For decades, John Silver would quietly enter and exit his law office in the downtown Catron Building, also known as the Silver Building, where he would work with clients on real estate, trust and other estate cases.

The longtime attorney, who died on Thursday morning, was not one for undue attention, said his wife, Gloria Silver.

“He would want to be remembered as a caring Santa Fean, carrying on the family tradition of supporting all the people of New Mexico,” she said during a phone interview Tuesday.

Her husband, she said, likely died of a heart attack at their Santa Fe home. He was 69.

John Silver’s law partner, Joe McClaugherty, said Silver liked his work because it allowed him to pursue two personal goals — “to help people and solve problems.”

McClaugherty, who worked with Silver since about 1990, said in a phone interview their relationship was “as good as the best of marriages. We were together 30 years, and we never had a single disagreement. We just matched each other well.”

Service to community ran deep in the Silver family. Silver’s parents were Abe and Marian Silver, longtime Santa Feans who ran the Guarantee on the Plaza, a prominent retail store with a long history in the city until its closure in 1988.

The couple supported numerous local nonprofits and arts organizations and were named Santa Fe Living Treasures in 2008.

John Silver, a Santa Fe High School graduate, set out to be a professional tennis player, his wife said. But a bad knee ended that dream, although he taught and played tennis for years.

He turned to studying law instead. He graduated from the University of New Mexico Law School in 1977 and began practicing shortly thereafter, setting up shop in his hometown.

He met his wife, a ballet dancer from Seattle, when she came to Santa Fe to appear in the Santa Fe Opera’s 1983 production of Orpheus in the Underworld, in which she danced the can-can.

“The can-can will get ’em every time,” Gloria Silver said with a laugh.

The couple married in 1984 and had two children, Tom and Johanna, twins born in January 1992.

Johanna, a writer living in Brooklyn, said by phone Tuesday her father was “immensely supportive, the kindest father, always a problem solver, always coming to us to support us.”

Tom, who works in the restaurant and cannabis industry in Denver, said by phone his father loved his work but often joked to his son: “Never go to law school.”

McClaugherty said his partner did not see the people he served as a source of revenue. One reason Silver remained successful in his practice, he said, was his ability to form a personal relationship with those clients.

“I would say without a doubt the vast majority [of clients] became personal friends after the legal work was over,” McClaugherty said.

Silver supported the Santa Fe Children’s Museum, the Museum of New Mexico Foundation and the St. Vincent Hospital Foundation. He also contributed to such environmental, youth and animal-oriented organizations as the Jane Goodall Institute, and the Allene and Jerome Lapides Foundation.

Despite his love of animals, he was not much of a pet person, his son said.

“He liked animals in the wild a little bit more,” Tom Silver said.

Asked how John Silver would want to be remembered, McClaugherty said, “With a smile.”

Gloria Silver said the family likely will hold a memorial for her husband in the spring.

General Assignment Reporter

Robert Nott has covered education and youth issues for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is assigned to The New Mexican's city desk where he covers a general assignment beat.

(4) comments

Nicholas Lerek

John was first and foremost a wonderful, warm human being with a tremendous sense of humor. Although our relationship started as client and attorney (and a great attorney he was!) I truly valued his friendship above all. I always knew I could count on John to provide good counsel no matter what the situation. My condolences to his family, friends and his law partner Joe as well. You will be greatly missed, John.

John Robertson

Very sad news. Best wishes to the family.

Peter Komis

As I sit at LAX waiting for our connecting flight to SFO with my son who as a new college freshman in on his way to UCSC, I think of the wonderful memories and experiences John Silver created for the Wood Gormley students many years ago when he brought Jane Goodall to our school. John was a tremendously kind, generous and honorable man. Santa Fe indeed has experienced a great loss with his sudden passing. My heart goes out to Marian, Gloria, Tom, and Johanna. May John’s memory be eternal.

Anne Minard

I am so sorry to hear of John’s passing. He met me for coffee several times a few years back, when I was a new attorney trying to find my way toward a career working on environmental issues. He was kind and supportive and I’ll miss him. My deepest condolences to his family.

Welcome to the discussion.

Thank you for joining the conversation on Please familiarize yourself with the community guidelines. Avoid personal attacks: Lively, vigorous conversation is welcomed and encouraged, insults, name-calling and other personal attacks are not. No commercial peddling: Promotions of commercial goods and services are inappropriate to the purposes of this forum and can be removed. Respect copyrights: Post citations to sources appropriate to support your arguments, but refrain from posting entire copyrighted pieces. Be yourself: Accounts suspected of using fake identities can be removed from the forum.