Jean Goldstein

Jean Goldstein

Jean Goldstein was a distinguished Columbia lawyer and an influential mentor to many in the community, her husband, David Goldstein, said.

“She was more special than I realized along the way in all the things that she did,” he said, “because she didn’t brag or make a big deal about anything.”

Goldstein strived to be a good attorney who served her clients well and prioritized her family and public service, he said.

“She was understated, but people loved her,” he said.

Jean Goldstein, 74, died Thursday at her home in Columbia.

Minnesota roots

Born May 21, 1944, to Swedish and Norwegian parents, Goldstein grew up on a dairy farm with her three brothers in Minnesota.

She graduated from high school as the valedictorian of her class and applied to only one college, Carleton College, where she met her husband, David.

They married in 1966 after Goldstein graduated from college and moved to Pennsylvania to study at the University of Pittsburgh. Goldstein graduated with a master’s degree in education, and David Goldstein started medical school.

While he finished medical school at Johns Hopkins University, Jean Goldstein worked for her brother at the university and did a wide variety of jobs to help make ends meet.

David Goldstein was drafted during the Vietnam War, so in 1972 they moved with their daughter, Elizabeth, to Germany where he worked as the head of pediatrics at the U.S. Air Force base in Ramstein. Goldstein also gave birth to their son, John, while the familiy lived there.

After spending three years in Germany, Goldstein and her family returned to the U.S. and lived in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she was president of a nursery co-op and her husband completed a fellowship at the University of Virginia.

While in Charlottesville, Goldstein made the decision to attend law school. She’d had the idea of it in the back of her mind for a long time, her husband said. Now that he had finished with medical school and their children were in elementary school, she could go.

The couple had three criteria when deciding where they’d move to next: a small town, a law school and a position at a medical school. Gainesville, Florida, and Charlottesville, Virginia, fit the descriptions, but they eventually decided on Columbia, Missouri, as their new home.

A legal legacy

Goldstein loved law school and distinguished herself from her peers, her husband said. By the time she finished her degree, she was a member of the Order of Coif, editor of the Missouri Law Review and had secured a clerking position at the Missouri Supreme Court.

After her clerkship ended, Goldstein returned to the MU School of Law to teach research and writing for two years. However, she didn’t want to stay in academics so she started practicing as an attorney in Columbia.

“She tried to work with lawyers that weren’t impossible to deal with so that they could work out the best kind of deals for both sides,” David Goldstein said, “and you don’t see that in a lot of people.”

She joined a law firm with Ann Covington a good friend and the first female justice to the Missouri Supreme Court. And later she started a law firm with Darwin Hindman, former Columbia mayor.

“She knew everyone,” he said.

Some of her classmates included former Gov. Jay Nixon and Don Cupps, former head of the MU Board of Curators.

During her career, Goldstein worked with the Voluntary Action Center and the Boone County Historical Society, but the several years of legal work she did for the Boone County public administrator was probably the most important to her, he said.

“She was quiet, a woman of few words, but she mentored a lot of young lawyers, many of whom became judges, who are still close friends,” David Goldstein said. “I had no idea how much she did.”

After she died, one of her mentees and a friend wrote a letter to his friends about her impact on his life, her husband said.

“I helped others when I knew there’d be no quid pro quo. I tried to see both sides of every case and not let emotion roll,” the letter read. “I tried to spend more time with my children and worry less about billable hours. I tried to be like Jean.”

Supervising editor is Sky Chadde.

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