Saturday, April 4, 2020

A pleasant surprise

Jeremiah Eliason. Submitted photo

Jeremiah Eliason. Submitted photo

When Val, my most charming publisher, asked me to write about a lawyer who lives on the Isle of Capri, named Jeremiah Eliason, I was, to put it mildly, underwhelmed. Yet, true to Val’s uncanny ability to smell a good story, I could not get enough of this young man.

“I have always wanted to be a lawyer,” Jeremiah told me. “Even from a young age, I felt that I had the knack for systems of governance and order, and the law is where the rubber meets the road in our free society. It was also important for me to achieve to where I knew that the top of my abilities could be used to help others.”

Jeremiah grew up in Beloit, Wisconsin. His mom was a Registered Nurse. Dad was a construction worker and later became a housing inspector for the city. His parents always pushed hard work and strong community ties as part of the family culture. In this case, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Respect and helping people is the mantra of this new young family. Jeremiah and his lovely wife, Stephanie, are regular church goers and active in local charitable organizations, such as the Rotary Club of Marco Island and the Marco chapter of the American Cancer Society

Jeremiah’s “other background” is, however, making his practice increasingly popular in Southwest Florida. People are attracted to him not only for his legal prowess but also because of his three dimensional, holistic world view. He is one of the nicest, smartest, kindest lawyers you will ever meet. He exudes empathy. His legal adversaries may be surprised by this as his legal skills are not to be taken lightly and he champions his clients’ positions with zeal. Back to his story, we will start with his early education.

His elementary school, each year, made greeting cards for those in the nursing home across the street from the school. Little Jeremiah made his card and was to deliver the card to an assigned elderly woman. Maybe he didn’t listen very well, or maybe there was something of foreshadowing happening but he didn’t just deliver the card—he stayed and talked with the woman. He asked her questions about all the people in the photos on her nightstand. The intercom came on after a while, “Jeremiah Eliason please report to the main desk!” Dutifully, he said his goodbyes and went down the hall where all the other kids buzzed about. The teachers were relieved! Oh, they thought they had lost him outside somewhere on the way to the nursing home; why, on earth, was he gone so very long?

The thing is, he had an innate sense of caring. His respect for others, especially elders carries over into his practice. When he sits with a client he is, above all, a great listener. Jeremiah is actually interested in his clients. His empathy is not feigned or an act. He really cares.

Let’s fast forward to his college days. He wasn’t so sure college was the thing for him and only went because his parents begged him to. After one year of working forty hours as a janitor at the student union to pay for rent and food, and pulling nearly straight A’s, he was already done. He took off to England where he landed a job on the floor of a plastics factory in Portsmouth. There he saved some money and traveled around Europe. The next year he was back in college at Wisconsin-Madison where he finished up a double major in Political Science and International Relations.

Thereafter, perhaps bored again, he joined the Peace Corps. This was no flash in the pan, however, the commitment is a three-month training program in the country of service and then a two-year “up-county” assignment. He served first in Cote d’Ivoire until a civil war broke out and he was forced from the country. He holed up in Ghana with other volunteers until he was given the option to go home or go on to another county. He asked to go on, was assigned to Madagascar, and within a week there he was. In both countries he initiated and carried out projects to upgrade hygienic facilities and reduce the incidence of preventable disease by providing clean sources of water. He also reorganized accounting and collection systems of local organizations to maintain such facilities and worked in local schools,

Of course, being overseas in a Peace Corps assignment doesn’t come without a few great stories. My favorite is the time Jeremiah was organizing a community to dig a well when one village faction demanded he stop – the end of AK-47’s barrel. It all worked out in the end, as it was explained the gods placed noxious and sometimes deadly gas in the ground so digging was forbidden. Our new home-town hero listened and discussed and checked his own facts until he figured a venting system out. The well was dug, a local organization collected a small fee per bucket of water for upkeep, and according to letters Jeremiah exchanges with the local chief, the well is still there despite all the recent upheaval in that country.

Returning to the US, Jeremiah got a job with – whom else? – but the Peace Corps. He rose quickly from data base entry to the Special Assistant to the Director of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection. Among his many duties were authoring policy proposals, analytical reports, executive briefing materials, and strategy statements. He served on various agency task forces to further develop agency policy, establish accountability practices, develop training exercises, and ensure compliance to federal regulations.

During his time working in DC for the Peace Corps, he pursued his childhood dream of being a lawyer by attending evening classes after work. For four years he pursued this course, was awarded with his juris doctor, moved to Florida, and passed the bar in one shot. Jeremiah has also volunteered for many local environmental cleanup efforts, his church’s activities, and Habitat for Humanity. He has also worked as a judicial Clerk in the Circuit Court of Maryland, the Columbus Community Legal Services (Washington DC) as a Student Attorney in the Elder Law Division, and the Commodities Future Trading Commission where he would listen to wiretaps of those suspected of manipulating the markets.

Jeremiah and Stephanie are expecting their first child and are part of a new breed of young people coming to the Island. They recognize that this is truly paradise and wouldn’t be anywhere else. Pretty smart I would say.

Jeremiah’s offices are located in the Sun Trust Building in Marco and he can be reached at (239) 394-5357.

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