Bernard "Bud" Nussbaum, '55: 1931-2019

Bernard Nussbaum In Memoriam

Words spoken by Bud's son, Andrew Nussbaum, '91, during shiva

Welcome, friends. You will see coming around a card, printed on two sides. The layout may not be perfect. I did this without Darcy’s help, though no doubt with her inspiration.

Bernard Nussbaum, 1936
Nussbaum Exodus, August 1936

What’s in this photo?  You see a passenger ship, you see some people boarding, in vintage dress.  Now read the back––“Exodus, August 1936. Mutti with Bernard,”  that’s our father, age 5, leaving Germany with his mother.

You can learn a lot about my Dad and our family from this one photo. Your first question may be, “Where in the photo is he?”  He’s the small image, in cap and shorts at the lower left corner, next to the elegant woman, his mother, Mutti.  She has a small suitcase. Don’t ask me why they aren’t in the middle of the picture!

I’ve always wondered, who took this photo? Given that it was a picture in our family’s albums for decades, I assume a relative or friend did. That may also explain why the subjects are not just off center, but nearly entirely cut out––classic Nussbaum photography.

But over these past days, I’ve realized that the real lessons in this photo are in what you do not see. You don’t, for example, see the lining of my grandmother’s coat. Why would that matter? Well, it mattered a great deal in fact. Before fleeing Nazi Germany, our grandmother quickly sold whatever property she could, and exchanged the cash, whose export was restricted, for diamonds. The diamonds were sewn into the lining of that coat, their head start on life in their new country.

What else is missing? Where is Dad’s father, Papi? He had already left Germany, to work in the United States so that he could bring the rest of his family here. The law did not at the time allow just anyone to immigrate; you had to prove you could earn an income. To save his family, Papi risked losing it entirely.

You also don’t see my Dad’s younger brother Michael, in blessed memory. As an infant, Michael was too infirm to travel. He came to the United States later, with Cousin Ruth, herself only a teenager at the time. Of course, you also don’t see those two arriving at Ellis Island, being quarantined and both of them nearly sent back to Germany, because of Uncle Michael’s disability. It took an appeal to the immigration board in Washington to have them admitted. I’ve always thought that legal rescue might have been one reason why Dad became a lawyer.

But back to the photo. What was Dad thinking as he looked at that massive ship? I doubt he knew about the diamonds; as a family, we are not good at secrets. Did he have any idea of the new life that awaited? That he’d grow up in Kew Gardens, go to college in Galesburg, Illinois, be awarded a scholarship to law school without even having applied to go (my dad’s response to this offer, “If it’s free, might as well go.” rings in my mind), that he would meet and marry my mom, spend the next 60 years with her, serve in the army, work at the same law firm for his entire career, make such good friends in his law partners, some of whom are here today. I doubt he knew then that one day he would depose Henry Kissinger––a fair fight by the way, as to which of them would have gotten the last word. I know when he got on the boat that day that he certainly didn’t expect the three of us, with all the, well, let’s just say challenges we no doubt brought him, nor the daughters-in-law and eight grandchildren whom he loved and loved him.

All I know is, that ship was his life boat. Our life boat.

On the lighter side, this photograph may also explain my father’s profound love of mass transit, be it subway, bus, or airplane. Never take a taxi if a bus will get you there.  Safe to be among people with a common voyage. And also cheaper.

In these last weeks, I’d like to think my brothers and I, and our families, brought Dad’s journey to a peaceful resting place. I hope we took as good care of him as Mutti did, that day in 1936. I hope his last stop is with our mom; she’ll be waiting for him, and she surely will scold him for leaving dirty dishes in the sink at home.

I’d be lying if I didn’t recognize how hard these last seven weeks have been. But my brothers carried us through it. Charlie served as family doctor, trying to balance his medical genius with the duties of a loving son. That can’t be easy when the scans tell you it may be OK, but the medical reality is much tougher. Peter attempted via Google to catch up to Charlie’s decades of neuorsurgery. He basically lived at the hospital for 48 days; his body and heart must still hurt. (Certainly his stomach should, based on the multiple ethnic restaurants he found for lunches.)  Me, well, I just tried to keep up with my big brothers. I also know my dad’s passing is especially hard on Charlie and Peter, because they now realize that I, as the youngest and smartest of our generation, am in charge. It only took 55 years, but here I am…

Nobody as fortunate as my father goes through death alone. As unlucky as he was this year, he was massively wealthy in his family and friends. Darcy, Gloria, and Debbie did whatever we asked, and more. The kids and cousins supported us, and each other too. I imagine Dad is very proud of all of you, as am I.

Happy travels, Dad.


Official notice from Dentons

Bernard J. “Bud” Nussbaum, our longtime partner, colleague and friend, passed away on February 23, 2019, his 60th year with the Firm.

After graduating from University of Chicago Law School, where he was editor of the Law Review, Bud volunteered to serve in the Third Infantry Division, US Army, Judge Advocate General's Corps, where he tried dozens of courts-martial. Joining legacy Sonnenschein in Chicago in 1959, Bud developed a nationwide reputation over the years in the areas of antitrust and trade regulation, securities law, and contract disputes. In his later years, he was active in the Los Angeles and New York offices as well.

A brilliant strategist and trial lawyer, Bud was one of the driving forces behind Sonnenschein’s ascendancy as a national litigation powerhouse in the 1970s and 1980s. He achieved countless victories for clients across a number of industries and geographies—one day defending a manufacturer against claims of wrongful termination of a distribution agreement, the next representing a real estate investment trust as plaintiff in a case against its bank sponsor alleging securities law violations and breaches of fiduciary obligations. He was also an active member of the National Panel of Arbitrators of the American Arbitration Association and served as an arbitrator in several significant commercial matters.