(average reading time 16 minutes)

The time, 1969.


JOHN.  Visualize John, our lead character, resembling movie actor Sydney Greenstreet, when he was handsome and in his forties.  John is the star and protagonist of this story.  He was a much-respected lawyer, specializing in real estate and estate management. He was “THE” John Parker Tipton, Esquire, the foremost authority on real estate and estate matters, even within the County Bar Association.  John had the very best top-notch reputation.  Other lawyers and Realtors looked up to John as “the authority on real estate matters”.  I did also.

HARRY. Now visualize a six-foot, fat, rather untidy, two fisted, loud, hard liquor drinker.  He was a real estate salesman, heir to his mother-in-law’s fortune of somewhere above a million 1969 dollars.  This character is Harry Clark.   A victim.

HELEN.  The third important character in this epic is Helen Clark, Harry’s wife and also a victim.  Helen lived alone in a small two-bedroom, low cost WWII  prefabrcicated 4 room Cape Cod house backed up along a railroad.  It was one of her Mother’s former rental properties, just two blocks from where her estranged husband lived alone in another modest, 1 story twin rental house inherited from Helen’s Mother.  Helen was totally unkempt, unrefined, gruff, and would remind her generation contemporaries of actress Marjorie Maine, in the 1930s movie of “Tugboat Annie”.

RUSS MILLER.  Little ole me.  I was a Realtor and resident in an adjoining county to the other characters in the story.

—————————THE SCENARIO————————–

Harry, John and I, together with other businessmen met regularly at our township Country Club for lunch.  Our round table discussions were mostly about real estate, local political matters, finances and our mutual professional interests occasionally interrupted by a friendly waitress, abounding in feminine pulchritude.

Attorney John Parker Tipton often spoke proudly of how he helped widows, widowers and divorced persons with their estates, especially real estate, investments and financial problems. He said that he frequently volunteered to be a guardian, executor, trustee, or counsel for the estates of both old men and ladies, especially those with estranged families or with no livin relatives to help. He frequently mentioned that he offered his services to them pro bono (without charge), even advancing some cash for special needs.  We admired him for his many charitable cases.

John Parker Tipton, esq., had also been an occasional guest on my Philadelphia radio talk-show program which I hosted for 27 years.  He always created the image of a “champion of the people and enemy of the scammers.” He impressed me, and I had him on the air frequently as a favorite guest.

Harry Clark, when he was sober, was a collector of “junk silver coins” before their production was discontinued by the U S Mint.  He would buy bags of silver at a bank in Wilmington, Delaware, then stored them in his house.  Harry reasoned that it was safe, because of the bulk and weight.  His justification not to use a safe deposit box was, it was just too inconvenient and too heavy to steal.  Pros and cons were discussed regularly.  Harry however, could not be persuaded to the contrary.

After the luncheons and cocktails, when this group of diners returned to their respective offices, Harry Clark often lagged behind and continued for “one more drink” at the bar.  Frequently, he had to be sent home in a cab and dumped at his front doorstep.

Around that same time, attorney John lost his wife after her long illness.  He was depressed and started going home after lunch to take a nap. He seldom returned to his office. He grieved for his deceased wife with aid of his favorite elixir, Jack Daniels at his side.  In the afternoon, if I wished to call him in his later days, I would almost always have to call him at home.  His faithful secretary of over 30 years, would now regularly find him drunk and asleep in his lounge chair at home almost every afternoon.  She knew that her job had no future, but would stand by his side to the end.  She was the only person, who he could trust to obscure his weakness and cover for him at his office. She knew everything about John’s law practice.  His only employee.

When Helen’s Mother died, she left her estate to be divided between Harry and her only daughter.  There was a lot of paperwork needed. Attorney John set up a corporation to handle all of the financial affairs for the real estate and other inherited financial investments for Harry and Helen. They also bought several rental properties throughout the county, and created quite a respectable income, all of which went into the corporation funds as monthly receipts. Attorney John was the treasurer and Vice President.  John received and disbursed all cash for Helen and Harry’s modest needs and any various increments of cash on demand. John also acted as their “attorney in fact”under the terms of their powers of attorney. He was then able to buy and sell real estate, handle investments, and generally do all business for them.  They did not understand how to  deal with such matters. especially when they were “Under The Weather”.  He was their financial guardian angel to protect them from what they both suffered, ALCOHOLISM.

Helen rarely left her house.  She lay on the sofa almost all day, every day smoking, watching television with a martini in one hand and the TV clicker in the other.  She could be found most of the time lounging, and occasionally scantily clad, on the floor in the bedroom, or somewhere else staggering about the little house or passed out.  It was not uncommon to find her in the bathroom throwing up, or cleaning up from an earlier convulsive distress.

To recapitulate:  John Parker Tipton, the lawyer is now the total money manager. Harry is either at his home which he inherited from his Mother-in-law, or at the bar in the country club. Helen is in her home, one of their inherited rental properties, chain smoking cigarettes with a Martini, lying on the sofa watching television. This was “The team of champions.”

One morning, Helen was awakened by a policeman after he forced entrance into her house. His duty was to inform her that her beloved husband Harry was found dead his home. He had been dead two days.  What to do?  Helen called her attorney John, who takes care of everything. He was not at his office. His secretary took the call and went to John’s house.  She had to awaken him. John now had to help Helen with this tragedy.  Helen was just not up to it, now or any other time.

John snapped out of his own drunkenness, sobered up, and resumed his functions with the estate matters. Only he could unravel this legal nightmare with the aid of his secretary. In the process, John went to Harry’s house with some movers to remove furniture and inventory the contents.  In the process, he noticed a sagging ceiling next to the access, on the second floor, leading to the attic. Opening the hatch, he discovered a couple of hundred pounds of what was referred to as junk silver coins in bags.  When attorney John reported this to Helen, she said: “That crazy man was always savings junk.  What can I do with them”, she cried and said: “Have someone take them to the bank and get real paper money.”  John sympathized with the inconvenience it would be for Helen.  He offered to have them counted, and pay Helen face value of the coins.  Face value, at that time, was slightly less than 35 times their face value in dollars. As promised, he deposited the face value for her corporate account $1 for $1, which would relieve her from the annoying weighty details of exchanging all of those bags of heavy coins.  She had no clue as to the silver value and was happy with the face value. She always heard them referred to as junk silver, and wanted to be rid of any and all junk that Harry collected. Lawyer John, obligingly took them off of her hands, $ for $.   A nice simple business transaction!  Now she could use the cash. Everybody was happy, especially John Parker Tipton, esq.

Harry wanted to be cremated and gave those instructions in his will. He had requested a gold urn for his ashes to be given to his surviving wife to put on the mantel of the family house.  Attorney John, as executor complied and had his ashes placed in a golden urn, but the wife didn’t want any parts of the urn or the ashes.  Soooooooo, John kept the golden urn safely beside his barcalounger, where he smoked cigars and imbibed in his Jack Daniels, his favorite drink of the day. This urn was inscribed with Harry Parkson’s name and statistics.

A few months later, Helen fell asleep with a lit cigarette. She dropped it on the floor.  The house caught fire. It burned to the ground. Helen was burned to her death in the fire.

The insurance funds, for the mortgage free burned house, were paid to the family corporation that owned the house.  John being attorney for Harry and Helen’s estate accepted the cash settlement in the corporation account, but never rebuilt the house.  The funds were deposited, with all of Harry and Helen’s other corporate assets, controlled by their friendly attorney John, who always took care of everything for them.

John, the lawyer, seemed sober for a few weeks as he put things in order for this special estate and the corporation created by himself for Helen and Harry.  Since John was the attorney for everything, executor for the estate, council for the corporations, treasurer and vice president etc., etc., etc., he could put everything in order. (You betcha’ by golly) It all went into the general funds where he could manage the whole “ball of wax”.  John was now the President of the corporation, and treasurer in charge of the personal and corporate assets.

In the interim, Helen and Harry’s estranged daughter showed up for her inheritance.   Harry and Helen were disappointed with their daughter’s lifestyle.   In order to prevent the will from being contested by Helen’s long lost estranged daughter, under advice from the attorney John, they mentioned her in the will and left her only $1.00.  Everything else was to go to charities.   Helen and Harry’s unmarried daughter may have caused some trouble, but she died from cancer within a few weeks of Helen’s death.  The daughter was unmarried so that threat no longer existed.

The Clark’s Will read that whatever assets the survivor owned were to be bequeathed to a designated charities. The were many appreciable assets, accumulated from cash, fund equities and receivable income from the rental properties in the Clark’s corporation. This may have ultimately gone to the charities after all of the following litigation, but that is another story, too complicated for this tale and I don’t know the results.

The next event was, the attorney John Parker Tipton, respected lawyer, was found dead in his barcalounger, with an empty bottle of Jack Daniels in his lap, next to Harry’s Golden Urn.  When the cap from the urn was removed, there were no human ashes, just sand and cigar butts.  Coincidentally, there was a spot noticed in back of the house with some unusual grey ashes by a flower bush.  Fertilizer or what?

All three characters in this story are now dead. Each died of alcohol.  All of this story still remains an embarrassment to the county Bar Association where he was a former director.  John fooled me big time, but also everyone else.   Each character died a drunk.  Do you know any living elderly alcoholics?  Every one I knew is dead.  They don’t make livers to handle that kind of excess poison yet.

Funds from accounts for all of those nice little old ladies, where John volunteered as executor, trustee or in any other capacities, handling money, pro bono, have also disappeared, together with his escrow accounts.  Most of the old ladies, are among the deceased too.  John showed no assets other than his Mercedes Benz car and a few hundred dollars cash in his pocket.  John had deeded his house to his daughter-in-law as a wedding present a few years prior to all of these happenings.   John was no more than a tenant, in the house he used to own.

It was known that John frequently vacationed at a very luxurious property in South Carolina, on the beach, but his son claimed the ownership. I never heard how the insurance companies and bar association dealt with this matter or even if anyone ever made a claim since almost all of this clients were dead.  John had no assets in his name that were discovered except his escrow accounts which were almost at zero balance.  He financially raped most his clients and hid the money somewhere. Maybe in a bottle, but it was never found. When I talked to the Chancellor of the Bar, he said, this was a first for them and they just didn’t know where to start.

John’s secretary was the only person alive that could unravel this puzzle, but her where-a-bouts is unknown.

Note: All victims of these larcenous schemes, seem to only involved the assets of people who had no living heirs or children and who were in were fiduciary relationships with their lawyer, JOHN PARKER TIPTON esq., attorney at law.

One last little detail:  This matter was ONLY ONE in John’s long list trusting, aged clients. Use your imagination to guess just how far this practice reached.  That is the rest of the story which has yet to be told.

NOTE:  Names and actual events have been changed to protect the innocent.  The colleagues and some friends of our protagonist, will recognize some of these events.  It will always be a good story in the county where this lawyer practiced, when discussing John Parker Tipton at the bar, the country club bar that is, where they serve Jack Daniels. Due to lack of actual information, some of this story is fictionalized, exercising artistic license.

11-5-14  2385 words