We celebrate the life of Avrum Gross, 82, who died of cancer on May 8, 2018 at his wilderness home in Southeast Alaska. He said
he had a "gift year" after deciding to live life to the fullest rather than spend time and energy on uncertain treatment. Av grew up in New Jersey and graduated from Amherst College and the University of Michigan Law School. He planned to join a Wall Street law firm after two years in Alaska for an adventure – and great fishing. Instead, he fell in love with the state and never left.
Governor Walker had flags lowered to honor Av's many contributions to the state. Av began his government career in 1960 at the Legislative Affairs Agency, drafting many of the brand new state's laws. He then moved to the Dept. of Law and, at age 25, successfully argued Alaska's landmark fish trap case before the US Supreme Court, the first of his five appearances there. In 1963, he joined the Juneau law firm Faulkner, Banfield, Boochever & Doogan and was named a partner in 1972.
Governor Jay Hammond appointed Av Attorney General in 1974. He became one of Hammond's most trusted advisers during a period of tremendous state growth and played a key role in nearly every major challenge, including the pipeline, Permanent Fund, federal-state-Native land issues, buy-back of Katchemak Bay oil leases, mandates for rural schools and criminal justice reform. He had a special knack for finding common ground out of discord and articulating complex issues in a clear and never condescending manner. When Av left the AG's Office in 1980, Hammond gave him a treasured fly rod engraved with his thanks.
After two years teaching at Stanford Law School, Av returned to private practice in Juneau at Gross & Burke, working primarily with state and local governments and public agencies. After 22 years, he "retired" to the wilderness lifestyle he loved to share with family and friends.
A great believer in constitutional principles, Av helped form Alaska's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union but his interests went well beyond the law. He was an initial director of the State Museum, a charter Juneau Symphony violinist and a board member and chair of Alaska Pacific Bank. A classically trained violinist turned fiddler, Av played in the first Juneau Folk Fest and with a band called "The Grateful Dads." He even won a state fiddlers championship in Haines.
Av absolutely loved living and working in Alaska. Refreshingly modest about his intellect and accomplishments, he related to everyone with respect and an often kooky sense of humor. He was quick to give encouragement and often gave free legal assistance. No public service is planned, but in Av's memory please give encouragement and help to someone who could really use it.
Av is survived by his children Jody, Alan, Elizabeth and Claire, five grandchildren, siblings Ruth and Dick, and his soul mate and partner of 20 years, Annalee McConnell. Letters to the family can be sent to Annalee's mail drop: 8991 Yandukin Drive, Suite 10, Juneau AK 99801.
Published in Juneau Empire from Jun. 24 to Jul. 23, 2018.