Ryan Klesh Public Interest Legal Worker Award
The Ryan Klesh Public Interest Legal Worker Award honors an individual who captures the essence of Ryan Klesh's selflessness, work ethic, and humor in seeking justice for our low-income neighbors, family, or friends.
Sharon Fitzpatrick is this year’s award winner. Sharon worked as a legal secretary at Legal Action of Wisconsin in Milwaukee for more than 44 years. She was the first one to arrive every single day, “well before the phones and doors opened,” and considering that those doors opened just about 50 years ago, Sharon was a part of the organization for almost its entire existence. Her colleagues noted that this nomination is especially bittersweet as Sharon passed away on Christmas morning, in 2019.
Executive Director Deedee Peterson says that Sharon understood the deep effects of civil legal problems and the need for equal justice to mitigate them. When Sharon was a child, both of her parents died and Sharon and her five siblings were separated and placed in orphanages and foster homes until they were old enough to be on their own. Sharon’s coworkers believe this experience instilled in her a deep compassion for helping others. “She listened. She understood. She encouraged. She was street smart and shared her wisdom with others.”
One of the people she shared her wisdom with was Ryan Klesh himself. Sharon helped to train Ryan, and Cathy Coleman, manager of the Milwaukee Legal Action office, says Sharon “was one of his biggest cheerleaders.” It’s also apparent that this support wasn’t only reserved for Ryan. Fellow legal secretary Gracie Edwards shares that “Because we were a team, [Sharon] was always willing to go above and beyond for the clerical staff. She made sure she always had our back.”
A hardworking typist. An avid volunteer. An amazing legal secretary. A “magnet for those coworkers who needed personal or professional support.” Immensely missed by all her knew her, Sharon Fitzpatrick is a deserving recipient of the 2019 Ryan Klesh Public Interest Legal Worker Award.