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Published: 1/11/2011

Lyman F. Spitzer, 1949-2011: Securities law expert saved city landmark

Lyman F. Spitzer, a lawyer with a specialty in securities and intellectual property protection who returned to Toledo out of allegiance to his family and its legacy and to his hometown, died Monday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township. He was 61.

Mr. Spitzer, of Perrysburg, had been dealing with multiple myeloma for more than two years, his wife, Patrice, said. He was able to work until late October.

For years, he was president of the Spitzer Building Co. and worked to preserve the landmark Spitzer Building, which at 10 stories was Toledo's first steel skyscraper when constructed in the 1890s by his great-grandfather, Adelbert L. Spitzer, a banker and financier. His great-grandfather later was responsible for the taller Nicholas Building across Huron Street.

His grandfather, Lyman Spitzer, founded the former Spitzer Paper Box Co. in Toledo.

His father, John, a longtime presence at the Spitzer Building, is a lawyer and was a named partner in the firm Marshall, Melhorn, Cole, Hummer & Spitzer.

So the choice was clear after graduation from University of Michigan law school: practice at a Washington firm, an assignment as a clerk with a federal judge there and then, he was going home.

"He always knew he wanted to be back here," his wife said. "He had an extremely strong sense of community and of carrying on the family name."

His brother Adelbert L. "Lorry" Spitzer III said: "There is nobody I knew who loved Toledo more than Lyman. He was absolutely dedicated to Toledo."

Mr. Spitzer was a trustee of the Toledo Opera Association and Historic Woodlawn Cemetery, where the family has a mausoleum.

"He supported everything he could by attending," his wife said. "He went to the Rep [Toledo Repertoire Theater]. He went to the symphony. He went to the opera. He never missed The Messiah. He loved the arts and believed in supporting them."

He was born Nov. 20, 1949, in Toledo to Lucy and John Spitzer. He grew up in Ottawa Hills and was a 1967 graduate of Maumee Valley Country Day School.

He was a 1971 magna cum laude graduate of Williams College, Williamstown, Mass., from which he received a bachelor's degree in physics.

"He loved the sciences, and he was always tinkering with things," his wife said. "He could take anything and make it work. It was amazing. Often his [legal work] interfered with his love of getting cars going."

One influence was his late uncle, Lyman Spitzer, Jr., the Princeton University astrophysicist who is regarded as the father of the Hubble Space Telescope.

As a boy in Ottawa Hills, Mr. Spitzer liked to experiment with chemistry and electronics.

He took time off between Williams College and UM law school to be a ski instructor in Aspen, Colo.

He was a 1976 graduate of UM law school.

Afterward, he worked for the Washington firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering and was a clerk for U.S. District Judge Louis Oberdorfer.

He'd been affiliated since 1980 with Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick and was a partner in the corporate practice group. He was an expert in securities law, securities transactions and issuances, and mergers and acquisitions. He knew intellectual property protection and licensing: trademarks, copyrights, and patents.

"He was kind of our go-to guy for any real hard problems because of his analytical capacity," said David Waterman, also a Shumaker Loop partner. "I like to think we have a lot of bright people, but he stood out.

"He was just wonderful to get along with. He was sweet," Mr. Waterman said, "and as smart as he was, he never made anybody else appear otherwise."

Mr. Spitzer could translate the dense, the arcane, the technical.

"Lyman was a complete master of reading the complicated documents very carefully and telling his client, 'This is exactly what it means for you,'" said his brother Lorry, who is a lawyer in Boston.

He won the acclaim of others in his practice of law while achieving a personal goal:

"He was truly hoping to get through his entire career without having to set foot in a courtroom," his wife said. He knew how to write and think through problems and come to solutions, his wife said. When it came to courtroom practice, though, "there's a sense of theater about that, and that wasn't Lyman," she said.

Life outside the law office wasn't spent poring over documents. From his childhood summers at Keewaydin, a summer canoe camp near Toronto he and his brothers attended, his leisure time was spent outdoors.

"He didn't watch sporting events on TV because he wanted to be outdoors himself," his wife said.

He canoed and kayaked and sailed the Maumee River. He was a member of the Perrysburg Boat Club.

The family spent time each summer at Crystal Lake near Frankfort, Mich., and he liked to hang glide. His car headed north often was jammed full of equipment. Hanging from the boat he towed often was a dirt bike or windsurfer, his brother said.

He had the latest outdoor backpack, but camping meant roughing it.

"No Winnebagos in our life," his wife said.

He was equally adept at social gatherings back home.

"Lyman was just a true gentleman," said Michael Galbraith, a longtime friend. "He was warm, engaging. He had a very broad knowledge and very broad interests."

Mr. Spitzer was a trustee of First Congregational Church in Toledo and served on the alumni council of Maumee Valley Country Day School, where his son, Casey, is a senior.

Surviving are his wife, Patrice, whom he married July 28, 1984, son, Lyman "Casey" Spitzer, father, John B. Spitzer, brothers, John B., Jr., and Adelbert L. III, and sister, Molly Spitzer Frost.

Memorial services will be at 11 a.m. Feb. 12 at First Congregational Church.

Arrangements are by the Witzler-Shank Funeral Home, Perrysburg.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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