of Lois Clark, of Mentor, so that he could pursue an affair with her, not realizing that she was also carrying on with a laundry list of policemen, car salesmen and others to whom she was attracted.
Lou and Bob Simmons, later a common pleas judge, got Hargrove acquitted, even after the latter had told investigators where to find the murder weapon. The two skilled attorneys convinced the jurors that someone had planted the rifle under a bridge in Kirtland Hills.
In the ensuing years, I said to Lou at least a thousand times, “Hargrove really did it — didn’t he?”
His answer was always the same: “The jury found him not guilty.”
So goodbye, LT 86. This is QCX, signing off. (If you figured out those were our licence plates at the time, good for you).