Louis was born in 1930 and grew up in Herried, South Dakota. Louis’s dad was the mayor of the small town, and also the butcher and owner of the local bar. At the age of 20, Louis joined the US Navy, and served as an Electrician’s Mate (EM) until the age of 56. He worked aboard many naval vessels throughout the world, installing and repairing anything that had to do with the electrical, lighting and power systems on board.
During this time he was married to Carolina, and they had three children- two sons and a daughter. In their free time, Louis and Carolina loved to garden, play poker, and watch the Angels and Dodgers games together. His daughter, Marie, remembers that during her Dad’s time in service, she and her family would be allowed on board the ships on several occasions: either for bon voyage parties before the ship was due to leave port or for seasonal celebrations during the holidays. She, her two brothers and her mom would get to see where he worked, meet some of his mates, and see him off for his next tour of duty.
When Louis left the Navy in 1976, he went to work as an electrician for Kaiser Steel for a year and then for California Portland Cement until 1984, when he retired. But Louis was a man that liked to be engaged, so even after retirement he volunteered at the local hardware store. He also kept himself busy by puttering in the yard, watching his grandkids, and caring for his lovely wife, who unfortunately was beginning to have the onset of Alzheimer’s and could not remember things as well as in the past. He was deeply involved with his family.
Everything quickly changed on Christmas Eve in 2007. Marie and her husband had to rush her father to the hospital. Louis was having great pain in his shoulder and couldn’t breathe. The doctors diagnosed him with pneumonia, but on his second trip to the hospital a couple weeks later, the diagnosis changed to mesothelioma.
Marie and her brothers had never heard of mesothelioma, and immediately began to do research to find out what type of cancer this was. The information they found was heartbreaking, and their story is much like others – they lost their dad less than three months later. Marie tells how difficult it was to watch her dad suffer and not be able to do anything to help him. He was allowed to go home and his daughter and family members took care of him day and night, with minimal support from Hospice, until the moment he died.
As I speak with Marie about her father, we both get tears in our eyes. We had to stop for a moment before going on. She and I talk about how even though it hurts to remember, that more so it feels like honoring her dad to talk about him – honoring his life and what he gave while he was here. He was a good man.
Louis was the type of man who insisted on helping pay for his grandson to go to a good school. More than anything, he wanted to make sure his wife and children and grandchildren were well taken care of. He was a frugal man, and often shared how important it was that he leave something behind so that they would not have to worry. He had set up bonds and savings accounts, and often apologized that he wasn’t able to do more. Marie talks about other little things he did that showed how kind and generous a father and grandfather he was.
When I ask Marie what she felt was most significant and helpful about receiving settlement money from her father’s mesothelioma lawsuit, she answers, again with tears, “It wasn’t the money, you know. It was the way that you all treated him, what you did for him, the way you helped me, my brothers and my mom. I know that even though he died before it ended, that somehow up there he knows. And that was just as much justice as the money. We felt so blessed to end up with such a great group of people – Barry, John, Steve, and everyone else at the office- they were so kind to us during that whole time.”
She also shares that sometimes she feels anger. The more her brothers and her found out that their father’s mesothelioma could have been prevented had he been protected from exposure to asbestos, the more unfair they feel knowing he could have lived another 15 to 20 years. When Marie thinks of this, she feels some sense of justice that the defendants had to pay for her father’s death. She also knows that her dad would be glad that she and the family were well taken care of financially by the large settlements they received.
Marie’s mom moved in with her and her husband right after Louis died, and continues to be in their care to this day. They are a committed and loyal family.
Marie wrote this letter to us:
January 25, 2011
Dear Clapper, Patti, Schweizer & Mason,
I just wanted to take a small portion of your time as I know you and everyone at your firm are very busy. I hope this letter finds you well. I am sending…this note telling all of you how wonderful you have been. These mere words cannot express my family’s gratitude for all you have done.
We all are forever thankful for each and every single one of you who have worked on my father’s case. The care and concern goes above and beyond what we ever could have expected. I know he is looking down on all of you with gratitude as well.
The loss of my dad was a horrific and traumatic experience. Your firm brought a small feeling of justice to his life. It goes without saying that we would rather have our father here.
First, I wanted to tell you how sweet John Mason was with my mother (diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia) at her first ever deposition. The moments of kindness he showed to her are unforgettable. Second I wanted to tell you how wonderful Erica was. Not only did she show sympathy, care and concern as well she took time out of her busy day to send me an email on Veterans’ Day, thanking my father for his years of service to our great country. I will keep that email forever.
Lastly, a huge thank you to Barry for taking such good care of us when we did our deposition in Oakland. I had never done one and was very nervous and although you weren’t physically holding my hand, I knew you were there for me.
Thank you for all you have done
What we say back to Marie is that she, her dad, her mom, her brothers and family, have touched our lives just as much, and we are grateful we were able to help and to make life after loss a little easier.