Life Remembered: Attorney praised for integrity, civic service

DANVILLE — It came as no surprise to William Townsley that every time he went to the Vermilion County Courthouse in recent months, people would ask how his law partner was doing.

After all, Gill Garman was a courthouse favorite — beloved by friends and foes alike.

"He was one of the most wonderful people you will ever want to meet," said Townsley, who worked in the same law office as Mr. Garman for 40 years.

Mr. Garman died Saturday at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis after several months away from his practice due to health issues.

A 1961 graduate of Urbana High School, Mr. Garman, 71, was married for nearly 47 years to Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Rita Garman, whom he met while they were students at the University of Illinois. Both went on to the University of Iowa to study law and, after graduating in 1968, both started their careers in the field in Danville.

Mr. Garman was a partner with the law office of Kesler, Garman, Brougher & Townsley, which was formed in September 2003 after two firms merged.

Townsley said Mr. Garman was more than one of the top attorneys around.

"He was a good lawyer and fine partner. I was so happy to be associated with him," he said. "But it was his human side that came out best."

Danville attorney Fred Underhill was a close friend of Mr. Garman's for more than 40 years, and their families were close as well. Mr. Garman's loss is a blow to the Danville community, he said. He was active with his church, St. James United Methodist; served as president of Danville Rotary; and served on the Danville Public Library and Presence United Samaritans foundation boards.

Cathy Reardon, executive director of the Danville Library Foundation, said Mr. Garman was a dedicated, supportive member of that board for 22 years.

"He's just done so much for the entire community," she said. "We're all just so fortunate to have had him in our lives."

Underhill called Mr. Garman a "true friend."

"You'd never question his honesty on anything," he said.

Underhill said he and Mr. Garman played a lot of golf together, and enjoyed kidding each other about their games. Baseball was also a frequent topic between the two — Mr. Garman was a Cardinals fan; Underhill describes himself as "kind of a Cubs fan."

He remembers Mr. Garman once giving him Cardinals tickets in the very top row of the stadium, and kidding him about those "sweet" seats.

In recent years, Underhill said, Mr. Garman had a tough road. Not that he ever showed it. Underhill recalls visiting his friend, a two-time organ transplant recipient, in the hospital in recent months and Mr. Garman turning the conversation into how his kids were doing.

"We're all going to miss him," Underhill said. "I know it's going to be hard right now."

A celebration of Mr. Garman's life will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. James United Methodist in Danville.

Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Danville's Sunset Funeral Home and Cremation Center. Entombment will take place at Springhill Cemetery.

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