There’s been a flood of tributes this week to Robert V. Hawn, who passed away this month at the age of 63. A highly regarded business attorney, who played in a jazz band and volunteered his time to preserve the valley’s greenbelt, he was married to Los Gatos Town Manager Laurel Prevetti—and father to their daughter, Katie.
Bob Hawn was also an invaluable ally to independent media, serving as counsel and corporate secretary to our newspaper group in its early days, and again in recent years. When the internet arrived in the early ’90s, Bob was a trendsetter. He was the only attorney I knew who had an email account.
We started exchanging drafts as email attachments, something unheard of at the time in the legal community—which was completely paper-based and generally horrified at the notion of allowing clients to make edits to electronic documents. Bob embraced the internet and was keenly aware of its potential. He enjoyed working with scrappy companies close to the bleeding edge.
He worked for two of downtown San Jose’s large firms, Berliner and then Hopkins & Carley. We valued him so much that we moved the files over when he switched firms. As the technology revolution heated up, he switched to a Peninsula firm to be closer to the action, then returned to downtown and became a co-founder of the Strategy Law Group.
The last time I visited him there, he rolled out in a motorized wheelchair and told me about his ALS diagnosis and plans to wind down his legal work. Despite this devastating news, Bob remained affable and posted humorous blog posts about his illness using an eye-tracker to compose the words.
Our hearts are heavy, and condolences go out to his wife and daughter. His contributions to a greener valley, the local jazz scene, emerging technology companies and local media will live on.
Robert V. Hawn
September 1958 – December 2021
Resident of San Jose, CA
Bob Hawn passed peacefully after his heroic embrace of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s Disease). He lived a full, energetic, and loving life, delighting all he met with his bright blue eyes, easy laughter, and quick wit. He is deeply missed by family and friends.
Born in the Bay Area, Bob was firmly rooted to this beautiful place. He grew up in the South Bay as it was transforming from apricot orchards to Silicon Valley. After law school at UC Davis, he practiced high technology business law in private firms for over 35 years. He loved serving his clients, marveling at their creations, innovating intellectual property licensing agreements, and helping his clients grow, in his words, “from birth to middle school.” His colleagues fondly remember his bottomless well of good humor, insights concerning legal matters, and sheer joy as he turned up the jazz sounds in his office after hours.
Bob was very active with the State Bar Association, leading the Business Law Section, creating a mentoring program for new attorneys, and speaking at many Bar events. His love of music and nature extended to his commitment to local non-profits, providing pro bono legal services to San Jose Jazz (www.sanjosejazz.org) and serving on the board for Greenbelt Alliance (www.greenbelt.org).
Bob’s exuberant passion for life extended to his many hobbies. He loved the outdoors in all seasons and enthusiastically mastered telemark downhill skiing, cross country skate skiing, backpacking, road bicycling, and mountain bike riding. Bob loved to travel, planning family vacations to the Sierras, Disneyland, Canada, Japan, Europe, and places in the US. He loved music in all forms from a young age, playing clarinet in high school marching band and teaching himself piano and organ. He composed most of the music performed by his Latin jazz band the Poblano Project. Joining the Legally Blue band, Bob excitedly learned to play the blues with his new family of musicians.
Family was everything to Bob. After a long courtship, he married his college (UC Berkeley) sweetheart Laurel Prevetti. They raised a daughter, Katie, who from a young age participated in the family travel, music, and sports adventures. Bob’s happiest moments were playing music with Katie, including performances together at the San Jose Jazz Festival. He remained close to his siblings (James, Christopher, and Margaret), hosting many holiday feasts and traveling to Ireland after the ALS diagnosis.
Bob was a loyal friend and witty conversationalist. An extrovert, Bob made friends easily and he excitedly shared his knowledge of music, wine, cycling, and other passions. His playfulness and sarcastic sense of humor made everyone around him feel comfortable and welcome.
In 2018, Bob was diagnosed with ALS. He called it a “wretched disease.” Not slowing down, he immediately researched the science of ALS and was determined to contribute to better treatments and symptom management. He participated in the Centaur drug study of AMX0035 with the Forbes Norris ALS Research and Treatment Center, convinced that the compassionate use of the medication prolonged his life.
Ever the optimist, Bob taught himself how to create a website and write weekly blogs using the Tobii eye gaze technology (www.embrace-the-suck.blog). Reading the blogs were like having a conversation with Bob, with his unique voice shining through the puns and unexpected ways he could make us laugh and cry simultaneously. His writings showcased frustrations with the medical industrial complex, the joy of his youthful exploits, and the practical side of living with ALS. Bob lived life to the fullest to the very end, entertaining friends and family with his quick quips on his Tobii communication device.
A private service will be held and his wish for a large musical party will occur in a COVID safe manner in 2022 for friends and family. In lieu of flowers, donations are appreciated in his honor to Forbes Norris ALS Research and Treatment Center, ALS Association Golden West Chapter, Greenbelt Alliance, or San Jose Jazz.