Comments: Memories of Sid Lezak

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Alison Kelley, Portland OR   05/04/06
From the Oregon State Bar ADR Section
May 2, 2006 To the Family of Sidney I. Lezak Dear Muriel and Members of Sid’s Family: On behalf of the Oregon State Bar’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Section, I write to convey to you our love, sympathy and sadness at Sid’s passing. We join you in celebrating Sid’s remarkable life and work. Many of us were fortunate to have known and worked closely with Sid. Of all the well-recognized, impressive accomplishments throughout his career, we are especially grateful for Sid’s passionate commitment to fostering alternative dispute resolution throughout the State of Oregon. Widely believed to be the “father” of ADR in Oregon, Sid initiated the formation of the first Bar-related committees on ADR in the State. He started the Federal Bar ADR Committee in 1985 and then chaired the Oregon State Bar ADR Committee shortly thereafter. He chaired the Oregon Advisory Council on Dispute Resolution in 1987, which preceded the Oregon Dispute Resolution Commission. His extensive service on panels of the American Arbitration Association, the Arbitration Service of Portland, and U.S. Arbitration and Mediation was indicative of his tireless commitment. Sid’s acute intelligence and exceptional competence permeated all his activities. Those gifts were enhanced by his magnetic personality and genuine interest in others. We are deeply grateful for Sid’s unequalled willingness to mentor others interested in learning about mediation. He created opportunities for many of us to participate in his sessions in order to observe, learn, and grow. Sid was uniquely gifted in turning small opportunities into enduring relationships. In Aristotle’s words, “Friendship is community, and as we are in relation to ourselves, so we are in relation to a friend.” It may well be Sid’s capacity for building friendships that we will miss the most. Sid was the embodiment of generosity. The author, William Kittredge, in his book Generosity, wrote that “Generosity is the endless project.” Sid engaged endlessly in that project. Inspired by the frescoes of Fra Angelica in Florence, Kittredge also wrote “turn your life into a gift, and then pour it out to others and thus to yourself as you prepare to vanish.” Sid did that, in the mediation community and in the community of our American democracy. Now he has departed, but his traces and his legacy are everywhere. We are profoundly grateful for the gift of Sid, and for you, his family. We are proud that the ADR Section created The Sidney Lezak Award for Excellence in ADR in 1996. He was the first recipient of that award, which is designed to acknowledge excellence in the field of Alternative Dispute Resolution. The award will be one way in which we carry on his legacy. Our contribution to the Campaign for Equal Justice in his name will be another way to honor his life and work. On a broader scale, we will resolve to extend his legacy by mirroring his example: promoting conflict resolution in many forms, mentoring those interested in the field, and creating opportunities for building long-lasting friendships. We both mourn his passing and celebrate his life with deepest gratitude. Thank you, Muriel, and all the members of Sid’s family, for sharing him with us all these years. Alison S. Kelley Chair Alternative Dispute Resolution Section Oregon State Bar

Mike Roberts, San Diego CA     05/01/06
Sid Lezak
Thanks Jay for capturing the soul of this "beautiful" man. I spent many evenings at the dinner table with Sid and Muriel during IAM conferences. They made me feel like an adopted son. Sid (and Muriel) modeled what it means to live life to the fullest right up to the end. Its exactly the life I hope for myself. The suprise of Sid's death hit me like a ton of bricks. His loss is very personal to me. I could never write the words as elequently as Jay but I wanted to give the biggest tribute to Sid that I possibly could. His death leaves a big hole in my life which will be difficult to fill. I think his affect on me and the loss I feel best quantifies the measure of this man and the tripute I wanted to give. Jay's article helped me start my own grief process and for that I thank him.

Kevin  Forrester   04/30/06
It was my privilege to know Sid Lezak, if only briefly, through my involvement with the IAM. I am writing this to supplement the record of Sid's life that I have seen widely published since his death (except for Robert Benjamin's wonderful interview of Sid available on, which I commend to you). Sid Lezak served in the Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1945 and he deserves to be remembered, and honored, for this service as well as for his many other remarkable accomplishments. Sid was a World War II aviator as a teenager. He was a decorated veteran by the age of 20. Sid's service during these years both formed and revealed his character. And Sid is revered, and loved, and will be remembered, not because of any single act or accomplishment of his lifetime, but because he was a man of character. So, as you remember Sid, and as you pray for him, please thank him for this first of many selfless acts committed by him on behalf others, on behalf of his country, and on behalf of you.

Deborah Sword, Calgary AB   04/27/06
Thanks to Jay and Robert for the memories of Sid; but unless you are woman, there was a side of Sid you didn't know. No one appreciated women mediators as much as Sid. Scorning political correctness, Sid flirted shamelessly to bring out the best in his women 'mentees' as he loved to call us. He enjoyed sparring with women and delighted when they matched his wit and knowledge. Sexist? Proudly so. Ahead of his time? Assuredly.

Geoff Sharp, Wellington New Zealand     04/25/06
Sid Lezak, Kiwi
I have wonderful memories of Sid and Murial downunder in New Zealand this last Christmas when we had lunch and walked down memory lane. Sid had a fondness for my country that few feel. After lunch we went visiting the new American Ambassador who Sid knew from Portland. I knew (and soon so did the Ambassador) Sid was checking up on him to make sure he making the right start. It was in the nature of a caring elder/young upstart conversation. For a blog of that visit go to; Funny, as I sit here in California waiting for a plane to IAM's spring meet in Boston, I have a lapel pin in my bag in the shape of a kiwi intended for Sid to let him know he was one of us.

Tracy L. Allen IAM President, Southfield MI   04/25/06
Our profession has lost a pilgrim and leader in peacemaking. Sid's perseverance under six different Presidential administrations is a testament to his civility, inclusiveness and open heart. His years of public service to both state and federal institutions, and to the private sector in his "retirement" as a gifted mediator, are but small pieces of the grandness of this man. The International Academy of Mediators was privileged to have Sid as one of our first Fellows. His spirit and contributions to the IAM and to our field are ever lasting. We mourn his passing while we celebrate his life, and the honor of calling him one of our own.

Eric Galton, Austin Tx   04/25/06
A True World Citizen
I recall meeting Sid Lezak for the first time almost 15 years ago. I was attending my first ABA conference. I had been advised by Kim Kovach that "I had to meet Uncle Sid." I understood that Sid possessed an unbelievable mind; but, what you discovered about Sid Lezak less than 60 seconds after meeting him is that he also possessed a beautiful, wonderful, magical, and inspirational soul. "Kindness" does not do justice to his spirit. The thirty minutes with Uncle Sid I was fortunate to get two or three times a year always helped define why I was involved in dispute resolution. If I was ever half as good as Uncle Sid, I would have considered it a blessing. We are in debt to a great man who so profoundly influenced us and our profession. Knowing my dear colleague, Sid Lezak, I would guess he would hope we celebrate his passing with joy and rededicating ourselves to the pursuit of peacemaking. We will miss his wonderful company.

Jeff Krivis, Encino CA   04/24/06
Memories of Sid Lezak
"Those who have a mentor in life are truly fortunate. The path of mentor and disciple is one that leads to personal development and growth. Those without a mentor may appear free and unbeholden to anyone, but without a solid standard or model on which to base themselves, their lives become aimless and wandering." ---Daisaku Ikeda I am inspired by the relationship between Folberg and Lezak. Having known Sid for 10 years, I only wish I was as lucky as Jay to have him as my mentor. Sid was a guy who lived life to the hilt, expressing curiosity about everything, and feeling free to express himself about anything. Sid was, as Robert Benjamin likes to refer to as "authentic." Sid's passing is a major loss to all of us.

Jim Melamed, Eugene OR   04/24/06
Uncle Sid
I want to thank Jay Folberg for sharing his memories of Sid Lezak. I too want to say that I owe much that I have achieved to Sid. Sid asked me to help him draft the first Oregon State Bar Continuing Education Handbook on Mediation. Sid supported my appointment (at the tender age of 29) to the first Oregon Dispute Resolution Council and Commission. In 1996, when we birthed the idea of, most folks, certainly the "older generation" just said "huh?" When I shared the idea of with Sid, he asked if he could make a financial investment(and did). Now that is support! It is impossible for me to share how important Sid was in my life. The only way I can imagine providing proper thanks is to embrace Sid's zest for mentoring and life with the heart and delight that Sid so generously shared with so many. I strongly encourage each of you (with a broadband connection) to watch and listen to Robert Benjamin's recent hour long interview with Sid. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed. You can click here for more about Sid and to watch this wonderful video. Jim Melamed, CEO