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Tuesday, March 8, 2005

He strove for perfection

The world has lost a great man with the passing of my former partner, Tom Deering. Reports are that he has died of a stroke suffered while skiing over in Idaho.

Tom was a most remarkable man in many respects. He was the dean of Portland pension lawyers -- a master of the notoriously complex legal, accounting, and labor law rules that surround retirement plans. In his prime, he had a list of clients as long as your arm. But he was also one of the city's greatest civic volunteers, putting in time (and doubtlessly money) with the City Club, the Girl Scouts, Catlin Gabel School, the Unitarian Church, the Art Museum, the ACLU, and many others.

As a boss, Tom was demanding, but extremely supportive and appreciative. Those of us who worked under him as young lawyers tell with relish our stories of the "Deering Decimal System," Tom's mandatory numbering system for our memos to him. There was even a template for cover letters, and associates who serviced Tom's clients quickly learned to follow it religiously. He was a stickler for detail, all right, but it became clear after a short while that a heart of gold beat beneath his no-nonsense exterior.

And nowadays, when we see hurried, sloppy work at every turn, the world could benefit from being more like him. He pulled out all the stops to get things right, all the time.

Comments (2)

I'm sorry to learn this sad news. I got to know Mr. Deering a little bit some years ago through one of the boards that wisely had elected him as chairman, where he had the rare ability of imposing order and achieving consensus while letting everyone express their opinions -- a classic "herding cats" situation. He "herded cats" better than almost anyone.

Tom Deering was a remarkable listener with a kind and sincere heart. His sudden and unexpected passing takes us all back because the chance is now gone to have Tom witness our words of respect and thanks back to him for all he did on behalf of others.

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