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Walter Cheifetz died on Monday, March 10th while at home with his wife Ruth. He died from a combination of ailments associated with old age. Walter died as he lived, slowly and methodically. As was Walter, he was self-less and dignified until the end.
Walter Cheifetz was born in Brooklyn, New York on July 12, 1927. He enlisted in the United States Navy during World War II. After the war the GI Bill allowed him to attend Columbia University and he majored in journalism and Spanish. He married his wife, Ruth, on November 23, 1948.
Ruth and Walter moved to Tucson, Arizona in 1949 so Walter could attend law school. In order to afford law school, Walter had four separate jobs which included tutoring athletes, selling insurance, selling wholesale liquor, and selling popcorn at football games. Walter and Ruth were so strapped for money that Walter could not afford to purchase law books, so Walter took very detailed notes of his law school lectures.
Walter graduated from the University of Arizona Law School in 1952. After graduation, Walter was hired by the Lewis and Roca law firm.
In 1962, Walter became involved in a high profile case representing Sherri Finkbine of the Romper Room TV show in her effort to obtain a legal abortion due to her having taken thalidomide which was discovered to cause birth defects.. This story became a huge issue internationally and in Arizona. Both Walter Cheifetz and Sherri Finkbine were mentioned in a Life magazine cover story, dated August 10, 1962.
Walter did a significant amount of trial work and established a reputation as a great trial attorney and as a devastating cross-examiner. Attorneys would congregate to watch his cross-examination at his trials of significance. Walter practiced with Lewis and Roca from 1952 until 1989. Walter then began volunteer legal work at the Squaw Peak Senior Center, which he continued for 13 years. Walter eventually recruited other attorneys to assist him with his work at the senior center.
During his career, Walter mentored many of Arizona's preeminent attorneys, many who eventually became politicians. Walter mentored former Governor Janet Napolitano and current Attorney General Tom Horne. On October 30, 2012, Walter Cheifetz was inducted into the Maricopa County Bar Association Hall of Fame.
Walter is survived by his wife of 65 years, Ruth Cheifetz, and by his children Carol Cochran (Jerry), Lorna Cheifetz and Steven Cheifetz (Karen). Walter enjoyed immensely his grandchildren Sarah Susbauer (Alex), Julie Balila (Nat), Grace Cheifetz, Alex Cheifetz, Sydney Cheifetz and Anastasia Cheifetz and was blessed with two great grandchildren, Caitlin and Jade.
The family wishes to offer its heartfelt gratitude to Walter's caretakers Tana, Mildred and Janet. We also wish to offer our deepest appreciation to the
for their care and support. In lieu of flowers, donations to the
would be appreciated.
Memorial services will be held at the Sinai Mortuary located at 4538 North 16th Street in Phoenix Arizona on Monday March 17 at 11 am. A reception will follow at the Terraces Viva Room located at 7550 North 16th Street at 12:30 pm
Sinai Mortuary of AZ
4538 N. 16th Street Phoenix, AZ 85016
Published in The Arizona Republic from Mar. 14 to Mar. 15, 2014