On February 24, 2013, our MSBA community suffered a significant loss with the passing of Melody Tagliaferri Cronin from acute myelocytic leukemia. Melody was a litigation associate at the Baltimore-based firm of Rosenberg, Martin, Greenberg, LLC. She was married to an incredible man, Ben Cronin, with whom she shares a gorgeous son.
Melody’s passion for public service was truly inspirational. Her smile lit up a room. It worked in tandem with her commanding presence to educate, inspire, and guide hundreds of volunteer lawyers, notaries, and judges throughout the state of Maryland in her administration of the Wills for Heroes Program.
Beginning in 2008, Melody worked diligently to bring the Wills for Heroes program to Maryland through many hours of hard work and commitment. In 2011, Melody turned the reins over to Sarah Cline after training her. Melody was not stepping back from Wills for Hereos because of her diagnosis, but had made the decision earlier to devote more time with family.
The Wills for Heroes Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit organization, is a national organization that provides wills, living wills, powers of attorney, and advanced medical directives free of charge to first responders, including police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and corrections and probation officers.
The foundation was started in response to the tragic events of 9/11. This program provides free wills and other estate planning documents to our local heroes in about one hour using HotDocs, a program donated by LexisNexis. This technology allows lawyers of all specialties to participate.
At a day-long event, the responders meet with volunteer attorneys who input the responders’ information into the HotDocs program. The attorneys review the draft documents with the responders to make sure the plan is understood and correct. Once the documents are finalized, they are signed, witnessed, and notarized at the event so they are effective immediately.
Melody planned and carried out numerous events described above throughout the state before turning the program over to Sarah Cline. Melody’s efforts recruited the efforts of hundreds of volunteers from all over Maryland, including judges, attorneys, and notaries public. These events have generated estate planning documents for hundreds of first responders and their families in Maryland.
In 2010, Melody won the Alex Fee Award sponsored by the Pro Bono Center of Maryland as a direct result of her dedication to public service.
“Melody was so humble about her participation in the program,” said Sarah. “You could tell that she did it because she enjoyed it and was committed to the cause, and not for any credit or publicity she might receive.”
Melody’s dedication and enthusiasm for the program has inspired Sarah and all of those she encountered. At a recent Wills for Heroes event in Howard County, Sarah learned that the firefighters in Howard County are making a donation in Melody’s name to leukemia research.
While the legal community is incredibly saddened by her loss, we would be remiss not to continue to be inspired by her passion. In honor of Melody and the many others who are diagnosed with leukemia daily, Rosenberg, Martin, Greenberg, LLC, in conjunction with the MSBA, the Public Service Committee, the Young Lawyers Section of the MSBA, and the Women’s Bar Association of Maryland are planning an event on May 9, 2013 to raise awareness of the importance of being a bone marrow donor.
Marla Zide is an MSBA Board Governor and a Past Chair of the MSBA Young Lawyers Section.