"The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit."
On the heels of another inspirational and successful Breakfast With Champions, I thought it an opportune time to tell the story of how the lead gift for the KCBF 125th Anniversary endowment campaign came to be. Like all good stories, this story has a beautiful and unique human heart at its center: Anita Moceri.
While some of you may have had the privilege of knowing or working with Anita, I expect most of you did not. Anita passed away in August 2011 following a lengthy battle with cancer. In her life, Anita was a passionate, strong and bright woman. She was fluent in Italian and also spoke German, French, Spanish and some Chinese.
Anita's family was Sicilian, a fact she was immensely proud of. While she was born in Tacoma, she lived in Naples for a portion of her childhood. She returned to Washington and attended the University of Washington. Anita worked as a professional staff person on John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign as well as his inaugural committee. She then moved to New York and began her first career in international public relations.
From New York, Anita moved to San Francisco where she worked for the San Francisco Opera. In 1986, Anita returned to Tacoma and enrolled at the University of Puget Sound School of Law (now Seattle University). Thus began Anita's final and favorite career as a public defense attorney with the Associated Counsel for the Accused, commonly known as ACA.
It was in her role as a public defender that I met Anita and had the privilege of getting to know her. While we worked in different public defense offices, we both worked at the MRJC and had several cases in common. Anita was committed to her clients. She was a strong advocate who was professional, direct and skilled. Anita had a dry sense of humor and a knack for finding the humorous in almost any situation. She did not suffer fools lightly. She believed in her work and in making the world a better place. She was elegant, compassionate and competent - someone whose path I enjoyed crossing.
Upon learning of Anita's death, co-workers responded with praise for her work, her heart and her dedication:
"She had the warmest heart for her clients, friends and colleagues."
"Anita would make you feel like you were the most important person in the world. Only the best would suffice. With her clients, Anita had a dedication that few could match."
"Anita was a fearless advocate for hundreds of people who had no other voice and who had long since given up hope that anyone cared enough to try to help them. For these folks Anita was a breath of fresh air - an attorney who actually cared and was willing to fight tenaciously to defend them against often overwhelming odds."
Anita was not drawn to the spotlight - something a bit unusual for trial lawyers. While active in legal organizations, she offered her contributions in getting the day-to-day work done and in inspiring others to succeed, to be the focus. Anita's family was her aunts, cousins, friends and colleagues.
As a public defender, Anita was not a highly paid attorney. She did not choose this line of work to "get rich." She did not identify her success with how much money she earned; rather, she defined her success as impacting the lives of the less fortunate in a positive way.
That being said, prior to her death, Anita had accumulated significant savings during her "first" career in public relations. In addition, she owned two vacant land parcels in South King County. Upon her death, she left her estate, valued at $800,000, jointly to the King County Bar Foundation and the Northwest Sinfonetta. For the KCBF portion, she specified that the funds be used to support minority law student scholarships.
Anita deeply valued diversity in the legal profession and left a gift meant to nurture that value. She left us the seeds to sow an incredible forest for the future. Anita did not tell anyone at KCBA/KCBF of her gift before her death.
Her generosity was a magnificent surprise. She left her gift knowing she would not see the trees she had planted or ever rest in their shade; trusting KCBF to cultivate diversity through minority scholarships. Anita left her gift without any expectation of recognition or gratitude. It was truly a selfless gift; a gift that has inspired many of us to contribute to the endowment fund.
To all of you who have given to the endowment campaign, thank you. To those who have not, please consider doing so. The greatest gift of gratitude any of us could give Anita is to also make a gift to support her vision of a diverse legal community through minority scholarships.
And lastly, to Anita, thank you for your amazing gift and for being a role model in your work, your life and in generosity.