Hudspeth in Wilton: Missing a dear friend

Stephen Hudspeth

Stephen Hudspeth

Staff / Hearst Connecticut Media

I’m missing a dear friend. Anthony Kahn, for many years a Westport resident, and I were law partners until we both retired at the end of 2004 from the same NYC law firm where we had practiced together for 2½ decades. Tony was a corporate partner and I a litigation partner, and we often worked together on cases. We became very close over the years and that friendship has continued through all of the years since then. Tony was diagnosed with stage-4 pancreatic cancer late this fall and died on the first night of Hanukkah.

We met together over a meal here early this fall on his and his wife Joanne’s transition from their Florida home to their home on Cape Cod. He appeared hail and hardy then — the Tony I’ve always known and respected enormously: a highly skilled adventurer in a huge range of things legal, business and athletic -- essentially everything he undertook, and he undertook so much! He did all of those things with his whole huge heart and with the thoughtfulness and caring that everyone around him knew was emblematic of Tony. His smile would light up a room and his great spirit would bring a strong sense of warmth to even the coldest and toughest of settings.

I remember Tony’s regular annual service as a very engaging Santa Claus (though without the appropriate girth...). We sang together, really belting out those lyrics, in the firm’s ad hoc “chorus” for the holidays. A very special memory indeed, especially at this time of year.

Our work together took us to Paris more than a few times and I always marveled at Tony’s ability to conduct complex business negotiations in a language not his native one, something I couldn’t begin to accomplish with my tin ear for all languages but my mother tongue.

Then there was the flight in his twin-engine Cessna back from a business meeting where he unintentionally piloted us across what turned out to be restricted airspace post-9/11. I wasn’t worried though, because I had full confidence that if we had to elude the jet fighters sent to intercept us or to negotiate with their pilots to hold their fire, no one could do it better than Tony — after all, for anyone who could confidently hang off cliffs on a rope line, a little aeronautical adventure was a walk in the park! We also had several fun nautical adventures boating over to the firm’s outings on the North Shore of Long Island and then finding our way back late at night to safe harbor in good old Connecticut.

There were, of course, the regular adventures in law practice that were sometimes more challenging even than aerial duels, navigating the Sound at night or rappelling off rocky ledges, but through which we’d know we had each other’s backs — and with me knowing that there was no better law partner and friend with whom to face challenges of any sort with than Tony.

Tony brought to his post-retirement entrepreneurial adventures his wide knowledge of the law and his skill in applying it and at the same time a strong business leader’s balance and judgment to keep the enterprise on course and positive yes, for sure, but always tempered with those absolutely necessary reminders to colleagues of sometimes harsh and ever-changing realities. With that abiding sense of optimism cradled, though, in (and tempered by) the lawyer’s firm sense of groundedness in reality, Tony always tackled life head on, living it to the fullest.

If admiration is a repeated theme here, that’s because it has been a constant part of knowing Tony. I grew up without a brother, but if I’d had one, I wish it were him. In fact, though, he was like a brother to me for over three decades: a trusted confidante, one on whom I could always rely, knowing that the rewards of it would be “ever greening” in the joy of learning about Tony’s latest exploits and of hearing him tell of his love and appreciation for his wonderful Joanne and their great children and grandchildren and their own impressive adventures and accomplishments — in the joy of simply being in his company.

Tony continually showed those around him how life should be for everyone: richly and fully lived, drawing the best from it every step of the way and making it the best also for those of us so greatly fortunate to be part of his exuberant embrace of all that life has to offer.