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Timothy Lemucchi (1937-2021): Gentleman lawyer, author led life of adventure

Prominent Bakersfield lawyer Timothy Lemucchi, an author and fiercely competitive athlete whose pursuit of adventure took him around the world, died Wednesday at the age of 84 from unknown causes during a bicycle ride near Hart Park.

Lemucchi gained notoriety for defending clients in high-profile court cases, where friends and colleagues recalled his uncanny ability to read jurors and keep his cool amid difficult circumstances.

"He was the ultimate competitor on the athletic field and in the courtroom," lawyer and former colleague Daniel Rodriguez said Thursday. "He had this quiet, competent demeanor about him that meant he didn't have to raise his voice to get his point across."

Proud to return to his hometown of Bakersfield after studying at Stanford and then Georgetown University, where he earned his law degree, Lemucchi authored a pair of books about his own and his family's history. The latest, "Eddies of the Kern," takes its name from the river he spent a lifetime exploring; it is scheduled for release Sept. 1.

He once ran for Congress, and summited mountains on at least two continents, but is perhaps best known locally for defending local businessman William Robert Tyack. The tire store owner had been charged with murder in the deaths of two men along a mountain road.

Lemucchi took the position that Tyack had acted in self-defense, even though one of the men had been shot in the back. When the verdict was returned, the defendant's conviction on manslaughter charges was viewed as a tremendous victory.

"I know it astounded the judge. I think it astounded everybody else," said Lemucchi's former colleague, Bakersfield lawyer David Cohn.

Lemucchi exemplified the value of diligent pre-trial preparation, Cohn said, and he often tutored younger lawyers after completing his own work for the day.

Part of what made him such a good defense and later a personal injury lawyer was his ability to shift tactics seamlessly after being overruled by a judge, Cohn added.

"He was disarmingly low key and yet extremely effective," he said. "Jurors seemed to really relate to him and he really related to jurors."

Lemucchi was born May 5, 1937 at the former San Joaquin Hospital on Chester Avenue. He was the son of parents from very different families: His father's family had immigrated from Italy, and his mother's father had come West from Missouri by horseback.

He attended Catholic schools until enrolling at East Bakersfield High School, where he competed in football and swimming, which remained for him a lifelong activity.

For more than five decades Lemucchi distinguished himself in Kern legal circles. Outside the courtroom he led an exceptionally active life.

His run for Congress as a Democrat in 1972 took him and his wife, Margaret, on 500-mile drives where they greeted would-be constituents across a district that extended from eastern Kern to the Central Coast.

"It was a lot of fun, actually," Margaret said Thursday. "We met a lot of great people, and Tim enjoyed it."

He won 72,516 votes but it wasn't enough: Lemucchi's 43.5 percent of the vote was a little more than 9 percentage points less than the tally of the election's winner, Republican William M. Ketchum.

Lemucchi's competitive spirit shone through in countless races and other physical endeavors, including at least one Ironman triathlon in Hawaii. There were also cross-country ski trips, fishing expeditions and treks along the Pacific Crest Trail.

He climbed Alaska's Denali, the highest peak in North America, as well as Mount Whitney and towering peaks in Russia. His wife said Lemucchi came home with harrowing tales, including one about his tent blowing away in high winds, which left him to sleep exposed aside a high-elevation cliff.

Once on a wilderness outing the helicopter he was traveling in crashed. He later mounted part of the wreckage on a plaque he kept in his office. Also proudly on display there was a photo of him carrying the Olympic torch ahead of the 1984 games in Los Angeles.

Lemucchi is also remembered as a patron of the arts who for many years maintained a membership with the Bakersfield Museum of Art.

He is survived by Margaret, his wife of 51 years; his daughter, Lisa Lemucchi, of Santa Cruz; his sister, Antonia Valpredo; niece Monica Sacco (husband John); niece Lanette Caratan (Christopher); nephew Gino Valpredo (Sandra); and numerous cousins and relatives, many of whom live in Kern County.

Funeral arrangements have not been finalized but the family hopes to schedule services for the week after next at Hillcrest Memorial Park and Mortuary.

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