NCRA member passes away

jcr-publications_high-resThe Cape Cod Times reported on Dec. 27 that NCRA member Paula Ershler Hogan, a freelance reporter from Harwich, Mass., passed away on Dec. 21.

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NCRA member Eric Nelson has passed away

jcr-publications_high-resOn Dec. 24, the Las Vegas Review posted an article announcing the passing of NCRA member Eric Nelson, RMR, CRR, a freelance reporter from Reno. Nelson served as the court reporter for the state’s Gaming Control Board and Nevada Gaming Commission for four decades.

The article about Nelson is included after the piece on the Consumer Electronics Show, farther down the page.

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In Memoriam: Raymond F. DeSimone

With Ray DeSimone’s passing, I have lost a dear friend personally, and the loss is also to the court reporting profession at large. When I visited Ray at a hospice care center in Boca Raton, Fla., Linda, his wife, met me up front to prepare me for what to expect. As I entered his private room, the TV was on and his eyes were closed. I sat by his bed and identified myself and his eyes slowly opened. He grabbed my arm and, in a very low voice, said, “Did you sell your North Carolina house?” It amazed me that in his condition he was able to think of me first. That’s the type of selfless person he was.

Ray has been a very good friend and mentor to me, like a brother, and close to so many of us in the court reporting profession. To many who knew him, and for those of the younger generation who should know, we all owe a debt of gratitude to Raymond F. DeSimone. In 1984-1985, as president of our national association, then known as the National Shorthand Reporters Association, he spearheaded a progressive movement to hire one of the world’s most prestigious public relations firms in Hill and Knowlton to represent us, thus elevating our reputation in the eyes of the legal and business world.

Ray and I met in 1973, at a time when the court reporting profession was under siege by the proponents of sound recording. By coincidence, we shared similar missions that year: In Washington, D.C., Ray was sent by NSRA to speak at the State Trial Court Judges conference, and I, by an attorney committee member, went to the American Bar Association. We shared a hotel suite, where we had two IBM Selectric typewriters, paper, Scotch tape, pens, yellow highlighters, and a stapler. We prepared our speeches together — literally cut and paste with paper and scissors — and refined our respective presentations. Today our work would have been accomplished in a snap. With another two former NCRA presidents, the beloved Irving Kosky and the ever-charming country bumpkin from Tennessee, Richard Smith, we were able to stave off those in the courts who would, early on, recommend replacement of the reporter’s role in the courtroom by electronic recording devices.

Ray was one of the most intelligent individuals I knew. He had the ability to forecast trends, enabling our profession to stay on the forefront of its place in the legal and business communities. He revolutionized our profession. The Raymond F. DeSimone Pro Bono Program was named after him. In his words, “America was founded on the principles of equal justice for all and of legal redress for grievances. But there can be no justice for the poor without access to the courts and legal help.”

Together with an investment group, he helped create what has grown to become the largest court reporting firm in the world: Veritext Court Reporting/Legal Solutions.

I could go on with accolade after accolade, but I would like to share some quotes from just a few friends as to how Ray was regarded:

Woody Waga, RMR, CRR (Ret.), past NCRA President: “And now to our friend Raymond: He did so much for a profession that assisted challenged individuals to be winners with a paucity of education. That includes some of you and yours truly.”

Marty Block, RPR (Ret.), past NCRA President: “I have read Allen and Woody’s news with great sadness. It brings to the forefront of one’s mind the realization that even the mightiest of oaks must age and eventually fall; and for me Ray remains indeed the mightiest of all oaks among those in our profession. We are all aware that it would take many volumes to write the history of the contributions of Raymond DeSimone to the reporting profession and NCRA.”

Tom Runfola, RMR (Ret.), past NCRA President: “Ray’s greatness, leadership, friendship, and inspiration will live on in the minds and hearts of all who knew and loved him. I am satisfied to hear these recollections from his friends, to honor a man of greatness among us who we knew and loved, and to remember with fondness his strength, his leadership, his articulate speech, his depth and intellect, his humor and humanity.”

Jay Suddreth, CPE (Ret.), past NCRA President: “He was a visionary leader way ahead of his time and underappreciated by many of his peers. Like many of you, I had the pleasure of working side by side with Ray on the Board when he served as President of NCRA. Ray’s foresight in establishing the courtroom of the future and seeing it to its completion is but one of many of the accomplishments achieved during his presidency.”

On a personal level, our friendship was always full of interesting point-counterpoint chats — I mentioned he was the most intelligent member of NCRA — often enjoying bantering together regarding politics, and always with a sense of humor and warm affection.

One special memorable moment, at the end of an NCRA Hawaii convention, took us to a cottage I rented at Hana Bay Villas. I remember renting a red Mustang convertible; with the road to Hana being a single lane accommodating two-way traffic, it was treacherous. Ray liked to say, “Geez, with Allen driving and hugging the road on those 300-foot high cliffs and turns, I could pick the flowers off the mountainside, we were so close.” We cooked a genuine Italian dinner, drank Chianti, and watched black and white old film noir movies on AMC [his favorite] via satellite dish until 4 in the morning. Our bond was solid.

Using a much deserved time-worn cliché, Raymond F. DeSimone was literally a legend in his own time, to be remembered also by our current generation of court reporters as to whom they, and we, owe a debt of gratitude.

Allen Benowitz, RMR (Ret.)

Miami, Fla.

Robert E. Harrington, Elkhorn, Wis., and Naples, Fla., passes away

jcr-publications_high-resThe GazetteXtra reported on Nov. 11 that retired NCRA member Robert E. Harrington, RPR, passed away Nov. 9 in Elkhorn, Wis. Harrington worked as an official court reporter for more than 30 years in both Wisconsin and Florida.

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Long-time realtime presenter Anita Paul passes away

Anita Paul, RPR, CRR, CBC, CCP, CRI, CPE (Ret.), of Las Vegas, Nev., long-time realtime speaker and trainer, passed away on Nov. 2. Many reporters attribute their success to her training program.

Her family live-streamed a Celebration of Life through Facebook and have posted the video at The website allows comments.

NCRA member and avid quilter Jane Garnet LaPorte passes away

The State reported on April 14 that NCRA member Jane Garnet LaPorte, of Columbia, S.C., passed away on April 12. LaPorte, who was 64, was an avid quilter who donated two handmade quilts for raffles that benefited the National Court Reporters Foundation. LaPorte donated a quilt adorned with an array of flowers, including a bleeding heart, thistle, pansy, petunia, and foxglove, and meticulously hand-stitched in a Japanese origami style, that was raffled off by NCRF at the 2014 NCRA Convention & Expo in San Francisco, Calif. For the 2015 NCRA Convention & Expo held in New York City, N.Y., LaPorte donated a second coverlet called the Past Presidents quilt, which featured more than 100 different fabrics in a pattern of whimsical characters including women with bikini tops and men with bowties.

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In memoriam: Nathaniel Weiss

Nathaniel Weiss, a polymathic court reporter in the New York City courts for 70 years, passed away on Dec. 21, 2015, at the age of 95. Nat won the NSRA Speed Contest three years consecutively (1958-60). He dominated the competition, which included a number of state speed champions. Nat was so good a stenotypist that in winning the 1958 Speed Contest, he made a total of 8 errors on all three takes (220 wpm literary, 2 errors; 230 wpm legal opinion, 4 errors; 280 wpm Q&A, 2 errors) repeating this accuracy feat in the 1960 Speed Contest. Nat then retired from the Speed Contest.

It didn’t hurt that Nat was a master of the English language. Over the years, Nat was my authority when I got stuck on a word or term. For instance, I remember once taking down a legal argument during a trial, and my judge said, “Counsel, don’t employ that Schicchi approach.” During a recess I ran to the telephone and rang up Nat, who at the time was working as an official court reporter in the Surrogate’s Court of New York City. I told him what it sounded like. Nat said, “Isn’t your judge something of an opera buff?” Yes, I said. “Then he’s probably referring to an opera by Puccini. However, its spelling is tricky. I suggest you look up under ‘Puccini’ in the Encyclopedia Britannica.” I did so. As usual, Nat was on the mark. Sometime later, my judge leaned over from the bench toward me and said, “Bill, congratulations. You got that Schicchi right.”

Another example: I was stuck on a word. I telephoned Nat. “It sounded like ‘otiose.’” Nat said, “First of all, its preferred pronunciation is ‘OSH-EE-OS’ and not ‘OAT-EE-OS.’” And then gave me the definition.

Nat was a graduate of Brooklyn College majoring in English. He graduated together with his twin brother, Irwin, with honors. However, his twin, Irwin, proceeded to pursue a career as an English teacher in the New York City high schools.

Nat had a lovely family. His wife, Ita, died three years ago. His son Bobbie is currently an esteemed court reporter in the Family Court of New York. His daughter Vivian has spent the last three years nursing Nat’s senescent illnesses.

I’ll miss Nat, not only for his prodigious erudition, but as a good friend with a genial personality.


William Cohen

New York City, N.Y.

Cofounder of Freedom Court Reporting dies

Michael Turner, cofounder of Freedom Court Reporting in Birmingham, Ala., passed away on April 8. He was 62 years old.

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In memoriam: Alan Agren

Please join me in remembering Alan Agren, RPR, CMRS, and celebrating his life. Alan began his esteemed court reporting career after graduating from East High School in Denver in 1958 and then attending the Barnes School of Commerce and the Academy of Steno Arts. He was certified as a court reporter in June 1961. His reporting career was interrupted from 1962 to 1968 when he served in the U.S. Air Force, being honorably discharged in 1968, at which time Alan returned to Colorado and became a court reporter and firm owner.

Over the course of his career, Alan was an owner and co-owner of several firms, finally retiring from Agren Blando Court Reporting & Videography in 2012. Alan was a member of the National Court Reporters Association and served on its Board of Directors in the early 1990s. In 1990, Alan was named a Fellow of the Academy of Professional Reporters. His roles for the Colorado Court Reporters Association were many. Alan first served as a board member in 1966. In 1982, he served as vice president, followed by president elect in 1983 and president in 1984. In 1993, Alan received the Colorado Court Reporters Association’s Distinguished Service Award. He served as a mentor, role model, and leader in the court reporting community. He was a pioneer in videoconferencing and was the first to bring this service to Denver.

Yes, Alan had a life beyond court reporting. He leaves behind his wife, Patty, who tells me, “Alan was an avid traveler, reader, and movie-goer. He loved Walkers Shortbread cookies, making rugs, and collecting pens, art, and Tiffany lamps.” As I can personally attest, he also enjoyed an occasional poker game.

Alan was a kind and generous soul, and he will be missed.

Kathy Davis, RDR, CRR, CMRS

Denver, Colo.

In memoriam: Vincent Varallo, Jr.

Vincent “Vince” Varallo, Jr., a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from PCRA upon his retirement, passed away on Sept. 8, 2015. Vince’s father, Vincent, Sr., was the first machine stenotypist in Philadelphia City Hall.

Vince started out in the Delaware County court system and then in 1961, after his father’s passing, he left official service to build the successful freelance court reporting business founded by his father. Vince ran Varallo Court Reporting for 45 years, until 2006, when it was acquired and he officially retired.

Over those many years, Vince trained and mentored many court reporters. He was generous with his time and money. He was a founding member of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), a charitable foundation supporting inner-city children.

Vince is survived by his wife Denise; children Greg and his wife Catherine, Dianne Varallo-Kushmir and her husband Rafi, Ken and his wife Margie; stepsons Jason Smith and Evan Grammenos, grandchildren Danielle, Peter, Michael, Jeffrey, David; great-granddaughter Kaylee Varallo; and brothers Dale Varallo and Scott Ping. His first wife Connie predeceased him.

Some personal reflections:

Donna Cascio, RDR, CMRS: Here is my memory of Vince: A handsome, handsome gentleman of Italian heritage who was kindhearted and especially helpful to young reporters. We looked up to him. He was equally comfortable with the reporting elite of his time as well as the neophyte reporter.

Tiva Wood, RDR, CMRS: I met Vince Varallo at a PCRA convention when I was fairly new to the profession. He was extremely charming, gentle, kind, and always such a gentleman.

When I was planning conventions for PCRA, Vince would always thank me for doing so and compliment our work in putting the seminars together. It meant the world to a young reporter to be appreciated by a respected member of the profession.

Jim Gallagher, RDR: I first met Vince in approximately 1984 when I became director of district seven for PSRA. I scheduled a meeting to address the replacement of official reporters with tape recorders and transcriptionists in Delaware County. Vince attended that meeting, and I was introduced to him. I will never forget the encouragement he gave me and the support that he offered. That encouragement coming from such a respected and well-known reporter from Philadelphia meant a great deal to me, and gave me the courage and confidence to continue our ongoing fight against electronic recording that still exists.

Vince and I became friends as I would see him often at various association activities. He was a great mentor to me and to countless other young court reporters.

Jim DeCrescenzo, RDR, CRR, CLVS: Vince Varallo was the consummate professional in his business dealings and a gentleman personally. I first met Vince in 1972. We worked closely in PSRA and GRA, the General Reporters Association. In the 1970s, GRA was the only organization of friendly competitors in the nation. Vince was a big reason competitors could sit together and not only discuss common issues but enjoy each other’s company.

Vince and Connie Varallo built and ran one of Philadelphia’s premiere court reporting firms. Once you met a reporter at a PCRA function and learned they worked at Varallo, you knew they were well trained and an excellent reporter.

Vince was an active member of PCRA and served as director of district eight. I am honored to have been his friend. His class, dignity, and reporting skills will be missed.

Irv Starkman, RPR: The first time I met Vince Varallo, I looked at him and said, “What a distinguished gentleman.” That was in the late 60s, early 70s. I never changed my opinion in all the years I knew him. He was a class act. Back in the early days, I would go to the Varallo office at night to do practice sessions. I looked around the room and thought, What am I doing here with all these Varallos: Vince, Dale, and Eddie?

Whenever I would go somewhere with Vince, I always felt proud. He was a man of distinction. He came from the heart and would give from the heart.

I remember chairing a convention, and I brought in the Mummers. When I marched into the room with the Mummers, I looked over and Mr. Smooth was on the dance floor doing the Mummers Strut. It did my heart so good to see him out there on the dance floor. He had a ball that night.

We had many lunches and dinners together. It was always a treat for me to be in Vince’s company. I could always voice my opinions. Vince was a very good listener. We professionally bounced things off each other.
I miss you very much, my dear friend. Thank you for everything you did for me over these many years. You were a definite inspiration.

You raised a beautiful family. That will be your legacy.

I am honored to have known you and to call you my friend. Rest in peace.

Neith D. Ecker, RDR, CRR: June 1973 was the second stop in my court reporting career, landing at the doorstep of Vince and Connie Varallo in Philadelphia.

By the time I departed in November 1975, I came away with an immense appreciation for Vince (and his enormously talented family) that continues to this day, 40 years later.

Vince’s calm, reserved, and self-effacing nature, in addition to his talent, was the perfect environment for a young woman from Pottstown to blossom and grow. His office had lots of personality – and personalities – and bunches more of competitive spirit not only among reporters but typists and note readers as well. Who didn’t want to speed-practice every day with these mentors! Every reporter, every typist and note reader was an exceptional talent. Who else but the exceptional could handle those city council hearings back in the day? And yes, we all became part of the Varallo family, encouraging one another to be at our professional best every day.

To Vince’s family and friends: It was a real joy and honor to be part of such a prestigious and downright warm family-run firm, whose excellence was unmatched — an experience that I will cherish for all time.

Thank you, Vince.

Kathy McHugh, RPR, CRR: I met Vince several times over the years, and I remember the last time I saw him was about ten years ago. It was the Saturday before Christmas. Volunteers were delivering toys for the Support Center for Child Advocates. There was only one gift left to be delivered, but it was in the King of Prussia mall area, and no one wanted to go there. Vince arrived, said he’d be happy to deliver the gift and he would finish his Christmas shopping at the same time. We were all so grateful to him.

Dianne M. Varallo-Kushmir: Dad never pushed any of us into the business, although all of us learned steno. My brothers found the business side to be more to their liking, but I was sitting at the machine one day and hit a few strokes. My mother looked at what I had written and exclaimed: “Look, Vince, no shadows. She’s a natural.” Not having any idea what that meant but doing something I could share with my father would be priceless.

Within one month I was in class at Peirce College being taught by the best — Rosemary Foster and Don Averso. The encouragement I got from them, but especially from Dad, about integrity and always striving to be the best reporter I could be allowed me to become a part of the legendary Vincent Varallo Associates. I reported for several years and went to every GRA and GRACE meeting with Dad in order to learn from the best in the field how to work with each other and keep integrity at our core.

Over the next 30 years, I learned everything about the business and worked side by side with the man I adored. My brother Ken always found a business he would create that would interface nicely with Dad’s, and my older brother Greg took care of all our legal needs.

It will certainly be a loss to the community at large but the best example of giving back to the community. We can honor him by taking what we remember of him and using his methods — generosity, mentoring, integrity — in all things. The family thanks you for all the lovely memories and kind words. They are cherished.