Oregon State Bar Bulletin — OCTOBER 2007
In Memoriam

Retired attorney Carolyn Virginia Hansen passed away June 13 in Portland of complications from multiple sclerosis.

Hansen was born in 1953, in Canton, Ohio. She graduated from Ohio State University in 1974 with a degree in psychology. After college, Hansen worked as a mental health counselor with children and prisoners for several years in Ohio at the Child and Adolescent Service Center and the Columbus Area Mental Health.

A road trip across country in her red convertible VW Bug, "Rosie," prompted Hansen to move to Eugene in 1978. There she worked in the warehouse at Starflower, a women’s natural foods distribution cooperative, and as an auto repair mechanic. Hansen graduated from the University of Oregon’s law school in 1987. She opened her own law office in Eugene, where she was mentored by Emily Heilbrun and handled domestic relations cases, misdemeanors and small estates.

The Albany office of Legal Aid Services of Oregon hired Hansen in 1990, and she worked there for about a year. She then moved on to the Marion-Polk Legal Aid Office in Salem. At Legal Aid, Hansen handled domestic relations and landlord tenant cases. She participated in the Inns of Court in Salem and served on the Oregon Fair Housing Council.

Hansen retired in 1996 because of health issues. She is survived by her partner and fellow OSB member Lea Ann Easton; two sisters and a brother and their respective families.

Mary Porter "Port" Leistner died July 12 of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. She was 81.

Born in 1925, in Georgetown, Ky., Leistner worked as a waitress, secretary and church youth program director before earning a journalism degree from the University of Kentucky in 1948. After college, Leistner worked as a reporter for the Lexington Herald and, later, the Loraine (Ohio) Journal and the Oberlin College news bureau.

Leistner and her husband, Charley, were married in 1949. They moved to Oregon in 1962, where she continued to work part time as a freelance editor while raising their two children.

Leistner served on the boards of the Eugene Swim and Tennis Club and Womenspace, and was an officer and director of the University Women’s Club. She was active throughout her lifetime in the Democratic Party of Oregon, serving as a manager, speechwriter and consultant in many political campaigns.

Leistner worked with Sen. Betty Brown and the Oregon Senate Judiciary Committee during the 1975-76 session. It was at the legislature that she was encouraged to consider entering the field of law. At the age of 50, Leistner began her studies at the University of Oregon and earned her law degree in 1979.

In 1981, she formed what she called the "largest all-women law firm in Eugene" with Patricia Vallerand and Sharon Gordon as Leistner, Gordon and Vallerand. When she retired in 1989, she filled her leisure time with competitive bridge, tennis, swimming, dancing, theater and travel.

Leistner is survived by her daughter and son-in-law; her son and daughter-in-law; and three grandchildren.

William E. "Bill" Van Atta, one of Oregon’s first blind lawyers, died July 21 at his son’s home in Aurora. He was 55.

Born June 7, 1952, in Walla Walla, Wash., Van Atta grew up in Milton-Freewater. As one of many "downwinders" who lived near Hanford Nuclear Reservation, Van Atta suffered several health problems attributed to airborne nuclear waste, including blindness, spinal cord injuries and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Van Atta married Bonnie Lee Kessell, in Boise, Idaho, in 1971. During their 36-year marriage, they raised two sons. Bill attended college in La Grande when it was Eastern Oregon College, and earned his law degree from the University of Oregon in 1975.

The Van Attas moved to Ontario in 1976, where Bill worked for Oregon Legal Services and as a juvenile court counselor for Malheur County. With support from the Malheur County Bar Association and attorney William Schroeder in particular, Van Atta passed the Oregon bar exam in 1978. His first job as an attorney was with Combs & Tharp. In 1994, he moved into sole practice.

Bill Van Atta was the subject of a "Profile in the Law," which ran in the December 1999 OSB Bulletin. The profile reported that since the mid-1980s, Van Atta’s practice always included a systematic pro bono plan based on degree of urgency: He always had at least five pro bono cases going each month, and many more than that on reduced-pay schedules. He considered it a privilege to be a lawyer and to help people, noting at that time, "I’ve been helped, so I know how much help means to people." On his way, friends, family and numerous lawyers read to him and gave him transportation, and he credited them, his wife and his legal secretaries with his success.

In recent years Van Atta especially enjoyed his service on the OSB’s first Leadership College advisory board. He also served as Malheur County Bar president from 2005 to 2007. Colleagues knew him as a zealous advocate who was always a gentleman.

An accomplished musician, Van Atta was proud of his heritage as an Oregon pioneer and loved history. He and a friend, Dan Coleman, traveled and sang songs of the Oregon Trail as the Prairie Dog Music Company. Van Atta also was known for his horsemanship; he was active in the FFA Alumni at both the state and local levels; and he was a licensed pastor. He was passionate about several causes, including the effort to establish a countywide library district in Malheur County.

Along with his wife, Van Atta is survived by his two children, two grandchildren; his mother, Laura; and five brothers and sisters.

Constance E. Sullivan Vallee (who practiced under her maiden name, Sullivan) of Eagle Point, died Aug. 1 after battling inflammatory breast cancer for two and a half years. She was 67.

Sullivan was born Jan. 27, 1940, in Buffalo, N.Y., and raised in western New York, where both her father and grandfather practiced law. She moved to Oregon in 1979, and settled in Eugene, where she worked for 10 years for Champion International and Georgia Pacific in office administration.

Sullivan earned her law degree from the University of Oregon in 1992 at age 52, three decades after receiving her undergraduate degree in history (with a minor in piano) from Skidmore College. While in law school she served as executive editor of the Oregon Law Review.

From 1992 until 1998, Sullivan worked with Jaqua & Wheatley in Eugene as an associate, handling business, estate planning and domestic relations cases. She was active in the Lane County Bar Association, chairing the Family Law Committee and co-chairing the New Lawyers Section.

She worked for McCool and Palmer from 1998 until moving to southern Oregon in 2000. Sullivan opened her own law practice in Medford in November 2000, where she handled estate planning, probate, elder and senior law issues, and family law cases. She closed her practice five years later because of health-related issues.

Sullivan loved practicing law, especially working with her clients and being able to make a positive difference in their lives when possible. She also enjoyed legal research and writing briefs and memoranda.

A founding member of the first Parks and Recreation Commission for the City of Eagle Point, Sullivan chaired the commission from 2004 to 2005. She continued to play the piano and also enjoyed playing golf, cooking, painting with watercolor and pastels, and doing craft and home decorating projects.

In addition to her husband, Herb Vallee Jr., Sullivan is survived by her daughter and son-in-law, a granddaughter and four step-grandchildren.

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