In Memoriam Partner Emeritus
Byron S. Krantz, KJK Founding Partner, Passes Away at 86
KRANTZ’S CAREER SPANNED MORE THAN five DECADES AND INCLUDED WORK ON CARL STOKES’ CAMPAIGN TO BECOME THE FIRST BLACK MAYOR OF A MAJOR CITY.
Byron Krantz, mentor, friend and founding partner of KJK, passed away on July 14, 2022 at the age of 86.
Byron, in partnership with Lee Kohrman and Robert Jackson, founded Kohrman Jackson & Krantz in 1984. In the decades that followed, KJK emerged as a go-to and leading law firm for individuals, entrepreneurs and established businesses.
Byron Krantz’s Life and Career
Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1935 to Esther Ghinsberg Krantz and Maurice B. Krantz, Byron grew up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio along with his sister, Treva.
Byron earned his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College in 1957. “Soon after graduation from Dartmouth College, I was lucky enough to convince Joan Liebenthal to marry me. It was the beginning of a marvelous journey through life together,” Byron shared in his self-written obituary. After seeking an advanced degree in Biology at Ohio State where he had an unfortunate run in with Woody Hayes, and a short stint at medical school where he quickly realized that he did not enjoy the sight of blood, Byron continued his education at Western Reserve University Law School (which later became Case Western Reserve University School of Law) and later graduated with his Juris Doctorate in 1962. During his time at CWRU, Byron and Joan became parents to their oldest son, Marc, and a year after commencement, Brett was born.
Shortly after graduating, Byron began working for Howard Metzenbaum’s law firm, describing it as his “dream job.” While there, he was recruited to the staff of Senator Stephen M. Young (D-Ohio) in 1965. A young lawyer at the time, Byron recalled the experience fondly:
“I was there just after the creation of Medicare and the enactment of the Civil Rights Act. It was a different time in our political history. With my Senator’s permission, I became involved with the second campaign of Carl Stokes, to become the first Black Mayor of a major city; and Bobby Kennedy’s Ohio visits as he ran for President.”
Byron Krantz: A Lasting Legacy
With a long and decorated career, Byron was undoubtedly a successful attorney and leader. Yet it was his kindness, humor and advocacy that left a lasting imprint on those who knew him.
“Byron stood for honesty and consistency. What you saw on the outside when he was in the office, or in the courtroom, was a reflection of the man on the inside who stood up for justice and all matters honest and true. Faith, family, and fealty to his fellow man and woman — regardless of age, background, or status — are the traits that I most admired,” said KJK attorney Ari Jaffe.
Three generations of Dartmouth grads | Byron, Matt and Brett
Byron with son and late KJK Managing Partner Marc Krantz golfing in St Kitts | 1986
Top Row: Ross, Byron, Michele, Tyler and Liz
Bottom Row: (Partner) Brett, Danielle, Joan, Matt and Tara (Ellen not pictured)
“To the world he was a cunning litigator; to us, he was Byby,” explained Byron’s grandchildren. “He was sweet and kind and always right…He established the Krantz Family Endowed Scholarship Fund at Case. He donated ceaselessly to causes with missions he believed in. Nobody told him to do this. He had an innate desire to serve his community with empathy.”
“When, after graduation, I saw injustice in the world, I looked to Byby for advice and guidance,” added Byron’s grandson Matt, a third-generation Dartmouth alum preparing to follow in his grandfather and father’s footsteps to become a lawyer. “Decades of stories about the man who aided civil rights protestors, bought a house for clients to bypass overt racism, and almost got my two-year-old dad arrested in a picket line let me know that through the law I could effect positive change. I aspire to be as morally upright, in both legal practice and life, as Byby was.”
Byron spent the remainder of his career with KJK, welcoming both sons, Marc and Brett, to the firm’s management before his retirement in 2015. Brett currently serves as both a Partner and a member of KJK’s executive committee. Marc served as KJK’s Managing Partner from 1999 until his untimely passing in December 2014.
Byron leaves behind his wife, Joan, his son Brett and daughter-in-law Liz, daughter-in-law Michele, six grandchildren: Ellen, Tara, Ross, Matthew, Tyler and Danielle, and numerous friends and extended family.
All of us at KJK, together with the many people whose lives he touched, will miss him deeply.
Remarks from Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk
Although Byron and I had met and were acquainted from early in my time in Cleveland in 2010. We had kibitzed and kvelled at Tara’s confirmation and Ross’ Bar Mitzvah, I really came much more personally into Byron and Joan’s circle during some of the very worst experiences they’d ever endure: when Marc’s tragic death shook so many previous sources of meaning and stability for everyone in his orbit.
As I sat with Byron in a study at temple just before Marc’s funeral, he could at first hardly get out a word to me above a whisper: and who could blame him? No parent is supposed to see the casket that carries their child. It’s just backwards. But Byron grew composed long enough to show to me (as one of Marc’s rabbis) what he had done already for so many he loved, mentored and befriended, and would continue to do since. Byron opened his heart and was generous with his words, his affection and his perspective on what made he and Joan such incredibly proud parents to their sons and grandparents to their grandchildren. It is no secret how much confidence Byron had in both Brett and Marc, Liz and Michele and how critical their happiness and integrity was to him. This became all the more clear when I called Brett the other day after learning of this profound loss, and it was clear to me that I was speaking with a son who needed no reassurance and that no words were left unspoken.
All of you here at his graveside know how Byron saw the world. But that day at temple, that horrible, terrible, no-good very bad day of Marc’s funeral and again when we consecrated a stone with his name on it it here in Mayfield Cemetery, just by saying his feelings aloud, Byron spoke the truth and constancy of his love into being in a remarkable way. I’ll never forget it. He would come to need that truth and love for himself: it would brace him the rest of his life when he’d face experiences that rendered him vulnerable. But he also knew times of strength since those most difficult days, and Byron decidedly acted in the way Jewish teachings on Tikkun Olam require. When Byron Krantz would sense or feel courage and strength, he’d gladly lend that container of strength he owned to others who might need it.
Byron’s strength was yours if you wished, on a loan without interest. I know this personally. Approximately 3 1/2 years ago, Byron called me and told me it was his turn to support me, to elicit my feelings, and to listen to my fears during the most fearful times of my adult life. He didn’t ask for permission to get personal. Byron just told me to meet him for coffee.
There we sat at Nervous Dog: Byron making me laugh even as I was only weeks into fighting a stage four aggressive cancer diagnosis and slowly sipping tea hoping to stay composed. Byron told me that while he was looking for my personal work email to reach out, he had initially googled the acronym for our synagogue, acft, and found “army fitness combat training” and that he decided he liked that better than the full name of acft, Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple. Once I had a smile on my face, he told me that he too was facing a cancer fight at that very moment, but that it was one of many he’d already faced and that he knew a thing or two about taking on this disease and that “he’d beat this one too” and that “so would I.”
He was certain of both good outcomes. Byron told me specifically what to do, articulating strategies for positive intentions and ways to beat back the demons and fears that come with mortal illness. The stability of my situation for awhile now, with no evidence of metastatic disease currently, and with equipment to fight and believe in treatment should a recurrence arise, is something I owe to the accountability demanded by Byron Krantz, who said it was essential to not let my mind wander to what destruction and havoc could come. We’d repeatedly sit several more times at Nervous Dog. He’d email me from time to time from out of town with encouragement always. Byron listened to what I was going through and then he told me that I needed something to dwell on other than making plans to support my family or organizing my work to enable cancer treatment. He said I should find a show or two to binge watch. He told me to find football games that I didn’t really care about and to call his son Brett and propose to bet on the game, and then he assured me that I would nearly always come out on top in a bet with Brett. What he wanted most for me was just to take a break and find a couple or a few hours in the company of good people like Brett with whom to share a drink or a laugh and to get my mind off of life and loss, hope and death.
Thinking back on that advice, I hope to have a long journey ahead. But all the more so: I hope to live, survive, and give to others in the sincere and generous way Byron did. I extend my sympathy to all of you. I hope to echo Byron’s advice by sharing it with others and by continuing to live by his admonitions in a way that steadies my steps, and blesses my community.
Robert Nosanchuk | Rabbi
Remembering Byron Krantz
Statement from Managing Partner Jon Pinney
It is with deep sadness that I regret to inform you of the passing of our beloved friend and KJK Founding Partner, Byron Krantz.
Byron was an influential leader, respected attorney, faithful friend and a mentor to many. It was an honor to know Byron and witness his passion for people and devotion to the community. His impact on me personally and the firm as a whole cannot be overstated; he truly left a lasting mark on everyone he touched and will be forever missed.
On behalf of the entire firm, we send our most heartfelt condolences and sympathy to Byron’s wife Joan, son and KJK Partner Brett Krantz, grandchildren Ellen, Tara, Ross, Matthew, Tyler and Danielle, along with their extended family and friends.
Remembering Byron Krantz
Tributes from the Firm
From Of Counsel Ari Jaffe
Byron was a man of incredible intelligence, ethics, and convictions. His clients and friends were loyal to him because he was fiercely devoted to them. Byron stood for honesty and consistency. What you saw on the outside when he was in the office or the courtroom was a reflection of the man on the inside who stood up for justice and all matters honest and true. Faith, family, and fealty to his fellow man and woman — regardless of age, background, or status — are the traits that I most admired. It has been an honor to be a law partner to Byron Krantz and to work closely with Byron, Marc and Brett.
Also, if I remember correctly:
- When I first joined Kohrman Jackson & Krantz in 1998 I literally trembled signing my first pleading under their names.
- Byron was asked to consider a position as a federal judge. He declined because he loved advocacy.
- Throughout his life, Byron remained politically active because he believed in the power of government to protect and improve the lives of all Americans.
- Byron dropped out of medical school because there was too much blood.
- Byron’s office (with its remote controlled door) had a huge stereo and was decorated with all manner of family and legal tributes.
- Byron loved Joan.
- Byron couldn’t stop smiling the day that Brett joined him and Marc at the firm.
- Byron taught me to drink Macallan, to survive on red licorice during long trial preparations, and to treat all employees of the firm with equal respect.
- Despite several efforts, Byron could not teach me to play golf.
- After a particularly difficult day of arbitration, Byron and I once walked to the parking lot at Progressive Field just to blow off steam and test drive new Smart cars.
- Byron encouraged the firm to take on tough clients and tough causes.
- Byron was always mindful of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz’s reputation and responsibility as one of the leading law firms in Cleveland. Our attorneys and our clients reflected our goal of improving the world.
- In April 2018, S. Lee Kohrman received the Charles Eisenman Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Jewish Federation of Cleveland. I had the pleasure of sitting between Lee and Byron that night.
From Partner Alan Rauss
I had the good fortune to practice law with Byron Krantz at KJK from 1985 until he retired from the practice in 2015. Now that he is no longer with us, I would like to share a few thoughts about what it was like to practice law with Byron.
I was not a new lawyer when I joined KJK, but I still had a lot to learn. Byron was a wonderful teacher. He taught me how to make each client think that his work was the most important work you were doing; that his project was your number one priority. Byron’s method for conveying that message to a client was simple: you need to believe it and act accordingly, even though we would always be working on multiple matters at the same time.
One of the reasons that Byron was a wonderful teacher was that he thoroughly enjoyed helping young lawyers develop their skills, through teaching, mentoring and working cooperatively. He continued those efforts throughout his career.
Byron was very smart, but he had a way of demonstrating his intellect in a manner that was neither intimidating nor condescending. One would walk away from a meeting with him saying to oneself “that was a great solution we just came up with.” It was only later that you would realize that you might never have come up with it alone.
As busy as he was, he always had time for a cup of coffee and a chat. His office was next to mine for many of our years together, and we would often spend time on Monday mornings commiserating about our weekend golf games, bemoaning the state of the Cleveland Browns, discussing the political issue of the day, etc. Byron was very involved in community activities, and he was always interested in hearing about my community interests and efforts.
Byron had a very close relationship with his wife and sons. Maybe it was for that reason that I was a bit apprehensive when I learned that his son Marc was moving back to Cleveland and would be joining KJK. Would bringing a part of the Krantz family into the KJK family be successful? I should have known better than to be concerned. Like his father, Marc was a remarkable lawyer, and was a very positive addition to the firm. The same can be said of his son Brett, who joined the firm a few years later.
A remembrance of Byron at KJK would not be complete without commenting on the horrific accident that cost Marc his life. While we were all devastated, Byron never got over the loss of his son and, understandably, lost much of his interest in the business of the firm.
I was privileged to know Byron Krantz and to be his partner. He was a superb lawyer, an excellent partner and a genuinely good person. He left the world a better place because he had been part of it. Goodbye my friend, and rest in peace.
From Senior Counsel Sarah Gabinet
I was a fairly new lawyer when Byron’s firm merged with the original “KJW” in 1985. I was so impressed with Byron—a lawyer who sported a ponytail and never wore an overcoat into the office even in winter. I learned to respect him as a whip-smart lawyer with interesting clients. He was animated and engaged, but I don’t think I ever saw him lose his cool. He believed in giving young lawyers a chance to work directly with his clients (Ari Jaffe and I tried a significant legal malpractice case against Calfee and he once left me in North Carolina to finish a TRO hearing when he needed to return to Cleveland). I also saw how much his family meant to him—his wife, his sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren. He leaves a legacy of remarkable people and that’s how he will live on.
From Partner Rob Gilmore
Byron was still actively practicing law when I joined the firm in October of 2000. I was coming from an in house position at Verizon in Dallas, and I had no clients. I doubted whether I could become a business developer. Byron encouraged me, and told me to be myself, and to have confidence in my abilities to build relationships and ultimately to bring in business. Byron’s confidence in me, along with Marc’s, was pivotal in my development. I also had the pleasure of working with Byron on a few litigation matters. I was thus able to see for myself Byron’s incredible ability to analyze a case, organize a team, provide leadership and inspiration, and to persuade the judge/arbitrator. It was something to behold. His advocacy for his client was unmatched.
I will also remember Byron, Glenlivet in hand, holding court at our firm events. He would be telling a story, maybe of the golf course, maybe of a case, maybe of a political issue—no matter what, he had his audience (KJK lawyers) spellbound. He was a story teller of the first order—no doubt one factor in making him so great with juries.
But most of all I will remember Byron at family gatherings; my family spent many a Jewish holiday with Marc’s and Brett’s families, and with Byron and Joan. It was clear that the most important thing in Byron’s life was his family—Joan, Marc, Brett, and the six grandchildren. He never seemed happier than when he was with all of them.
Byron was a role model to me, as a lawyer, a community leader and a man. I will miss him.
From Partner Steve Bersticker
I will forever remember Byron as the brilliant, exceptional gentleman who always took the time to mentor and counsel me as I developed into the attorney and the person I am today, who led by example and by doing the right thing, who relished the challenge of finding creative solutions to difficult problems, who very rarely lost his cool or his sense of humor, and who ultimately led a full and very distinguished life.
My earliest memory of Byron is from when I interviewed with him for an associate attorney position at KJK, and I expressed an interest in becoming a corporate attorney. Rather than trying to sell me on the position, he pointed out the drawbacks, like the long hours, evenings and weekends I would need to spend working on transactions. I was a little disconcerted by that at the time, but of course he was right, and later I reflected on how he had both tested my resolve and counseled me with advice about my career, before it had even begun, in the guise of that interview.
From Director Of Office Services Anthony Timko
Byron meant so much to so many people in the legal and business community, the firm, his family and friends, colleagues and to me, personally. He was a strong, smart, wise and caring man that was a role model to most everyone he knew. I give my heartfelt thanks for his personal guidance and making me the man I am today. We were all lucky to have had Byron in our lives. I will miss talking to him about life and the Browns. Rest in Heaven, Byron, we love you.
Byron with grandchildren Tyler, Tara and wife Joan in Japan