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MEEKER I Frank Cooley claims he retired from active practice last winter.
His law partner, Trina Zagar-Brown, isn’t so sure.
“Are you officially retired yet, Frank?” Zagar-Brown asked jokingly over a recent lunch.
Cooley, who turned 86 in June, has “retired more and more,” Zagar-Brown said.
After a distinguished career, Cooley earned the right to go out on his own terms, said Zagar-Brown, who knows Cooley well and regularly looks in on him.
“Frank is always a gentleman,” Zagar-Brown said. “Even when he is redirecting or correcting you, it is with a gentle voice and a kind heart. He is respectful even when he is brutally honest. He occasionally is honest to a fault, or at least articulates things that are true, but a little prickly when said out loud.”
She continues to marvel at the man.
“He is a man of vision. He sees no bounds to what can be done, with the law, in politics, in starting projects,” Zagar-Brown said. “His mind is not contained by conventional boundaries. It is that intellectual confidence to know no boundaries that allowed him to reach such great heights in his career.”
Cooley epitomizes what a lawyer should be, she said.
“He shared with me and honors the concept of the ‘gentleman lawyer,’” Zagar-Brown said. “He is an honor to our profession. He loved being a small-town lawyer, knowing people, knowing their business, knowing the gossip of the courthouse and the town.”
Zagar-Brown remembers when she was first introduced to Cooley. She was looking for a summer job in Meeker, so she could be around her boyfriend, Erik Brown, now her husband.
“Christine Halandras suggested I try to get a job with Frank for the summer. I said, ‘Is he still alive? Is he still working?’ Frank never let me show him my résumé. He talked to me about what it meant to be a lawyer. He said he didn’t need to see my résumé. He felt young people didn’t have an appreciation for the humanities anymore and that if I could recite a poem that I could have a job for the summer.
“So, I gave some poem about Civil War graveyards. I bull…… my way through, and Frank gave me a job for the summer,” Zagar-Brown said. “So Frank doesn’t even know, actually, that I’m a lawyer yet.”
After earning a law degree from the University of Kansas and passing the bar exam in 1999, Zagar-Brown returned to Meeker and joined Cooley’s law practice, which still bears his name.
Zagar-Brown learned many lessons from Cooley.
“I learned more about grammar having Frank correct my letters, because I wouldn’t send a letter out until I had Frank proofread it,” she said.
For Zagar-Brown, Cooley has been a mentor, and much more.
“I am grateful to him for his unyielding professional generosity with me,” she said. “He shared his office, his experience, his wisdom and his profession with me. Conceptually, he pulled up a chair and sat me next to him at the western Colorado lawyers’ table — he put me in the mix, and I am forever grateful.
“Maybe, most importantly, he was more than my mentor, he is my friend.”