Paul Allan Kief


Long time Bemidji attorney, Paul A. Kief, died on April 11, 2016 at Sanford Hospital in Bemidji. A memorial gathering in his honor is planned for Thursday, April 21, 2016, from noon to 2:00 p.m., at Cease Funeral Home in Bemidji.

Paul was born on March 22, 1934 to Paul Gideon Kief and Minna Kief in Montevideo, Minnesota, his extended family's hometown. Paul was valedictorian of his high school and was a noted football player. He went on to the University of Minnesota where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa fraternity and where he received his undergraduate degree and graduated from the University of Minnesota, School of Law. Paul was admitted to the Minnesota Bar Association in 1957, to the United States District Court in 1964, and the United States Supreme Court in 1981.

In 1959, Paul moved to Bemidji to work for Herb Olson, who was the Beltrami County Attorney at the time. Soon thereafter, he went into private practice with Herb. In addition to his private practice duties, Paul served as a Public Defender from 1966 to 1994. He was a well-known attorney who tried many major criminal cases, as a Public Defender, and also as a private attorney. He was appointed Chief Public Defender in 1968 and continued in that capacity until 1994. He worked for the Legal Advocacy Project for the State of Minnesota from 1999 to 2011, attending weekly parole revocation hearings throughout northwestern Minnesota. He was a Certified Criminal Law Trial Specialist; served as a past president of the Beltrami County Bar Association; and served on the board of the 15th District Bar Association. Those who hired him received very competent representation and those who couldn't pay him often found their debt forgiven by him. After Herb Olson's death, Paul began expanding his office at 207 Fourth Street in Bemidji and hired other attorneys, paralegals and secretaries. His firm eventually moved to its current location across from the new library, but Paul's name was always first on whatever title the firm chose. Even after he "semi" retired in 1998, he continued to maintain his office and engaged in a continuing legal practice of his own.

Paul served in the United States Air Force and National Guard from 1958 to 1964. He was an avid private pilot and a member of the Lawyer-Pilots Bar Association. Additionally, he was a member of Bemidji Toastmasters, a member of the American and Minnesota Civil Liberties Unions and was appointed to positions, and served in many capacities, in a number of offices, most often related to criminal law and justice issues, including, but not limited to: The Innocence Project of Minnesota, Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota, Beltrami County Planning Committee, Governor's Crime Committee, Minnesota Task Force on Standards and Goals in Criminal Justice and the Crime Victims Task Force.

Paul was an enthusiastic student of history, especially concerning people. His wit and writing prowess led him to write about many of Bemidji's most colorful characters, which he presented to Toastmasters. He sometimes used a puppet named "Lemuel" in his speeches. Lemuel eventually became a separate member of Toastmasters and paid his own dues. He also wrote poetry and was an avid chess player. Additionally, Paul cherished and his close friend for nearly 50 years, Unae Kilgas. She and Paul participated in a variety of outdoor activities and travelled extensively together around the country and around the world. Paul's travels included an extended trip to China.

Paul's last years were spent at Autumn Hills Managed Care Facility in Bemidji where he shared a room with his puppet, Lemuel. The aides at Autumn Hills cared lovingly for Paul and made him feel like he was at home. However, being a virtual walking encyclopedia, they did comment that when he participated in trivia contests, he was always the winner.

Paul is survived by his sister, Phyllis, who still resides in Montevideo, and his niece, Juliet, who resides in Illinois. Paul is also survived by his close friend, Unae Kilgas, and by his Bemidji family at Fuller, Wallner, Cayko, Pederson & Huseby Law Office. He was predeceased by his parents. Paul will be buried in the family cemetery plot in Montevideo.

Memorials are preferred to the Bemidji Toastmasters or the World Wildlife Fund.


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