Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Small gestures helped define Mark Lipinski


Anderson: Bradenton attorney was more than long hours he worked

Small gestures helped define Mark Lipinski

Published: Tuesday, July 19, 2016 at 12:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 19, 2016 at 12:45 p.m.

Bradenton attorney Mark Lipinski died July 14. HERALD-TRIBUNE ARCHIVE / 2001 / THOMAS BENDER
Angel Colonneso and Mark Lipinski were standing outside the Manatee County Judicial Center one night when a storm approached. She didn't have an umbrella so he gave her his.

It's funny, but you spend your whole adult life working incessantly, nights and weekends, pouring your heart into your career, trying so hard to make something of your life that it actually contributes to your death, and in the end that's not what defines you at all.

Instead, it's a small gesture. One like giving someone an umbrella, or sending a sympathy card with a poem attached inside to someone whose dog has died, as Lipinski once did for Colonneso.

Lipinski's passing last week at 65 shocked many in the Bradenton community. He was a tremendous defense attorney, and it's true, people were quick to praise his intellect and tireless work habits, but his life was seen as more than all the cases he successfully handled, and perhaps that would have surprised him a bit to know.

Longtime friend and attorney Adam Tebrugge started a blog where people left their remembrances of Lipinski, and while Colonneso — Manatee County clerk of circuit court — mentioned the sympathy card and umbrella it was interesting to note that she wrote nothing about his work.

People wrote about Lipinski's love for Patti Smith and Warren Zevon songs, his fondness for Werner Herzog movies, the time as a frat boy he raced down the street on top of a piano.

A man thanked him for being there when his grandparents died, and another person remembered how the entire Manatee County Sheriff's Office — out of respect — helped him look for his elderly father, Stan, who went missing from a grocery store. Yet another remembered how he agonized over writing the obit for his father, who died in 2014, and how lonely he felt without him.

Tebrugge also remembers many things beyond work, like how much he read. He says his shelves were filled not only with law books, but sea-shanty-type stories. He loved listening to the cast recording of the musical "Hamilton," too.

Whenever Lipinski walked into Aces Lounge in Bradenton, which was only about five times a year, he was treated like a rock star. In fact, he had a VIP lifetime pass given to him by owner Rene Bennett for helping her when legal problems arose.

When Tebrugge was in a career transition stage in 2009, Lipinski let him use an office upstairs in the iconic building he owned in downtown Bradenton, and never asked for rent.

Tebrugge learned about Memphis Minnie, a famous blue guitarist, from Lipinski. He remembers how happy he was when Herzog, the famous German movie director, appeared in Sarasota and Lipinski was able to get a photo taken with him. It was one of the best days of his life.

Lipinski loved dogs, including his own, Arlo, who was always around the office. If Lipinski was talking to a client and Arlo wanted to go out, then the client would have to tell Lipinski the case details as he threw a ball to the dog in back of the office. One time, Tebrugge remembers, Arlo threw up on a client.

Tebrugge also recalls how Lipinski would often stop at a nursing home and play cards with his father, who had grown very ill.

“It was tough on Mark to watch his dad deteriorate," Tebrugge says. “We had a serious talk once and one of Mark's comments was, 'Adam, there are worse things than death.' While I'm very sad to lose my friend I also reflect upon that.

“I know Mark wouldn't have wanted that for himself."

Attorney Scarlett Guy, who worked alongside Lipinski at his firm, wrote: “I just want him to tell me one more story. I just want to sit in his car listening to the Hamilton CD or talk about how on our next Vegas trip we were going river rafting.

“He was truly the biggest man in any room I have ever been in and that void is beyond filling."

On Tuesday night, at the old Manatee County Courthouse, a celebration of life was scheduled for the lawyer who worked harder than almost anybody in town.

Rain was in the forecast, and Mark Lipinski, most certainly, would have brought an umbrella.
Chris Anderson can be reached
Published in the Sarasota Herald Tribune, July 20, 2015

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