KAMLOOPS - On any given day, you could find criminal defence lawyer Ken Tessovitch sitting in the Kamloops Law Courts library – but chances are you would hear him before you saw him.
The 69-year-old 'larger than life' man is being remembered fondly by friends after his sudden death this past Friday, Feb. 10. Fellow defence lawyer Chris Thompson says Tessovitch was skiing at Sun Peaks with his family when he collapsed due to suspected heart failure. He passed away that day.
His death is a blow to the Kamloops legal community and Thompson says his best friend will be missed around the courthouse.
"He was my mentor – he was best friends with everybody," Thompson says. "He would stand up when nobody else would stand up. He had guts."
Thompson says Tessovitch was also a teacher, someone who helped Thompson when he first began his legal practice.
"He started me off in the business when no one else would help me with my practice," Thompson said. "He helped me, took me out, spent every day with me."
Thompson says Tessovitch was a force to be reckoned with in the courtroom.
"He was, I think, the best lawyer out here. Period," Thompson says. "We had a trial once and it was a question that had to be asked... I just could not ask it, it was just too hard. He got up and asked it – I was in shock."
Tessovitch has said in the past that he's been in Kamloops for 38 years, after moving from Prince George. He was called to the bar in B.C. in 1978.
He's remembered by colleagues as someone who fought for anyone who needed help, no matter how big or small the case was.
"He thought his clients had the right to be at court, the right to be at trial," Thompson says.
Tessovitch was instrumental in getting one of his clients, Charles Gerald Patrick, acquitted of several gun-related charges in 2015 due to Charter violations by the RCMP.
More recently, he advocated for a client from Merritt who was trying to address his substance abuse problems after continuous run-ins with the law.
Tessovitch has said in the past that he was "semi-retired," which meant cutting down his workload but maintaining his practice. He said he decided to shut down his law office but set up his own station in the Kamloops Law Courts library.
Defence lawyer Brad Smith says when he first came to Kamloops in 2015, lawyers frequently approached him asking if he had met Tessovitch yet.
"It wasn't long after I arrived here in July of 2015 that I started hearing lawyers say 'have you met Tessovitch yet?' and 'Tessovitch is in the library'," Smith says. "This larger than life figure that I hadn't yet met, but sure enough when I did meet him he was this bear of a man sitting in the courthouse library, holding court to whoever would listen."
Thompson says although life without Tessovitch will not be the same, he can't sit and sulk about the loss of his friend.
"I think a lot of people know they won’t be too upset because they know he wouldn’t approve," Thompson says. "He said ‘you’re gone, you’re gone that’s It, who needs crying?'"
Tessovitch leaves behind his wife Delda, his daughters Suzanne and Tina and his son Steve.
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