Tracy Rae Podpeskar, a mother, attorney and partner of Trenti Law Firm in Virginia, died on Dec. 4. She was 43.
In her profession, Podpeskar was perhaps best known for carving her own path at the law firm from her beginnings as a legal secretary to law student intern to associate attorney and then to partner in 2012. “Tracy practiced family law at the highest level, both as a skilled and zealous litigator for her clients and as a talented and effective mediator,” according to her obituary.
Her impressive resume shows that she was a member of the American Bar Association and the Minnesota Bar Association. She was a mentor with the Upward Bound Mentor Program. She was a member and past president of the Range Bar Association and served as the chair of the Range Ethics Committee. She served on the board of directors and as board chair of the Apple Tree Learning Center. She was a board member of the Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota and she was named a North Star Lawyer for providing at least 50 hours per year of pro bono legal services. She taught Sunday school at Hope Community Presbyterian Church in Virginia.
Tracy Podpeskar was born July 14, 1977, in Wausau, Wis., to Mary (Jameson) and the late Lee Podpeskar. She graduated from Virginia Roosevelt High School, before earning her B.A in political science and criminology from the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Criminology. She went on to receive her J.D. from William Mitchell College of Law.
Podpeskar was raising her older daughter when she graduated summa cum laude from law school. She eventually had a second daughter. “Of all her many achievements, Tracy’s biggest accomplishment, and the one that she was most proud of was to be the mother of her two amazing daughters, Jordan and Hayden,” the obituary reads. “She bragged about them to all who knew her and loved to share the achievements of her two smart, independent young women.”
Here, the Mesabi Tribune welcomed Podpeskar’s colleagues to share their own experiences of a “fun-loving, down-to-earth, loyal, strong and caring person with a fabulous sense of style and an extensive shoe collection.”
Sixth District Judge Michelle Anderson, Virginia
Tracy and I graduated a couple years apart from Virginia High School so I have long been aware of Tracy's academic achievements; she graduated at the top of her class in high school and with highest honors from both her Undergraduate and Law School programs. When Tracy set her mind to something, she achieved it.
On a professional level, Tracy maintained the highest degree of integrity and propriety in all her dealing with the Court. Tracy was always impeccably dressed, well-prepared, respectful to others, and most importantly, she put forth zealous arguments grounded in law. Tracy built a successful career in a very demanding field, handling countless mediations involving complex family cases. She used her skills to help people mutually resolve conflicts outside of the Court system, benefitting the courts, but most significantly, relieving the burden of conflict from families.
Alongside this, Tracy volunteered her time to various organizations and causes and maintained strong and long-lasting friendships, all while balancing life as a mother of two beautiful girls who she was most proud of.
On a personal level, Tracy's indomitable spirit, zest for life, and smile will all be missed. She set an example for women and girls in our community. She served with humility; making others feel comfortable being themselves. Our community suffers a great loss.
Sixth District Judge Rachel Sullivan, Hibbing
It is difficult to summarize Tracy’s contributions to both the legal community and her broader community in just one or two paragraphs. Smart, prepared, talented, funny, tough, fierce, fun-loving, vibrant, direct, honest, trustworthy are all words that just begin to describe the kind of lawyer and person Tracy was at her core. I first met Tracy in 2006, and she and I worked together as opposing counsel and in mediation settings until I took the bench. Professionally, Tracy had an impeccable reputation for serving her clients as a fierce, smart and skilled advocate. Although she was a zealous advocate, Tracy was instrumental in supporting the introduction and use of Early Neutral Evaluations on the Iron Range in an effort to help families achieve resolution of their family cases in a way that minimized conflict and tension in the family. Today, Early Neutral Evaluations are used across the Iron Range as an effective conflict-resolution tool and this is in large part due to Tracy’s hard work and commitment to the process.
Tracy had many professional and personal accolades and accomplishments, but what mattered most to her were her daughters. Tracy loved to talk about her daughters’ accomplishments and achievements - she beamed with pride whenever she talked about them. When she wasn’t busy with her girls, Tracy loved to plan events for the Range Bar Association – she loved the Annual Picnic where she first learned to golf (something that became a big part of her life). She made events like the picnic and countless other events fun. I will miss Tracy’s commitment to her work, friendly personality, and fun-loving spirit but, most of all, I will miss Tracy.
Dori Streit, executive director, Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota
For the last decade, Tracy was a dedicated advocate for equal access to justice through her years of pro bono work and service on the board at Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota. Tracy advocated that all individuals should have an attorney with them in court, regardless of their income. Tracy was an exemplary volunteer attorney who provided pro bono service to hundreds of low income individuals, making her one of the top volunteer attorneys in the northeastern region. In her leadership role on the LASNEM board, she gave voice to the needs of not only the Iron Range communities, but of rural all Minnesotans. The impact of Tracy’s work will be her legacy in civil justice.
Fred Friedman, former Sixth District Chief Public Defender, current board member of Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota
We worked with Tracy on the Board of Legal Aid Service for Northeast Minnesota. Tracy was very active in advocating for the poor and those without influence on the Range and throughout the Northland. She never said no whenever we needed an attorney to volunteer to take a case for someone without funds, especially regarding domestic relations. Her death is a tragedy to so many of us including people who have never met her. The only lasting way to express your grief is for the community to look out for her daughters.
Bhupesh Pattni, attorney, Trenti Law Firm, Virginia
Tracy was a friend and a mentor to me. When I returned to the Iron Range after law school, she sat next to me at my first Range Bar Association meeting at Valentini’s. She made sure I was comfortable and introduced me to our fellow lawyers. Throughout my career she was consistently helpful, taught me about how she practiced law, and shared what she had learned throughout her career from her mentor Pat Roach. Watching how she managed her cases made me a better lawyer. She was always extremely well-prepared, respectful in court, and treated her colleagues in a warm and inviting manner. She treated me well when I was a new lawyer and I will never forget that. I learned a lot from her.
When I worked for Judge Aronson in the Virginia Courthouse, she was a frequent presence in our court room as we primarily handled family law. She was a force. She gave her clients confidence and fought for the children and families under her care. She was the best of the best at what she did. Her loss hits us all hard because she was not only a skilled litigator, she was a great friend. Tracy was totally down-to-earth and had a phenomenal sense of humor. Her infectious laugh and quick wit made her an irreplaceable presence at events throughout the community and functions within the legal community. On a personal level, she was a good friend. Her daughters babysat our kids and our families were close. Tracy was a great mom and she raised smart, independent young women. Tracy always beamed when sharing stories about her daughters and how proud she was of them.
Hannah Forti, attorney, Hibbing
Tracy was uniquely Tracy. She always showed up her best: poised, professional, kind, respectful. She respected everyone she met and judged no one. She loved life and the work that she did so well in our legal community. She was great at both. Tracy naturally brought so much positive energy to a room. Her life was a blessing to all of us. As an attorney, she taught us all a lot. As a friend, she also taught us how to live life the way you want and respect yourself and others. Tracy will be dearly missed.
St. Louis Assistant County Attorney Bonnie Norlander, Virginia
I met Tracy nine years ago; we started out as colleagues, and then became good friends. She was caring, generous, and most of all, a fun person to be around. She accepted everyone without judgment. Tracy was so real and down to earth, if you met her outside of work you would never guess that she was a successful Iron Range attorney. She cared a lot about other people, but didn't concern herself with what other people thought of her.
Tracy once told me that a client described her as a bulldog in the courtroom. Tracy was proud of that. She fought hard for her clients, but did so fairly and with respect. Every time I saw her in the courtroom she was prepared and confident, she made the practice of law look easy.
Jaclyn Corradi Smith, attorney, Hibbing
Tracy was a smart attorney and great advocate for her clients. She was insightful and thoughtful to her friends and colleagues. Most importantly she had a remarkable spirit- enjoyed life and was so much fun to be around. Tracy’s laugh was contagious, and her daughters were her world. I will always think so highly of her skill at the practice of law and her skill at understanding people. Our community lost an amazing person.
Jim Perunovich, attorney, Hibbing
Tracy was solid. I always looked forward to working and talking with Tracy. Always positive. Always a smile. I miss her already.
Bruce Williams, attorney, Virginia
Tracy is the iconic single mom who pulled herself up with her own boot straps and became a successful family law attorney in the area she grew up in. She was Erin Brockovich in high heels and smart suits. What she lacked in height was made up for by her high standing in our legal community. Tracy was a friend to everyone and accepted folks for who they were without judgement. She can’t be replaced.
Sara Swanson, attorney, Grand Rapids
My friend and colleague Tracy was smart, sassy, a zealous advocate, and kind hearted. She will be dearly missed by those of us who had the privilege of knowing her and working with her.