Jan P. Egger
February 1, 2024, at age 79 from Parkinson’s Disease.
Predeceased by his parents, Gerald and Florence Egger, and brother, Gerald Egger. Survived by his wife, Jo Anne Leegant, sister, Michelle Egger Krell (Michael), sisters-in-law Laurie Leegant Cantore (Anthony) and Sheryl Knapp Egger, nephews, Michael and Jeffrey Egger, Daniel, Sam and Thomas Krell (Jenny), Mathew Cantore (Amanda), and niece, Jill Cantore Morris (Justin), 5 great nieces, 3 great nephews, dogs, Febrero and Izzy, as well as cousins and caring friends.
Jan was born in Hornell, NY. His family moved numerous times during his early childhood, as a result of which he attended multiple elementary schools, sometimes within a single school year. He taught himself to read before he started kindergarten, so he had no difficulty keeping up with his schoolwork. After his father died in 1954, his mother returned to Hornell with her three children, aged 11, 9 and 3. As a single mother with no job skills, she had a difficult time supporting her family. According to Jan, when they first returned to Hornell, they relied upon public assistance. His mother took a job as a meat wrapper for Loblaws Supermarket. Jan said that she hid steaks in her girdle in order to feed her family. Eventually, she obtained more lucrative employment and their finances improved, but they lived from paycheck to paycheck.
Jan attended St. Ann’s School, where he recalled that he spent a significant amount of time in the corner for making wisecracks to the nuns. He related that the school would broadcast over the school’s loudspeaker that the following students should report to the office to pick up the family’s monthly allotment of surplus food. He didn’t say whether they identified him or his older brother for that dubious honor. Despite having to endure such embarrassment at school, Jan was valedictorian when he graduated from St. Ann’s.
He graduated from Hornell High School in 1962 and received his BA from SUNY at Geneseo in 1966. Because he was the only one in his class who did not train to become a teacher, he was promptly drafted into the US Army. He enjoyed relating the story about the letter he received which began with greetings from President Lyndon Baines Johnson, went on to say that he was about to be drafted, and concluded with an advisory the gist of which was: this is an important document. If you do not receive it, notify..... Every time he retold the story, Jan expressed regret that he had not thought to save that letter.
Following his discharge, he entered graduate school at the University of Chicago, where he planned to obtain a PhD in microbiology. He changed his plans when he realized that employment in that field would be difficult to obtain. He applied to and was accepted at the University of Minnesota law school. In the interim, he worked as a police officer for the city of Chicago.
After receiving his JD, he accepted a job as an Assistant County Attorney for Erie County in Buffalo. Because one of his co-workers was out sick, Jan argued a case before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court the day after he was admitted to practice. For most of his career at the County Attorney’s office, he prosecuted juvenile delinquents in Family Court. It was there that he learned to try cases off the cuff. He would be given a file, have a few minutes to review it, and proceed to trial.
He met his future wife, Jo Anne Leegant, at a picnic during the summer of 1976. She was a probation officer at the time. They were married on their lunch hour in January, 1977. It was payday and they needed their paychecks in order to pay for their weekend honeymoon in Toronto. Starting in 1981, he supported her while she attended law school. During her senior year, his boss fired him in order to hire one of his wife’s female classmates. After several months of submitting resumes and receiving no responses, he was offered a job in Rochester. They rented an apartment, and he spent his weekends commuting between Buffalo and Rochester while she studied for the bar exam. Jan’s boss offered Jo Anne a job, as he knew that she would work for a pittance since unemployed law school graduates who were awaiting the results of the bar exam would take any job. Their two paychecks enabled them to purchase a house, although it would be months before they were able to sell their double house in Buffalo. She was afraid that they would be unable to pay both mortgages, but having survived far worse financial challenges, Jan knew that they would succeed.
Jan held a series of jobs in Rochester. He perfected his skill as a trial lawyer. He retained the ability to try a case with minimal preparation. He was able to try cases after reviewing the file, without making notes. His cross examinations were devastating to the opposition. While most of us think of what they should have said after the fact, he was able to come up with the right words at the right time. He put on a great show when he tried a case. Younger lawyers would come to the courtroom to watch him in action.
Eventually, Jan and Jo Anne became law partners. Although they practiced in multiple areas, the majority of the work was negligence defense. Jan tried numerous cases and was extremely successful. They retired and closed the office in 2014.
Prior to and after retirement, they enjoyed traveling. In addition to Italy, Greece, Spain, France, Poland, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Ireland, they visited China, Singapore, and Southeast Asia. He had his pocket picked in Prague. Because Jan loved good food and was an excellent cook, the highlight of every trip was the cuisine. He had no interest in visiting any country unless he could enjoy the food. They made several trips to New Orleans so that they could enjoy the food as well as the presentation.
Jan volunteered as a judge for mock trials at the high school and college level. One year, his team made the finals in Albany. He was an avid Bridge player and became a Life Master.
Jan was an animal lover. When he married Jo Anne, he had 2 cats and she had 3 cats and a dog. It wasn’t long before they had 3 dogs in addition to the 5 cats. If there really is a Rainbow Bridge, Jan was escorted to Heaven by an army of dogs and cats, barking, meowing and purring with joy.
Jan started out with nothing and achieved professional and financial success as a result of his hard work and determination. His mother was so proud of him that she addressed all of the letters she wrote to him as “Attorney Jan Egger”. Jan donated his brain to the Harvard Medical School in the hope that someday there will be a way to prevent or cure Parkinson’s Disease.
A celebration of Jan’s life will be held in October, as he would have celebrated his 80th birthday on 10/16.
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