In Remembrance of Dan Gazan, Esq.
CMG honors lawyer Dan Gazan, Esq., gone now nearly 10 years, by reprinting the following article (previously published in The Nassau Lawyer shortly after his death in late 2001).
A Celebration of Life: Dan Gazan, Esq.
By Richard D. Collins
DANIEL B. GAZAN
If we are very lucky, somewhere along the journey from this life to the next we meet a person of such exceptional strength, courage and character that he lives forever in our heart and memories. The dynamic Dan Gazan was such a person. A civil rights litigator and a member of the Nassau County Bar Association’s Civil Rights Committee, Dan fought for victims of discrimination in the workplace. Most of his clients were New York City police officers and firefighters. Committed to eliminating discrimination in both the public and private sectors of employment, Dan twice testified before the New York City Council on the subjects of employment discrimination and sexual harassment within New York City agencies. He was often quoted in the press regarding the noteworthy cases he was handling.
Born in Michigan, New York was Dan’s adopted home state. He was a graduate of the Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law School, where he had been a moot court star and had won many trial advocacy awards. He was the 1997 Champion of the National Institute of Trial Advocacy Competition, and received the 1996 American Jurisprudence Award for Academic Excellence. His advocacy skills and keen intellect were amazing. Dan loved the law and was immensely proud of being a lawyer.
To initially encounter Dan in court must have been terrifying to his adversaries. At six foot four and 280 pounds of solid muscle, Dan was probably the world’s most physically intimidating lawyer. He was a fearless warrior who never, ever, backed down from a challenge in or out of court. “Dan, whom I came to consider as a kind of adopted son, never gave up,” said Jeff Goldberg of the Elmhurst law firm of Jeffrey L. Goldberg, P.C., for whom Dan worked for five years. “Not even at the very end, when he knew the end of life was near. He had the heart of a lion, befitting his size and strength.” But despite his zest for winning, he was a surprising stickler for the rules, whether in sports or the law.
A long-time bar bouncer at Finley’s in Huntington, Dan was accomplished in American and Thai boxing and was a martial arts expert. He also played semi-pro football for the Brooklyn Mariners in Marine Park, Brooklyn, as the starting strong-side Defensive End. I have personally seen videotape of the man wrestling a 1,200-pound brown bear. Staged as an exhibition match, nobody expected much of a challenge to the enormous animal. Except Dan, who was always out to win. Stunned by the strength and ferocity of its opponent, the bear was nearly pinned down at the start of the match and, despite its best efforts, was ultimately unable to pin Dan.
Dan particularly loved his time in the gym, and his enthusiasm for the challenge of the weights was infectious. His customary greeting consisted of an excited bear hug that nearly sent me to the chiropractor on many occasions. Even in a place where colorful characters are the norm, “Thunder Dan” stood out. Not partial to warming up, Dan noisily attacked the weights with a combination of glee and fury. Even sick and suffering the effects of experimental chemotherapy, Dan would work out with barbell poundages few could handle.
As tough and physically intimidating as Dan was, he was also the most infectiously enthusiastic and friendly extrovert I’ve ever met. His Midwestern gregariousness and cheerful disposition left a lasting mark not only on his colleagues but even on courtroom opponents. Dan was known and loved by many of the lawyers, clerks and court personnel with whom he interacted, and by many of his clients, one of whom, a police officer, named her first-born child after Dan. In the shopping plaza adjacent to his office, Dan was known as the “Mayor of the Mall.” He was immensely kind-hearted and caring.
Dan’s character was typified by his response to the events of September 11th. Only days after his fourth “stem to stern” abdominal surgery and still stitched and on bed rest, Dan defied his doctors and managed to get himself to Ground Zero soon after the towers collapsed to bear hug those firefighters and police officers he knew. He stayed to dig through the rubble for his lost friends for the next day and a half without a break, leaving only for his necessary cancer treatment.
A celebration of his life was held at the Touro Law Center last month, introduced by Associate Dean of Student Affairs Kenneth Rosenblum and hosted by Dan’s law school friends Julie Hill and Christine Weinreich. Well attended by a widely diverse group including classmates, colleagues, clients and gym friends, many people spoke about their memories of Dan. It was announced that the Dan Gazan Civil Rights Scholarship has been created in his name. Donations may be made to Touro Law Center, 300 Nassau Road, Huntington, NY, 11743. Also created is a non-profit organization called the Dan Gazan Quest for a Cure Sarcoma Research Foundation (donations may be payable to “Quest for a Cure” and sent to 201 W. Big Beaver Rd., Ste. 370, Troy, MI, 48084. In addition to the Touro celebration, a funeral was held in his hometown of Lansing, Michigan, attended by several hundred people including many who flew or drove in from out-of-state.
Dan was only 34 when he died after a two and a half year battle with cancer. He fought all the way, virtually always cheerful and never complaining. Dan refused to let cancer diminish his commitment to his clients. When necessary, he practiced law from his hospital bed, making phone calls and working on his lap top computer. He lived life to the fullest, continuing to play football and engage in full-contact martial arts classes through most of his illness. He seemed unstoppable. Even after surgeries and chemotherapy, Dan accepted any challenge, such as participation in a barefoot fire walking ritual in snowy Massachusetts. He had resolved to go skydiving next summer.
Dan’s future was bright indeed, and there’s no telling what further heights he might have reached if given more time. Survived by his parents, a brother and a sister, Dan was a gifted young lawyer whose passing has left a void in the lives of all who knew him. He lives on in those who remember him, and are stronger, braver and better for it.
Rest well, My Brother. We will see you again.
Rick Collins is Editor-in-Chief of the Nassau Lawyer and proud to have been one of Dan’s friends.