Julius Kaplan “Jay” died unexpectedly on September 1, 2021. He was born on August 3, 1934 in Washington, DC, and lived most of his life in the District. He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Ann Lanyon Kaplan, his two children, Samantha Kaplan (Dirk Mason) of Madison, WI and Lael Kaplan (Cheryl Kaplan) of Ashburn, VA; four grandchildren; and his sister, Jean Sulkes, of Chicago, IL. He was preceded in death by his brother, William Kaplan. Jay was the son of immigrant parents who owned a delicatessen in the Eckington neighborhood of NW Washington.
Jay left his tight-knit Jewish community to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Intellectual History with an undergraduate thesis on 20th century American art. While art and philosophy were his early passions, family pressure directed him towards law school. The intellectual challenge of law appealed to Jay and ultimately led him around the globe. Jay received a BA (1956) from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, a JD (1961) from the University of Chicago Law School where he edited the law review, and an MCL (1962), also from the University of Chicago. He served a year on the Law Faculty of the University of Grenoble, France which began a lifelong appreciation of French culture.
His career began in 1962 in the office of legal counsel for the Agency for International Development, Department of State, during the Kennedy Administration. Jay met his wife, Ann Lanyon, at a French conversation group, and they were married in London in 1963. Ann had spent a year in France on a Fulbright Fellowship and shared his interest in French language and culture. Beginning in 1965 Jay entered private practice as an international lawyer. In 1969 he became a founding partner of Kirkwood, Kaplan, Russin, and Vecchi, which grew to an international firm over the next 25 years with 125 lawyers with many national and overseas offices. Locations included Washington, New York, San Francisco, Bangkok, Saigon, Santo Domingo, Beirut, Bogota, Jakarta, Madrid, Moscow, and Taipei. He finished his career as of counsel to Cadwalader, Wickersham, and Taft from 1995 to 2000.
Jay represented the State of Israel and the countries of Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, Pakistan, and Iran. His commercial clients included IBM, Citicorp, Gulf Oil, and InterContinental Hotels, among others. Jay had countless other projects and interests. He served as president of the Washington Foreign Law Society. He was on the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Moral Courage. He spent many years working to establish a museum of Jewish heritage in Washington, DC to celebrate the accom- plishments and contributions of the Jewish community. He was also a member of the Philosophical Society of Washington and was fascinated by cosmology. Jay was an active member of the Cosmos Club since 1983 and served on and chaired many committees. He successfully nominated nearly 100 other members and in 2018 was awarded the prestigious Founders’ Club award.
His family recalls special occasions at the Club such as the Easter or Mother’s Day brunch with children and grandchildren, the New Year’s Eve celebrations, and countless lectures and lunches with friends.
In his retirement Jay became a member then Chair of the Explorers Club Washington Group. Through them he embarked on a series of trips and expeditions all over the world. Some of the most memorable include climbing live volcanoes in Kamchatka, Siberia, climbing sand dunes in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia, watching the orangutans in Borneo, viewing four of the five world’s highest peaks from Sandakphu mountain on the border between India and Nepal, and navigating the Peruvian Amazon. He was active in fundraising events for the Explorers Club that provide field research grants for graduate students.
Jay’s love of art began during his undergraduate years and continued throughout his life. He supported numerous museums and counted renowned curators among his friends. He collected Chinese ceramics, 18th century English and Dutch glass, American studio glass, and American paintings (most notably, a George Bellows winter scene). He was a member of The Glass Circle, attending its meetings while in London on business or holiday, and presenting a lecture on his glass collection in 2017. His collections also included antique English place card holders and antique Judaica traveling menorahs.
In recent years Jay was an author of two books. The first, “Secrets and Suspense” (2018), captured the highlights of his legal career. One accolade stated that it “read like an international thriller. From working a clandestine Middle East deal, to secretly supporting Argentinian freedom fighters, to trying to establish fast food in France.” His second book, a memoir called, “In Search of Beauty” (2019), illustrated his experiences as an art collector over the course of five decades. At the time of his death Jay was writing a fictional novel that drew upon and intertwined his lifelong interests of art and law.
Jay was a connoisseur of food and wine. He took pride in his personal wine cellar and was a member of the DC chapter of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, a Burgundian wine society. He patronized Michelin starred restaurants and enjoyed crafting multi-course menus for special occasions. Jay will be remembered as generous, cultivated, and passionate in all his pursuits.
He relished a challenge and did not hesitate to try new things. Above all, Jay’s family and friends cherished his energy, optimism, and enthusiasm for life. The poem Ulysses by Tennyson best captures Jay’s spirit, “I cannot rest from travel: I will drink Life to the lees.”
Gifts in remembrance can be sent to Wesleyan University, the Cosmos Club Foundation, the Explorers Club Washington Group, or the National Gallery of Art. The family appreciates the many thoughtful messages from around the world. Condolences may also be left at www.josephgawlers.com.
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