John Palenberg

My good friend John Palenberg died in New York City today.

I met John when we both arrived at Harvard Law School in the fall of 1978.  We were the same age, in the same section, the group of 140 students that was together for all our classes that first year.  John, as I recall him then, was quiet, but with a sense of humor.  He formed the “North Dakota Harvard Law Association.”  The Association had only one member, John, but it had a activities, or at least announced activities.

I was pleased, when I joined Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton upon graduation, that John also joined the firm.  I did not see John much in my first few years after graduation, for he was in Tokyo and New York and I in Washington, but then in 1987, John opened the Cleary Gottlieb Tokyo office.  The Tokyo office soon got very busy, so I was “loaned” from Hong Kong to Tokyo.  That is where I met my wife, Masami, working at the time as John’s secretary.  Once I met Masami, I was happy to be loaned for long periods; I spent much of the spring of 1988 in the Tokyo office, indeed in John’s own office, because we sort of shared it, given how little space there was in the office.  It must have been at about that time that John and Chieko visited me in Hong Kong, staying in my apartment.  It was a furnished, decorated apartment, and nobody enjoyed my pink bedroom, and its many mirrors, more than John.  He enjoyed it, I hasten to add, not for improper purposes, but as a source of humor.

Then, in 1991 I think, when Masami and I were living in northern Virginia, John moved to the Cleary Gottlieb Washington office, and John and Chieko moved to a house about a mile from us in Virginia.  We saw one another often, at their house, at our house, walking between the two.  In July 1993, when my son Clancey was born, John was a clear choice to serve as one of his two godfathers.  He was a great godfather, always staying in touch with Clancey, serving as a second and perhaps better father.

I could go on and on, but I am getting sadder and sadder.  John was a good man, a good friend, a good lawyer.  He has died far too young, but he has left the world a better place.  I will try to add to this post in the next few days.