Karl was born July 15, 1943, in Springfield, IL, and died peacefully after a long and courageous fight with COPD in Corpus Christi, TX, on Feb. 25, 2020.
Karl lived life to the fullest for 76 adventure-filled years. He was a service brat and lived all over the U.S. and the world as a child, including Puerto Rico, France, Germany and England. Following a childhood dream to become a pilot in the Air Force, he joined the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M College Station, where he graduated with an English degree in 1965. While walking through the A&M student center before graduation, contemplating a Plan B after a vision test disqualified him from becoming a pilot, a chance encounter with a flyer for the LSAT changed his trajectory in life. Some of his buddies had been enthusiastic about the prospects of a law degree, and he decided right then that he had what it took. And he did, spectacularly. It was this same confidence, drive and unparalleled determination that guided his many adventures in career and life.
He received a scholarship to St. Mary’s Law School in San Antonio, where he was editor of the Law Review and graduated Magna Cum Laude before embarking on a law career in the Air Force. He served in the JAG unit in both Massachusetts and Japan before returning to the States and joining a law firm in Dallas, where his love of law took off. He spent several years learning the practice and watching others run a firm, before determining he had what it took to do the same. And he did. He and five other attorneys built what became a successful practice that grew to multiple dozens of employees. Karl worked diligently to carve out a niche for himself as one of the foremost experts in insurance insolvency, helping policy owners recuperate assets after insurance companies went into insolvency. This expertise landed him on some of the biggest cases of their kind in the country at the time, some of which appear in law books today. One of his career highlights, which he didn’t speak of often, was arguing a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. He continued to work for himself and with his partners, running through every door that opened for him and answering every time opportunity knocked, until he retired to start his next chapter.
In retirement, when most people are content to relax and reflect, Karl was not. "An idle mind is a poor companion," he said. And there was still too much left to do. He earned a Master’s degree in Creative Writing, and later published two novels. He was a scuba diver, golfer, sailor, motorcyclist, guitarist, songwriter, photographer, storyteller, licensed ham radio operator, avid reader and crossword puzzle expert.
He was also a master fisherman and unofficial fishing guide, spending countless hours fishing the banks of an undisclosed river in Wisconsin – he always wanted it kept secret -- where he built what is fondly referred to as “The Shack” on property originally purchased by his grandfather in the 1920s. He spent summers there and welcomed family from all corners of the U.S. to The Shack each summer to swim, boat, fish, play cards and tell stories around the campfire. All who partook had to agree to just a handful of his hand-written camp rules that have guided stays for decades. They include such things as “those who have special diets have to fend for themselves” and “no complaining about things you forgot to bring.”
He valued preparation, evidenced by the fact that he always had a plan. Always. And it was always incredibly well thought out. In fact, he usually had a plan for all parties involved, whether or not they realized it. With an exceptionally sharp mind and eternal quest for knowledge, he thrived on lively and intelligent conversations and learning about conflicting viewpoints. On the off chance you had an opinion or argument he hadn’t heard, he’d likely know more about it than you upon your next encounter. Even in retirement, he spent countless hours researching opinions for pro bono cases, simply because he wanted to know. And he delighted in the fact that while many other families may simply catch up over the holidays, his would sit at the Thanksgiving table debating scientific theories.
Words do little justice to who he was and will continue to be in our hearts. He was a trailblazer and pioneer who had a perfect balance of strength and tenderness. He was generous with time, money and advice; he was deeply thoughtful, witty and kind. He was an advocate for justice and found joy in the successes of his friends and family. He was the most committed team member and leader anyone could hope to have.
He is survived by his wife of 43 years, Nancy Jackson Rubinstein, children Aaron (Anja) Rubinstein, Tiffany (Cory) Heikkila and Matthew (Jennifer) Rubinstein and three grandchildren: Presley Heikkila and Amy and Katie Rubinstein; sister Ruth (Jim) Odom and brother David (Lori) Rubinstein and many nieces and nephews - all who he loved so much and who absolutely adored him.
In the last couple of years, as COPD continued to deal him tough hands, he bravely faced the disease. He would not concede defeat. But he eloquently shared these simple words to let family know what life with them had meant to him. “It has been an honor.” But ultimately, the honor belongs to all of us, whose lives he has forever touched.
We would like to thank Drs. Nguyen, Kamat, Franco, the Bay Area 3rd Floor ICU doctors, nurses and therapists who took loving care of him.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to your favorite charity.
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