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Don Kiley, 'legendary' founder of his family's Great Neck law firm, dies

Kiley's five children all followed him into the practice of law, and four worked with him at the firm he founded. 

Don Kiley, a prominent Garden City attorney, died

Don Kiley, a prominent Garden City attorney, died Sept. 10. He was 89. Photo Credit: Kiley, Kiley & Kiley

Don Kiley, a prominent Great Neck attorney who was remembered for his selflessness and as a loving patriarch to his large family, died Sept. 10 from cardiac arrest at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, his family said. He was 89.

Kiley had a “masterful understanding of the law” and could easily grasp complex issues, said Don Kiley Jr. who practiced with his father. Kiley Jr. remembered the first time he appeared in Bronx Supreme Court, the judge called him to the bench to lavish praise on his father. He called the senior Kiley “legendary” and then advised the opposing counsel that if the younger Kiley was “half as smart as his father” they should settle.

“I said all the time I worked with him, I had access to two legal libraries — the room with the books and the office with the man,” Kiley Jr. said.  

Kiley was born in the Woodlawn section of the Bronx on Dec. 5, 1928. He attended Georgetown Preparatory School in Maryland for three years and graduated from Fordham Preparatory School in the Bronx. Kiley went on to study mathematics and philosophy at Fordham University, graduating in 1950, before he was drafted into the Army during the Korean War.

When he returned, Kiley enrolled at Fordham Law School where he became the editor of the Fordham Law Review and the valedictorian of the class of 1955. He began his legal career at Manhattan-based law firm Cahill, Gordon, Reindel & Ohl, and then took a postgraduate fellowship at Columbia Law School.

He later entered private practice in the Bronx and successfully sued the then-NYPD commissioner on behalf of his father, Edward Kiley, a deputy inspector who was forced to retire before he was able to collect Social Security because of the agency’s mandatory retirement age, according to The New York Times.

In 1958, a State Supreme Court ruling directed Edward Kiley be reinstated, an outcome he was particularly proud of, said Kiley Jr., of Huntington.

In the 1960s, Kiley joined the faculty of Duquesne Law School, and in 1974 he opened an office in Bayside, Queens, close to where he raised his five children. The family later moved to Commack and then Garden City.

The boundary between his work and private life was sometimes tenuous, his daughter, Cathy McGuire said. Clients came to the house at all hours, and the Kiley siblings were used to seeing their father hunched over his desk or meeting with clients in the kitchen late into the night. He fashioned himself the “country lawyer of Bayside,” who’d go to bat for anyone in the neighborhood and often worked pro bono, Kiley Jr. said.

“I thought a lawyer meant he just solved everybody’s problems,” said McGuire, of Garden City. “It wasn’t a job for him. To represent people through the law was an honor.”

McGuire and her four brothers all followed their father into law. In the 1980s, Kiley Jr. and Kevin Kiley joined their father’s practice, which moved to Great Neck, and became Kiley, Kiley & Kiley, PLLC. Jim Kiley was added later, McGuire also practiced with the family firm for a time, while Jack Kiley opted to work for a Manhattan firm.  

Throughout his career and after he retired in 2001, Kiley was active in his church, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament in Bayside. He also volunteered at local Catholic schools and was appointed to the pastoral council of the Diocese of Brooklyn from 1979 to 1982.

“He believed in propping up the community and would always say, get involved or stop complaining,” said Kevin Kiley, of Williston Park.

Kiley was fiercely proud of his brood and would brag to anyone who’d listen about his 16 grandchildren, Kevin Kiley said. He was also deeply devoted to his wife, Catherine Kiley. His last letter, which he dictated to McGuire from his hospital bed, was to her on her birthday: “Your love has been the sustaining factor of 61 beautiful and happy years of marriage.”

A memorial service was held for Kiley at the Church of St. Anne in Garden City on Saturday. He was buried at Mount Saint Mary Cemetery in Flushing, Queens.

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