RIP: Bob Kirchner, Champion of the People

via email: >From CCHCC's Executive Director, Claudia Lennhoff Dear Friends,

It is with a very heavy and broken heart that I write to tell you about the death of Robert G. Kirchner, a dear friend, and hero, to us at Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC). Bob Kirchner, only 54 years old, died of a heart attack on the morning of Sunday, April 17. Bob was a local attorney who defended many who had no resources; he also helped and legally supported many local non-profits, including CCHCC, and he served on the County Board and the County Board of Health -- among many other activities. Bob was a true champion of justice for people, and for the organizations who fight for justice for the people.

Our deepest sympathies go to Bob's wife Gerri Kirchner, with whom he had a great and beautiful partnership and to whom he was utterly devoted. Our sympathies also go to Ruth Wyman, our dear friend and the young attorney with whom Bob worked for many years.

A short obituary can be found at The News-Gazette at: http://www.news-gazette.com/obituaries/2011-04-19/robert-kirchner.html And a nice feature on Bob can be found at The News-Gazette in their "Life Remembered" article at: http://www.news-gazette.com/news/people/2011-04-19/life-remembered-kirch... brought-energy-passion-lifes-work.html WILL-AM 580 Radio also did a nice piece on Bob, and that can be found at: http://will.illinois.edu/news/spotstory/atty-and-fmr-co-bd-member-robert... chner-dies/

But I wanted to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Bob, in the way that we knew him at CCHCC, and the way I knew him as a friend and champion of justice. I first met Bob in 1999, when I was a scared and very green "Interim Director" at CCHCC. The occasion for meeting Bob was that he agreed to help CCHCC, pro bono, in a legal struggle against Provena Covenant when the hospital ended the Medicare 100/Plus Program. (Please note that CCHCC now works closely with Provena Covenant, and the Medicare 100/Plus Program was reinstated in 2005.) It was a very tough struggle, for many years. Probably for many more years than any of us had anticipated. And there are many stories I can tell, but I will just share one story -- it is about the moment, when as an adult, for the first time in my life, someone became my personal hero. Someone swept in and "saved" me (and CCHCC) from a terrible and terrifying situation. That person was, of course, Bob. The struggle with Provena Covenant was very nasty and I was clearly out of my league as a brand new Director. One day, I received a very intimidating package from the then-IL Attorney General's office. It was a set of "interrogatories" demanding that I produce a bunch of documents and answer a bunch of questions that clearly implied that CCHCC was undertaking fraudulent and illegal activities in the efforts to reinstate Medicare 100/Plus. The AG's letter basically said that we were lying to seniors about the Program and trying to coerce under false pretenses their involvement in the program. It also said that the IL AG's office could bill CCHCC for the costs of their investigation into us! An action like this could have sunk CCHCC financially, and the threat was very real.

The first person I called was Bob. He was calm, of course, and I felt the tiniest bit reassured. I was a very new Executive Director and I didn't want CCHCC to fail on my watch, and certainly not for something so unfair. Bob set up a meeting with staff of the AG's office, and Mike Doyle and me. We traveled to Chicago for the meeting, where Mike and I answered a bunch of interrogatories to the AG's staff. It was terrifying, and I could see from the cold blank stares of the AG's staff that it was not really going well. I never understood where the AG's office got the idea that CCHCC was defrauding consumers, and when I tried to ask about this, we got no answer. Then, out of nowhere, Bob said, in his very calm and soft voice, that he knew that high-ups from Provena had met with staff from the AG's office, and he gave the dates and times of the meetings -- and he looked at each one as he said "they met with you, and you, and you, and you..." -- and he went on to say that the AG's office seemed to be subverting their legal and ethical duties in order to do the bidding of a corporation. Stunned silence!

Followed by awkward throat clearing noises and furtive glances between the AG's staff. And I sat there knowing that Bob had just dropped a bombshell that was going to turn everything around. What the AG's office was doing was illegal and wrong, and they were busted! In that moment, I felt that I and CCHCC had been rescued from the forces of corruption, and Bob became my first personal hero. Bob had had this information up his sleeve, from who knows where. He was never one to brag or talk unnecessarily. In less than a week, CCHCC got a letter from the AG's office saying that they were dropping their investigation and thanking us for satisfying their interrogatories.

That's just one of many stories. But it's the one where I learned that I could totally and completely count on Bob, and that he would fight with all he had in the pursuit of justice. Not only did Bob become my personal hero, but I knew that he was a champion, the likes of which I'd never known. I never imagined that he wouldn't be here...

Because of Bob's tenacious, principled and dedicated work on behalf of CCHCC, we established in 2005 the Robert G. Kirchner Legal Justice Award (read more about the award at the bottom of this message). Beyond helping us with the Medicare 100/Plus Program, Bob was a champion for low-income children while he served on the County Board and the County Board of Health. On Bob's watch, we (CCHCC, Bill Mueller, working with public health advocates on the Board of Health -- Michele Spading, Karen Bojda, Jan Thom and others) were able to create the child dental access program to provide free dental care to low-income county children. Believe it or not, we had to fight year after year to keep that program alive -- there were opponents to the program! And year after year, Bob championed that good fight and the low-income children got dental care.

Over time, that program grew and led to the creation of the now well-established non-profit, SmileHealthy, where Nancy Greenwalt is the Executive Director. http://www.smilehealthy.org/ These are just a few examples of Bob's work -- testament to his commitment to justice and his dedication to making concrete improvements in people's lives. But Bob wasn't just a champion and a fighter. When he fought for you, or your cause, he took you under his wing, and you became friends. He was a true and loyal friend, always concerned about your well-being. In his own unique way, Bob was a real caretaker. He made you feel looked after and safe, and he was tireless in all that he did. He was so tough -- so very tough and fierce when he had to fight -- but he was gentle and kind and protective as a friend. And he was generous. I don't know how many suffering low-income clients I brought to Bob to help with some legal issue or another, where I would offer to pay for their consultation or they would offer to make payments as they were able to.

Bob always helped my clients, and me too, pro bono. One time I asked Bob why he wouldn't let me pay him for legal services he provided to me, and he said that it was because I was always helping others -- as if somehow there was a community debt and that community debt was borne by him and it was up to him to re-pay it -- as if he himself wasn't also always helping others. I marvel when I think of how generous Bob was with his time, energy, intellect, resources -- and that at the core of it all was his heart: his deep and abiding love for people, his love for justice, and his outrage at injustice and corruption and the devastation that those produce.

We at CCHCC mourn the death Bob Kirchner, a great and steady champion for justice, a champion for the people, and our beloved friend. We wish to honor and celebrate Bob's life and his accomplishments by working to protect the valuable programs in our community that Bob helped to create, helped to save, and helped to maintain.

With deepest sympathies to all who mourn for Bob Kirchner, Claudia Lennhoff CCHCC Executive Director

 

*********************************************************************** CCHCC's Robert G. Kirchner Legal Justice Award) Bob Kirchner is a local attorney practicing in his own law firm in Champaign. Bob served as CCHCC's attorney from 1999 to 2005, providing his services pro bono, in the legal struggle to save the Medicare 100/Plus programs after Provena Covenant Medical Center terminated the then 15 year old programs without warning or explanation, leaving 1100 low-income seniors without affordable access to health care. Bob provided his legal services selflessly and on a seemingly endless basis in this struggle for justice. When Provena Covenant Medical Center changed leadership and was ready to re-negotiate the reinstatement of the programs, Bob continued to provide his invaluable legal services. Without Bob's legal work, CCHCC would not have been able to sustain a six year long struggle, to its victorious conclusion. The Robert G. Kirchner Legal Justice Award honors attorneys and law students who use their legal skills in the pursuit of justice. ***********************************************************************

Champaign County Health Care Consumers 44 E. Main Street Suite 208 Champaign, IL 61820 Phone: (217) 352-6533 Fax: (217) 352-9745 E-mail: cchcc@healthcareconsumers.org Web: www.healthcareconsumers.org

Bob Kirchner Story

Thank you for the wonderful testimonial, Claudia. I did not know Bob Kirchner personally, but after reading your tribute, I sure wish I had. A true champion, indeed.

 

John S. Hughes

 

Condolences to Bob from Patrick Thompson

My condolence goes out to Bob’s family. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and staff. This has been a week of loss. I lost a family member last week and my dog got ran over by a truck right in front my eyes. He died on the way to the veterinarian hospital. Now we lost Bob, who was a true warrior in representing the community and the less fortunate. Through our professional and personal relationship I’ve really learned to appreciate the law. My closet is full of legal motions, briefs, and transcripts. Without his legal representation I would not be where I am today. If there is one thing we could all learn from him it would be to stand up for what you believe in even if you have to stand alone. May he rest in peace.

Patrick Thompson and Family

God Bless

He is one of the best lawyers

He is one of the best lawyers I've ever met. I feel very sad today because of the loss of Bob

A Dear friend

Bob Kirchner was the real deal. No matter what circle he was in, no matter where he was at, he always remained the same.   He never wavered from who he was and what he meant.  The lessons he taught from these simple expressions were many and touched each of us in a different way. But at the end of the day we were all fortunate and blessed to be in his company and take something from that encounter to give to others.

 

Remember that laugh…cynical as it was…..how could one forget it. He made the room light up whenever he came in or was a part of it. He created a laugh and made you laugh….and if you couldn’t, shame on you.

 

We all feel certain sadness these days but know and believe that Bob lives within us, and we know that somehow and somewhere, his spirit continues to glow with the brilliance he gave us while he was among us.  Let us hold strong to those special moments in our lives that Bop shared with us and how he touched each of us in his own very special way.  We all loved him and will miss him.

 

I cherish my time with Bob and Gerri beginning back in those early days. The two of them were something special and will always hold a special place in my heart. Bob’s love for Gerri was unwavering though at time he would just “piss/tick” the hell out of her because he knew he could. Let’s not forget the support that Gerri will need in the days ahead and never allow any of us to extend that hand, that conversation, to her these days

 

I will hold many memories of Bob close during these days and the days ahead. These are hard days for all of us. Bob continue to watch over us.  Continue to give us that little nod every now and then just to let us know that you are up there watching out for us. And certainly help us find a way to laugh or make others laugh each day.

 

God bless you and announce you as the new team captain for His softball team up above.

 

Your friend,

 

Dan Thompson

Not sure who wrote the orignal story line but you were right on target. Thanks for capturing all of  Bob's spirit in your words. God bless.

Post new comment

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer