It’s more than fair to ask, “Who is the new guy with the funny name now leading the bar (association)?” Here’s my best attempt to answer that question.
I’m from a place far from here. When I say that, I don’t mean geographically. I was raised by a single African-American father. My parents, who met in Germany (hence “Franzel”), separated when I was 5 years old, and my mother returned to her native country of Japan.
My mother had once said in her matter-of-fact way, “Money never loved your father.” She was right: My father struggled as an owner of a small business. During one of the many rough stretches, we lived in a small detached garage until the weather got so cold that we had to move into a distant cousin’s house. I also remember a few nights sleeping in the car.
Having little and struggling were part of my everyday life. Being a bi-racial kid with a different name was who I was. The funny thing is that I just wanted to fit in; I didn’t want to be different.
After high school, I was accepted to Colorado State University, where I thought I could get a little lost in a big crowd. During spring break of my sophomore year, my father passed away unexpectedly. Over the one-week break, I buried him, packed up his few belongings and cleaned out his small apartment. I remember that his bank account only held a couple hundred dollars. The teller helped me close the account even though I did not have the right paperwork. She just felt that bad for me.
Left to fend for myself, I knew that I had to get serious. With a lot of hard work, I was accepted to the University of Colorado Law School despite not knowing any lawyers and, in hindsight, having only an amateur plan to prepare for and take the LSAT.
After law school, I worked at a mid-sized Denver law firm for nearly seven years. For the last 10 years, I have worked at Gordon & Rees LLP. Personally, I’ve been happily married for nearly 15 years and have two healthy boys who don’t have to struggle like I did.
My point is not to share a success story. In fact, I have a lot to learn and a long way to go. Also, it would be completely inaccurate to believe that I got here on my own, as countless people have helped me along the way.
The moral of my story is that we all have our own paths. No matter your path, unique or more traditional, the Denver Bar Association is your home. You fit in without trying. Being different is just fine. Here’s to the home that accepts us all! I look forward to serving all of you who have made it from there to here. D