By Shereen Siewert

Jerome Maeder, one of Wausau’s most successful and widely recognized attorneys, has died, Wausau Pilot & Review has confirmed.

Maeder, who practiced law for more than 60 years, was an iconic figure in Wausau. He was immediately identifiable with his signature cowboy hat, whether walking down a Wausau street, entering a courtroom with a flair, or appearing in one of many television commercials for his law firm.

Wausau attorney William Mansell said he was associated with Maeder for more than 13 years – over two time spans – before starting his own law firm in 1999.

“Jerry was a brilliant, intuitive lawyer,” Mansell told Wausau Pilot & Review. “On cross examination, he could sense weakness and skillfully carve an opposing witness before they knew the blade was inserted. He could evaluate a case swiftly, size up parties and attorneys, and persuade juries as well as any of the top lawyers in the state.”  

Mansell said Maeder had a forceful personality, taking on a ‘Clint Eastwood-like’ persona.

“Once a judge accused him of strutting as he sat at counsel table,” Mansell said. “Jerry walked with a swagger, wore a Stetson and cowboy boots and spoke in a homespun manner. He took pride in his success, displaying a photograph of himself in his office wearing a full length fur coat standing in front of his Rolls Royce parked in front of his Aerostar jet.”

Martindale-Hubbell, an information services company to the legal profession t that publishes background information on attorneys, reports Maeder was born in 1930 in Beloit and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1951. He earned his law degree at the UW Law School in 1954 and was admitted to the bar the same year.

Meder was known as a tireless litigator, respected for his tenacity and strong sense of justice. Fellow attorneys say he never shied from a fight, working extraordinarily hard for his clients and tirelessly attending to details of the work of his staff. He worked daily, even while on vacation, and was known to be both kind and generous – even while a tough exterior best served his clients.

As of Wednesday, Maeder is still being featured in television commercials that tout his longevity and experience in fighting for injured people.

Maeder defended clients across the board, from criminal to personal injury, taking on thousands of cases during his career.

For example: In 1984, Maeder successfully and vigorously defended at trial then-40-year-old Paul Smriga, a special education teacher accused of sexually assaulting students at his John Marshall Elementary School classroom. And in 1989, he represented a 21-year-old woman who broke her neck after diving into a Kronenwetter swimming hole, reaching an out-of-court settlement and avoiding a jury trial.

Maeder was certified as a civil trial advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He served as president of the Marathon County Bar Association from 1977 to 1978 and was a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Academy of Trial Lawyers, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America and is listed by Martindale as a 1993 advocate from the National College of Advocacy.

His legacy will live on.

“Working for Jerry was a challenging, often exciting, and interesting experience,” Mansell said.

Brad Myska, a trial attorney with the Jerome A. Maeder, S.C. Firm in Wausau, asked for privacy for Maeder’s family.