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Hans F. Loeser

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Hans F. Loeser Obituary
Longtime Cambridge resident Hans F. Loeser died May 15th at his retirement home in Canton MA from complications of cancer. He was born in 1920 in Kassel, Germany where his parents owned and ran a downtown department store. Fearing the rise of the Nazis, his parents sent him out of Germany in 1937 to Stoatley Rough, a school for refugees outside London. He met and fell in love with his future wife Herta Lewent there in 1937. Hans travelled by ship to New York in 1940 where he reunited with his parents who had barely escaped from Germany via Holland and Palestine. Loeser volunteered for the US Army in 1942. He was part of the Ritchie Boy program for native German-speaking soldiers deemed especially valuable for intelligence work. Not satisfied with intelligence work alone, Hans volunteered for the 82nd Airborne Division and participated in the battles at Nijmegen and the Battle of the Bulge. In 1944 Hans was offered a special leave by his commanding officer to fly back to the UK from the battlefront to marry Herta. The honeymoon was short. In the post-war period Hans served as Chief of Section in the US Military Government for Bavaria. In that position he was heavily involved in De-Nazification programs. In all of their spare hours Hans and Herta used their connections, resources and language skills to reunite families that had scattered all over the world. In 1947 Hans and Herta settled in Cambridge Massachusetts. Hans was accepted into Harvard Law School and graduated magna cum laude in 1950. He was proud to be one of the last students admitted to the Law School without an undergraduate college degree. He always speculated that his admission was at least partially based on the strength of a letter of recommendation from his commanding general, and the fact that Hans was able to wear his full military uniform to his campus interview. At the Law School he was an Editor and Officer of the Harvard Law Review. After graduation Hans and Herta travelled across the US considering where they would like to live, but ultimately decided Cambridge was the ideal place to settle and raise a family. Hans joined the Boston law firm of Foley, Hoag & Eliot in 1950, then a small firm of about ten lawyers. An institution builder, he was soon given a role in the management of the firm, and eventually became one of the firms Managing Partners, and Chairman of the firms Executive Committee. In those roles, Hans continued and augmented the firms proud tradition of hiring solely on the basis of merit, without consideration of race, creed or religiona tradition begun at Foley long before it became the law of the land. Under his leadership, the firm grew to over 200 lawyers. Hans managed largely by example. He set high standards for himself and inspired their adoption by others. He was directly involved in hiring and then mentoring new attorneys. He was respected and beloved by numerous generations of lawyers both within and outside the firm. His legal interests extended well beyond the business side of the firm. In the 1960s, he responded to a call from President Kennedy for greater involvement by law firms in the civil rights movement, and helped found, and later chair, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under Law of the Boston Bar Association. Hans was directly responsible for Foley Hoags establishment of one of the first and most successful pro-bono programs in the nation. He staunchly defended the firms pro-bono commitment to cases as important and controversial as the representation of the plaintiffs in Bostons school desegregation case and the representation of draft resisters during the Vietnam War. With his unflagging support, Foley Hoag and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights successfully prosecuted the Boston School Desegregation Case. With the funds later awarded to Foley Hoag for its victory in that case, the firm established the Foley Hoag Foundation in 1980. Since its inception the Foundation has awarded grants of over $1.5 million to over 250 local organizations. It is the only foundation in Boston to focus exclusively on the improvement of race relations. Hanss high profile organizing against the Vietnam War as the Chair of the Boston Lawyers Vietnam Committee led to his inclusion in Richard Nixons 1971 Enemies List. In 1981, he helped start the Lawyers Alliance for Nuclear Arms Control, which later became the Lawyers Alliance for World Security. Hans served on the Counsel of the Boston Bar Association and the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers, and was a lifelong member of the American Civil Liberties Union. Hans served on many civic boards including the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, the International Student Association, the Shady Hill School, the James Jackson Putnam Center, the Cambridge Civic Association and the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts. In 2007 he was the recipient of the Give Liberty a Hand award from the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA). On the occasion of receiving the MIRA award he said of himself: Since the day I became a citizen in 1942 I have publicly argued with my government on issues of war, nuclear arms, and civil rights. I have cherished the right to do so, as well as our fundamental values of fairness, equity and justice. In recent years Hans wrote Hanss Story, a highly personal memoir that carries him from his life as a young Jew in between-war Germany to emigration to England and the United States, and then back to Germany with the United States Army. Details at: http://loeserbook.com/ Hans spent many weekends and part of most summers at the summer cottage he built in Chilmark, MA in 1957. He was a Founding Member of the Vineyard Open Land Foundation. Hans was an avid skier into his 80s. A lifelong gadget and technology enthusiast, he was certainly one of the oldest early adopters of the new iPad, which he used for skyping with his grandchildren in the last weeks of his life. Hans is survived by his wife of 65 years, Herta Loeser, his children Helen, Harris and Tom, eight grandchildren and his sister Lisel Fontana. No flowers please. Donations in his honor can be made to Doctors Without Borders or the Foley Hoag Foundation

Published in The Cambridge Chronicle from May 18 to May 25, 2010
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