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A ‘TRAILBLAZER’: Virginia Fry practiced law for 38 years.
SBJ file photo
A ‘TRAILBLAZER’: Virginia Fry practiced law for 38 years.

Husch Blackwell partner Virginia Fry dies

Posted online

Last edited 1:21 p.m., Nov, 26, 2018

An influential attorney known by her colleagues as a “trailblazer” died Nov. 18. Husch Blackwell LLP partner Virginia Fry was 64.

Fry died of cancer, according to an obituary provided by the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association.

David Agee, a Husch Blackwell partner and longtime friend, called Fry “a trailblazer for women in the community.” He spoke to Springfield Business Journal on Nov. 19, just before a staff meeting to inform local employees about Fry’s death.

“She was one of the first women attorneys in the whole region,” Agee said. “Her awards and honors are too long of a list to list.”

Agee said Fry’s equity in the firm would be distributed in a “complicated process” to other partners. He declined to further discuss the succession plan.

Fry practiced law for 38 years, 19 of which were with Husch Blackwell. She was honored in September with the Legacy Adviser award in SBJ’s annual Trusted Advisers event. Agee accepted the award on her behalf at a DoubleTree Hotel ceremony on Sept. 14. Her absence at the event was unexpected.

Fry, who’s also been nicknamed the “Closer” by her clients, according to SBJ reporting, has earned numerous accolades for her commercial litigation practice with emphasis in labor and employment law. She was named Distinguished Attorney by the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association, she was Woman of the Year in Missouri Lawyers Weekly’s Women’s Justice Awards, and she earned Best Lawyers in America nods for 14 years running in commercial litigation, employment law-management and litigation-labor and employment. Fry also was honored by SBJ in 2002 as a Most Influential Women honoree and was selected for SBJ’s 12 People You Need to Know editorial series in 2014.

At Husch Blackwell, Fry was the Springfield office’s managing partner 2008-15 and served on the firmwide executive board.

“She was a person of great business judgment and never hesitated to share her perspective with the group,” Husch Blackwell Chairman Greg Smith and CEO Paul Eberle said in a joint statement. “People listened when she spoke because they knew her views were informed by rich experience, intelligence and integrity.”

Company executives counted on Fry in 2014, when half-a-dozen partners exited Husch Blackwell’s Springfield office, leaving Fry to lead a staff of 16 employees. According to SBJ reporting, the firm’s local office had around 35 staff members working out of Hammons Tower offices as of early September.

“Sometimes cases are not about winning or losing but finding a solution to a problem,” Fry said in her Trusted Advisers profile. “I am often brought into situations that are in a crisis mode and that need a problem solver.”

At MSU, Fry was chairwoman of the board in 2017 and had served as a board governor since 2013. She graduated from MSU in 1976 and earned an MBA there a year later. She went on to earn her Juris Doctor from University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law in 1980.

“We lost a visionary and pioneering leader,” said MSU President Clif Smart, via Twitter. “We will all miss her.”

Several members of the Springfield business and nonprofit communities responded to Smart’s tweet, mourning Fry’s death.

“What an incredible loss for our community. Virginia was a leader in so many ways, especially as a strong female leader and inspiration to us all,” said Janet Dankert, president and CEO of Community Partnership of the Ozarks Inc.

Bob Hammerschmidt, regional vice chairman for Commerce Bank, said he was “stunned to see this news.”

“Virginia was a servant leader and will be missed in many ways,” he tweeted.

Others included former City Manager Greg Burris, who said he “learned a lot from Virginia,” and Ozarks Technical Community College Chancellor Hal Higdon, who called Fry “a brave and caring person.”

A notice about Fry’s death sent to SMBA members said she was the first female president of the local bar association. In the newsletter, Family Court Division Commissioner Susan Jensen said Fry was a role model to her.

“She managed to be an amazing, respected, successful attorney and businesswoman, while also being a wonderful wife and mother. I will forever be in awe of her,” Jensen said.  

A memorial service for Fry was scheduled Nov. 24 at Kingsway United Methodist Church, followed by a visitation with her family, according to the obituary provided by the SMBA.

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