Denver Bar Association
July 2000
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Phil Dufford (1924-2000)

by Diane Hartman


One of the bar association's finest is remembered in eulogy. 

The pews were full at Phil's memorial service--every person there could have contributed a story or some words of praise.

Law partner Tom Brown called Phil a Renaissance Man. "He was not only an outstanding law student, but he remained a student of the law his entire career. He reveled in legal analysis, both as a practicing lawyer and as a judge on the Colorado Court of Appeals. As Judge Bob Kapelke has observed: 'People still talk about what a great writer and legal analyst he was.'"

Phil was a determined advocate, Tom said, with great presence in the courtroom, but he also knew how to say "no" to clients when his principles and ethics required it.

"I was fortunate to have practiced my entire legal career with Phil and, along with so many others, to have had him as my mentor, role model and friend. I can't think of any lawyer with whom I would rather celebrate a success or suffer a defeat, than Phil."

Tom added that, like any law practice, the firm would have blunders that seemed irreversible. But invariably things turned out okay, and Phil, a gifted painter and terrific cartoonist, would commemorate the foul-up with an appropriate cartoon.

Phil was especially "considerate" of his staff, Tom said. "On more than one occasion my other partners and I, while on desperate deadlines, were surprised to learn our secretaries had been sent home by Phil, who had unilaterally (and prematurely) declared a 'snow day.' He even tried to do it in May, but fortunately was not successful."

Miles Cortez, former partner with Phil and longtime friend, talked about Phil as the consummate gentle man. "He was full of grace, dignity and humility. He was so gracious and humble that I often wondered whether he ever comprehended the extent and significance of the man he became."

Remembering how Phil anticipated April Fool's Day, Miles related a now-famous story. In 1977, Miles' secretary set up a meeting on April 1 with a new Middle Eastern client to discuss an oil project. Feeling unsure, Miles told Phil the situation and Phil promised to help. "April 1 came and, sure enough, the client arrived. He was a striking gentleman in full Arabian regalia with the white burnoose, headband, beads, and yes, sunglasses. He greeted me and introduced himself as Abdul Bin el Said or something, and we exchanged bows. As we left the reception area, I was thinking how impressed Phil was going to be by this new client I had brought into the firm. Halfway back to my office, Abdul revealed an ignorance of Arab formality when he put his arm around my shoulder and said, with a big smile, 'Hiya kid.' Dufford, my revered mentor, had just had young Miles for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I will always be Phil's April Fool."

Phil's oldest son Andy talked about Phil as an involved, kind, and joyful father. One of his memories: One spring, Cherry Creek was running high and Phil mail ordered a big yellow canoe. It arrived, but when Phil yelled for the boys, his wife Kathy barred the door. They had no paddles, no life jackets. The next weekend, paddles and jackets had arrived and there was no stopping them. Andy said: "Just recently I've learned canoes have both a front and back end. I've learned that life jackets are actually worn on the body. And I've learned there are canoeing techniques." But then--they just plunged in. Within minutes, younger brother Jody was begging to be let out. In a few more moments, the boat was swamped. Hanging onto the canoe, Andy saw a pair of shoes floating by upside down and thought "I wonder if Dad is in those shoes?" Being Phil's son was just so much fun, Andy said.

Miles ended by saying: "In the course of each of our lives come a precious few individuals who leave an indelible mark. For those of us in this sanctuary, and hundreds more, Phil was such an individual.

"God bless you, Phil."



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