A. Robert Zeff, 87; Prominent Attorney, Avid Detroit Tigers Fan — The Westport Local Press
A. Robert Zeff (nee Avram Abbot Zeff), 87, died of a well-spent life on June 6, 2021 while watching a basketball game at home in Westport, Connecticut.
Born in Tel Aviv, Israel on February 2, 1934, to the 15th generation of his family in Israel, Bob grew up in Detroit, Michigan, where he played high school baseball well enough to be at the University of Michigan and for playing the Tigers Farm Team until his knees forced him to forge other career plans. He remained a passionate baseball fan for a lifetime. The Detroit Tigers’ rarely missed games.
Bob graduated from the University of Detroit Law School at age 22 and was one of the youngest applicants to pass the 1957 Michigan bar exam. Zeff immediately started working for his ailing father’s law firm, and the name Zeff & Zeff PC still exists 65 years later. Although Bob was initially a “pink-faced young attorney trying to keep his father’s clients,” Bob had successfully built the law firm’s catastrophic personal injury practice by the early 1960s. When the million dollar judgments first began, Bob became a national leader in 7-digit restores.
He was most proud of a number of cases of press violations that changed industry regulations at Detroit’s factories. Newsweek named him one of the “Top 20 Personal Injury Lawyers” and his closing arguments before juries were events that drew spectators from all over the courthouse. The Michigan Institute of Continuing Legal Education presented tapes of his Million Dollar Arguments and he authored the chapter on closing arguments in ICLE’s Michigan Civil Procedure While Trial. Bob’s reputation was aptly captured by a Detroit News columnist who observed “Defense lawyers twitch when Zeff walks into the courtroom.” In 1975, Bob was inducted into the Inner Circle, a group limited to 100 of the best trial lawyers in the United States.
Zeff was once on a program on the Detroit News that featured a handful of the most suitable bachelors in town, and later married Susan Jane Kroll of South Carolina, who hadn’t seen the article. They celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary on June 2, 2021. Bob was a frequent praise of Susan privately on matters of the heart, golf, and business, often followed by the humorous disclaimer, “Don’t tell her I said that”. Bob’s interests and experiences justified a book he promised to write often. He had traveled widely with extraordinarily colorful experiences.
Bob owned a Jai alai Fronton in Connecticut with related activities in Spain, where he became a fan of Salvador Dali and began putting together a museum-quality Dali collection – the tip of an iceberg of fine art that he and Susan collected. Bob traveled to South America and experienced Indiana Jones-type jungle adventures, complete with artifacts and flying arrows. Bob was once surprised when he was sitting there at a state dinner with the President of Indonesia discussing international business. An unrepentant golfer for many years, Bob reached his golf apex on a scramble team that won a pot of nearly $ 40,000 in a charity tournament for Boca Raton Regional Hospital. As in Bob’s personal life, his pace of golf was deliberate. He was a reliable late-comer to virtually any scheduled event, a practice Susan couldn’t override in over three decades of marriage. Bob had imposing “family members” dogs throughout his adult years who were passionate about himself and Susan, but gentle enough to lift a Brazil nut from his lips at breakfast each day. He lived life fully.
Bob leaves behind his loving and devoted wife, Susan, of Boca Raton, Florida, and niece, Sandra (Mark) Gold, the daughter of Bob’s beloved older sister, Nita “Billie” (Moe) Barak, who died before him, and Sandra’s children. He was also pre-deceased from his father Louis Zeff and his mother Bertha Friedman Zeff.
Bob was a member of the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue in Southfield, Michigan and the Palm Beach Orthodox Synagogue in Florida. He was an avid supporter of Israeli cause and a generous benefactor of the Hebrew University, where the Zeffs established the Susan and A. Robert Zeff Graduate Scholarship Endowment Fund for law students on a permanent basis. Donations in memory of Bob should be made to the Department of Hematologic Neoplasia, Dana Farber Institute, 450 Brookline Ave, Boston, MA 02215.
Arrangements will be made by the Ira Kaufman Chapel and the burial will take place in a private ceremony at Clover Hill Park Cemetery.