Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Ronald Jay Bayer, 81, Center City lawyer who made an elegant exit from life

When doctors advised Mr. Bayer that his kidneys had shut down on Saturday, Nov. 2, he bid his friends and family goodbye and stopped his medications. He died two days later in the hospital.

Ronald Jay Bayer and wife, Joyce Bayer
Ronald Jay Bayer and wife, Joyce BayerRead moreCourtesy of Joyce Bayer

As a Philadelphia lawyer for four decades, Ronald Jay Bayer of Center City handled everything from business contracts and civil litigation to private adoptions and estate probate.

He even served as a support and custody master for Family Court.

But the most remarkable achievement of his life may have been his manner of leaving it on Monday, Nov. 4, at age 81, his friend and neighbor Dan Rottenberg wrote in a tribute.

When advised on Saturday, Nov. 2, by doctors at Pennsylvania Hospital that his kidneys were no longer functioning, Mr. Bayer instructed them to halt any further efforts to save his life.

Instead, he spent the weekend reaching out to his family and friends — “everyone he could think of,” said his wife, Joyce.

He told his online friends: “I will not be posting on Facebook or reading it anymore.” He sent email messages to his friends and acquaintances.

He asked to see his three daughters, two sons-in-law, and seven grandchildren, as well as his sister, two sisters-in-law, a nephew, and two nieces. He also asked to see his former law partner, Alan Silberstein, a past president judge of Municipal Court.

As each arrived, he spoke to every visitor individually, providing a specific farewell message.

“He knew what to say to each grandchild — what would pertain to each of them in their lives,” said daughter Nicole Kava.

Mr. Bayer thanked his sons-in-law for being good husbands to his daughters. “It was almost like he did his own shivah,” his wife said. “You talk about what they meant to you. My niece thought it was a blessing we could do this” while he was still alive. "You don’t often get that chance.”

After his last visitor departed on Sunday, Nov. 3, Mr. Bayer instructed the hospital staff to stop his medications. He also asked them to perform an autopsy to pinpoint the lymphatic condition that had plagued him since early this year following heart surgery.

“I’d like you to find out what went wrong,” he told the staff. “Maybe it will help someone else.” He died the following morning in the hospital.

Born in Philadelphia in 1938, Mr. Bayer grew up in Fern Rock. He graduated from Central High School in 1956 and earned a bachelor of science degree from Temple University in 1960.

He put himself through Temple’s law school by driving a cab and working at odd jobs, earning his law degree in 1963.

After serving in the armed forces, Mr. Bayer practiced law in Center City through the late 1990s and then went to work as a Family Court master before retiring in the mid-2000s.

He was a partner in the law firm of Herman, Bayer & Silberstein, working from offices at 13th and Walnut Streets. Over the years, he placed hundreds of legal announcements in daily newspapers as he settled the estates of clients or reported the incorporation of nonprofits and businesses.

When not at work, he was an avid chess player, tennis player, and jogger, and an inveterate wordsmith and punster. He was a key organizer of the block association on his street in Center City. The group undertook beautification projects.

Besides his wife of 38 years and daughter, Mr. Bayer is survived by daughters Lorna Bayer and Kim Larrabee, and seven grandchildren. He was formerly married to Alice Bayer. They divorced; she is deceased.

Services were Thursday, Nov. 7.

Donations in his memory may be made to any charity.