The unexpected death at 67 of Alan VerPlanck last week was devastating to those who knew and worked with him. They remember him as a dedicated attorney not afraid to take up unpopular causes.
VerPlanck was said to have struggled academically as a high schooler, able to gain admission to Michigan State University only as a probationary student. But he graduated cum laude and went on to be a Rhodes Scholar before earning a law degree from the University of Michigan.
VerPlanck and his wife, Vicky, settled in Fort Wayne, where he specialized in employment law.
VerPlanck was a member of the legal team that challenged the state's 75-year lease of the Indiana Toll Road, contending it would be a bad deal for Hoosiers.
In the wake of the Great Recession, VerPlanck served as a facilitator for state-mandated “workout conferences” that brought homeowners together with mortgagers in an attempt to prevent foreclosures.
His friend Tom Lewandowski, director of the Workers' Project, said VerPlanck was always willing to fight for people who needed a break, such as immigrants and blue-collar workers.
“People will succeed if we permit them to,” VerPlanck wrote in a 2005 oped piece for The Journal Gazette that argued immigration is a source of strength for Fort Wayne. “Immigrants and minorities – sometimes against overwhelming odds – continue to believe this.”
“Everybody talked about how smart he was,” Lewan-dowski told The Journal Gazette's Sherry Slater, “but it was his heart – that's what made him so special.”