August 2014 Bar Bulletin
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Profile / Mary Jo Newhouse

The Grapes of Worth

By Stephen C. Ellis and Christopher H. Howard


Every community needs them; well-run communities are privileged to have several - the practical, effective, quiet people who never seek the limelight, preferring instead to just do whatever it takes to improve their community.

These are the "Can Do" people, the ones whose names are written on a community leader's short list of those to call upon when something needs doing. Mary Jo Newhouse, the immediate past president of the Board of Trustees of the King County Bar Foundation (KCBF), is such a person.

Each of the authors has been privileged to call her partner and friend, and to benefit from her ready willingness to undertake any task regardless of its nature, her deep-seated sense of responsibility and common sense, and her capacity for team building. She has a steadfast commitment to whatever she undertakes, and tackles each task with smiles and a self-deprecating sense of humor. When finished, she distributes all resulting kudos to everyone else involved, retaining none for herself.

Even without her duties as KCBF president, this past year would have been quite special for Mary Jo and her husband, Harold Brandford. Their daughter, Elena, completed her second year at Stanford University School of Medicine and was recently married. Their oldest son, Austen, graduated from Columbia Law School and accepted a job with a prestigious New York firm. And their youngest son, Marcus, graduated from Occidental College and is about to embark on his next adventure. During all of this, she carried on her duties as a shareholder at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt, while Harold pursued his career as an anesthesiologist.

Having grown up in Sunnyside, Mary Jo instinctively understands the importance of humility and community. While the wide, eastern Washington sky teaches that individual initiative is the best way to move beyond its horizons, it also preaches the value of cooperation - for everything and everyone in residence under such a sky serves a necessary role in its ecosystem and survival is best achieved by working in concert.

Anyone looking down from atop the ridges that frame the Yakima Valley where she was born and raised, is always reminded that they are only one actor within the entirety of what can be seen and of the truth of Aristotle's admonition that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Geography was only one major influence during Mary Jo's childhood. She grew up on a working-family farm, the fifth child in a close-knit family of seven. Life on the farm, loving parents and the Calvinist tradition in which she was raised instilled in her a deeply ingrained work ethic, a strong moral foundation, a commitment to social justice and a belief in helping others. These values fit naturally with her service on the KCBF Board.

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