Clifton B. Kruse, Jr., a revered elder law attorney who was admired as much for his kindness and generosity to fellow practitioners as for his grasp of the law, died December 30, 2008, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He was 74. The cause was complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

For many in the field, Kruse set the standard for all that an elder law attorney can and should be. One of elder law’s founding fathers, he combined a gentlemanly charm, warmth and caring with one of the sharpest and most ethical of legal minds.

Wrote Arizona elder law attorney Robert Fleming in a tribute, “In my third of a century of elder law practice I have never met another lawyer who managed to pull together sophistication, heartfelt empathy, intellectual rigor and courtly manner in the same fashion Clifton Kruse projected. He did it, to all appearances, effortlessly. He was a friend and mentor to many in the elder law community (I count myself among those legions).”

Kruse was the eighth President of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, serving from 1995 to 1996. He was inducted as a Fellow in 1993 and served on the Board of Directors from 1991 through 1997.

Writing in a message to NAELA members, the organization’s current president, Craig C. Reaves, characterized Kruse as “a consummate gentleman. Always impeccably dressed, always gracious towards others, always with time to answer a question, no matter how busy he was. Clif was a beacon for how to act honestly, ethically and professionally as a lawyer.”

Born July 16, 1934, Kruse was an ordained Methodist Minister and prison chaplain before receiving his Juris Doctorate degree from Washburn University School of Law in 1963. He was the founding member of Kruse and Lynch, P.C., and specialized in the preparation of wills, trusts, estate administration and elder law.

Kruse taught Business Law at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs for 27 years, and also taught at the University of Denver School of Law. He was the author of numerous articles and books. His treatise Third-Party and Self-Created Trusts, now in its third edition, remains the primary reference resource on its topic. Displaying his warmth and humanity was another book,Selma’s Cat and Other Things That Matter: A Lawyer’s Intimate Conversations with His Elder Clients, a collection of encounters with clients culled from Kruse’s more than 40 years of practice. The stories convey just how difficult, heartrending, but ultimately rewarding the job of an elder law attorney can be — and how it often takes a master humanitarian and emotional tactician like Kruseto meet the challenge.

In addition to his NAELA affiliations and awards, Kruse was a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and a former vice president of the Colorado Bar Association, which gave him the Award of Merit, its highest honor for outstanding contributions to the legal profession and the association.

Kruse is survived by his wife of 52 years, Carolyn; sisters Thelma Kruse and Linda Lynch; his children Angela Kruse and Stephen Kruse; two grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
A memorial service was held January 3, 2009, 1:00 P.M. at the Broadmoor Community Church, 315 Lake Avenue, Colorado Springs.

In lieu of flowers the family suggests donations to the Pikes Peak Hospice, 825 E. Pikes Peak Avenue, Suite 600, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80903, or the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, 610 Abbott Lane, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80905.
For Clifton B. Kruse’s obituary in the Colorado Springs Gazette click here.