TAMPA — Tampa lawyer Ted Millison knew about children and untimely death.
His father died when he was just entering his teens, back in Maryland. He once told a friend that, as the oldest of three boys, he "had to grow up fast."
When he had three children of his own — Marina, Harry and Noa — he made sure to keep them close.
He would rise about 5 a.m., so he could help get them breakfast and drive them to school. After a full day as a family practice lawyer, he helped bathe them at night and readied them for bed. He served as a director of Hillel School, where they studied, and coached their soccer teams for nine years.
"He enjoyed that very much, even as busy as he was," his brother-in-law David Sobelman said this week. "He loved watching his kids develop."
So when doctors diagnosed malignant melanoma in late 2006, Mr. Millison brought his children into his confidence. "He kept them informed and told them what was happening throughout his illness," Sobelman said. "He never wanted to sugarcoat his situation."
That same straightforward approach to family crisis also marked his work as a divorce lawyer, colleagues said. Mr. Millison always tried to focus on legal issues and stay above the emotional fray that surrounds divorce.
One of his most publicly prominent clients was a woman who received $5,000 a month in alimony from her ex-husband — as long as she didn't remarry.
She and a boyfriend went through a Las Vegas "wedding" ceremony and exchanged rings, but did not take out a marriage license. Her ex-husband tried to drop the alimony payments but the judge agreed with Mr. Millison that neither Florida law nor the couple's divorce order recognized the Las Vegas union as a legal remarriage.
Within a few months, outraged Florida legislators changed the law so judges could take such "supportive" relationships into account and discontinue alimony.
The case was contentious and bitter at times, says Tampa lawyer Nancy Harris, who represented the ex-husband. But Mr. Millison never got personal.
"You work hard, competitively for the client," she said, "but at the end you dust it off, shake hands, say 'great game' and move on."
In November, his colleagues at the Hillsborough Family Law Inns of Court renamed their annual recognition award the "Ted Millison Professionalism Award."
In March, he became the first recipient. A plaque with his name hangs on the fourth floor of the Hillsborough Courthouse.
Mr. Millison discontinued chemotherapy late last year so he could feel better and live more fully during his last months. He had philosophical conversations with friends over lunch, including about his children, ages 16, 14 and 9.
Mr. Millison died Tuesday at 45, exactly 18 years after he and Gayle married.