Melva at the Fox

I am sort of a cautious, conservative guy.  So, deciding to try private legal practice just before my 55th birthday was a little out of my comfort zone.  But, Mr. Clinton had just become President and I was persona non grata at the Department of Transportation.  After 31 years with Uncle Sam, the cord was being severed.

Larry Henneberger and I had started in the military over 30 years before.  He was a senior partner at Arent Fox and assisted me in getting interviews which led to being brought into the firm with the title of “of counsel.”  The Firm makes you “of counsel” when you are too old to be an associate and they can’t think of any earthly reason to make you a partner.

I had no clients.  What I did have was an office, a phone and a secretary.  I went through three secretaries my first year.  The first one fired me.  She was really good, but not the least bit interested in teaching me how to survive in a private law firm.  She was a highly skilled litigation secretary and I was cranking out “white papers,” to her dismay, trying to find a client.  I was optimistic and suspected I would figure it out, but she just wanted to get away from me.

My second secretary didn’t want anything to do with me.  I guess, at that time, of counsels generally didn’t make it at the firm.  She didn’t see any need to waste her time on me prior to that happening.  I called her in and told her I needed my out box emptied at least once in the morning and once in the afternoon (I wish I were kidding you).  She promptly went back to her office and called the mail room.  She told them to pick up and deliver distribution directly from my office.  We separated on unfriendly terms.

My third secretary was the subject of an inter-office debate.  They couldn’t decide whether to fire her, or assign her to me.  I got her, but we weren’t very compatible.  I came to work at 7:30 AM and she would wander in about 9:30 to 9:45 AM.  Then, she would take lunch from 1:30 to 3:30 PM.  However, she was a vast improvement over secretary number two.  Anyway, the Admin Office was now doing their job and advised her that if she didn’t come to work on time, they would fire her.  She didn’t, and they did.  And that is how I got Melva.

Melva Pocky (rhymes with okey dokey) was a sweet elderly lady who really didn’t like to file.  So, working in litigation wasn’t a good idea.  But, she was great for me.  She truly was pleased when I would bring in a new client or obtain a favorable result on an existing matter.  She always acted a little ditsy, but I was convinced it was just an act.  After we had been together for a few years, she decided to donate blood to help out one of her friends.  When they took her pulse, they found out that her heart wasn’t even close to beating correctly.

I lost her for an extended time while she was fitted for a pacemaker.  Then, when she returned, she told me she was going to retire.  Melva’s retirement party was a gala event still remembered at the Fox.  My retirement poem to her is below.


I know it’s true, but it’s hard to believe,
Melva Pocky is about to leave.

She’s filled out the forms, that’s the requirement,
She’s anxious to start on her retirement.

What a great secretary, but oh so beguiling,
The work all gets done, except for the filing.

But she’s loved by us all, she helps everyone,
She enjoys acting ditsy, and just having fun.

She walks to work from Foggy Bottom,
in Winter, Spring, Summer and especially Autumn.

There’s a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye,
And with her new pacemaker, her step is quite spry.

Her heart’s beating fine without hesitation,
It’s warrantied for forty, without lubrication.

This good natured lady from Pennsylvania,
Isn’t dropping us all like the Lusitania.

While we’re losing Melva, no need for hysteria,
While she’s leaving the Fox, she’s not leaving the area.

For she loves all the arts and may telephone ya,
To take a short trip or visit the Smithsonia.

This conclusion sounds silly and even a bit hokey,
But our friend Melva Pocky is just Okey Dokey.