My heart is heavy. Last Wednesday my friend Craig Kozicki ended his 10-year battle against mesothelioma, leaving behind his dedicated wife and daughter, Shelly and Emily. Craig was a 10-year survivor of the disease — a miracle story and symbol of hope among mesothelioma patients throughout the country. He was only 53.

Craig’s case was one of the first mesothelioma cases I ever worked on as a young attorney just starting out here at Simmons Hanly Conroy. He was Jeff Cooper’s client. It was through Jeff that I got to know Craig and his family. Over the years, the Kozickis have become much more than clients — they have become part of the family here at Simmons Hanly Conroy.

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When I think of Craig, I think of so many different things. I think about his love for sports and how much I always enjoyed our debates about the Illinois and Missouri college rivalries. His dedication to his wife and daughter. I think of the kind of man he was and the way he always fought and didn’t complain. How he kept working as long as he could and kept living his life throughout the numerous chemotherapy treatments and painful surgeries.

In the search for a cure for mesothelioma and the fight to ban asbestos, Craig and Shelly are truly a special couple. They have been an inspiration to me, to everyone at Simmons Hanly Conroy, and to countless families across the country. Time and time again, we have clients tell us about the impact Craig and Shelly have had on their lives.

Earlier this week it was announced that the Kozickis received the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation’s annual “Volunteer of the Year” award. It’s a testament to both Craig and Shelly. Since Craig was diagnosed at age 42, Shelly has been standing by his side, and she’s somehow always found time to help other people struggling with the cancer. She’s been a sounding board and a voice for so many and has never asked for anything in return. Truly a remarkable lady.

I have to say — I wasn’t sure if I should write this at all. How do you adequately pay tribute to someone with so much dignity and strength? There are no words to describe how much his success in fighting off this horrible cancer for so long has meant to myself and so many others.

But then it hit me. What better way to honor and remember Craig than to try and encourage others to take up his cause? So that’s what I’m doing. I’m encouraging anyone reading this to donate to the Meso Foundation in Craig’s name. I think he’d like that.

Here’s the link for contributing to the Meso Foundation’s “Craig Kozicki Grant Fund” to find a cure for mesothelioma (make sure you scroll down to the bottom of the page).

And if you don’t want to give online, mail in a check to the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, PO Box 91840 Santa Barbara, CA 93190-1840. Just make sure you write “Craig Kozicki” in the memo line.

Goodbye Craig. You will be missed dearly. It was an honor to represent you. But the greatest honor was getting to know you at all.