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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, January 4, 2010

Lawyer, patron of arts Galen Leong

By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer

Galen Leong, a partner in the law firm of Ashford & Wriston and a respected patron and connoisseur of the arts, died in his Makiki home on Dec. 26 of pancreatic cancer. He was 69.

Leong worked at Ashford & Wriston for 44 years. He was an acknowledged expert in the area of condominium law. Ten years ago, with fewer condos being built in Hawai'i, he turned his expertise to estate planning, wills and trusts.

Leong was born March 22, 1940, in Honolulu and graduated from Punahou School. He received his undergraduate degree magna cum laude from Princeton University and his law degree from Harvard University.

"People had total confidence in his integrity and in his skills," said Cuyler Shaw, managing partner for Ashford & Wriston. "They naturally felt they could entrust Galen with responsibilities for their affairs."

A connoisseur of contemporary art, Leong was active in the Hawai'i arts community. Over the years he was chairman of the board and chairman of collections for The Contemporary Museum, and served on the boards of the Hawai'i Opera Theatre, Friends of Honolulu Botanical Gardens, Volcano Art Center and PARTners.

James Jensen, deputy director of The Contemporary Museum, said of Leong: "His two greatest passions in the arts were contemporary art and opera. He traveled often to New York and San Francisco to see opera productions, as well as seeing them here at HOT," adding, "Galen had wonderful taste in art."

Leong's artistic abilities were often utilized at Ashford & Wriston. When the firm moved its offices to Ali'i Place in 1992, he worked with the architect to design all the offices. In addition, he built up an impressive collection of contemporary art that hangs throughout his home, as well as in the halls and offices of Ashford & Wriston.

"He had a good eye, and he was an expert at contemporary art," said attorney James Wriston, a partner in the firm. "He assembled an outstanding collection."

"Galen was a very gentle and persuasive person at the same time," Jensen said. "Everybody respected his opinions and his ability to listen and to distill and to formulate things in a way that made absolute sense and that brought consensus."

Leong is survived by his companion, Timothy Ojile; mother, Irene; his son, Dylan; brothers, Denis, Alex and Chris; and sister, Cornelia Sandborn.

A memorial service is scheduled for Jan. 16, with details still to be finalized.