Pioneer bond attorney Gerard ‘Jerry’ Fernandez dies

Gerard “Jerry” Fernandez, Jr., a municipal bond attorney who spent nearly 67 years at Hawkins, Delafield & Woods LLP, and was known as an innovator in the public finance industry, died April 21 at the age of 93.

After serving in the U.S. Navy as a lieutenant (JG) in the Pacific during World War II, Fernandez began his career at Hawkins, Delafield as an associate in 1950.

He completed his undergraduate degree from Brown University in late 1946, and was a graduate of St. John’s Law School, the first graduate to receive an offer from a Wall Street firm. 

Gerald “Jerry” Fernandez, former bond attorney at Hawkins, Delafield, Wood LLC, died April 21 at the age of 93.

A decade later in 1960 he became a partner at the firm and remained one for 34 years. At the age of 70, he became Of Counsel for more than 22 years starting in 1994 until his retirement in 2017.

“The municipal bond community lost a true gentleman and scholar,” managing partner John Renken said in a release.

A pioneer and mentor, Fernandez was instrumental in building the relationship between New York State and New York City in the 1960s, as well as being a pillar in the firm, according to colleagues.

He helped build up many of the firm’s areas of practice, either in the role of bond counsel or underwriters’ counsel, according to Renken. These areas include housing, healthcare facilities, educational facilities, transportation facilities, power facilities, economic development, water resource facilities, resource recovery facilities, solid waste facilities and bank counsel, according to Renken.

He worked with a team of Hawkins colleagues as bond counsel for New York City’s financial crisis in the mid-1970s, he noted. Among a number of states to which he provided some form of public finance counsel, he helped with a major expansion of the firm’s practice in Maine. 

One of Jerry’s favorite areas of practice was the opportunity to draft enabling legislation for various public projects, three of which are the New York Housing Development Corporation, Maine State Housing Authority and Home Stadium of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, according to Renken. “Jerry will be remembered as an exceptional attorney and businessman,” he said. 

Among his many accomplishments, he played a significant role in the creation of the Battery Park City Authority, drafted the legislation that created the New York City Housing Development Corporation, and drafted both the Maine Health and Higher Educational Facilities Authority and the Maine Municipal Bond Bank enabling legislation, Renken noted.

“While his experience was vast, in later years, Jerry focused his practice on New York local government bonds,” Renken said. “The success of his efforts will benefit many generations to come.”

“In addition to his many accomplishments as an attorney, Jerry was also noted for being a man of integrity and good character,” partner Bob Smith said.

“He was sought after by colleagues not only for his counsel, but also for his sense of humor,” Smith said. “He was a friend to everyone he met.”

“He always had a kind word to say to attorneys and staff at the firm,” Smith added. “Those are the qualities many of us admired the most about him.”

Others credited him for being a driving force behind the firm itself.

“He had a profound effect on the firm, including the growth in public finance,” Howard Zucker, managing partner for 25 years during Fernandez’ career at the firm, said.

“Jerry had a life that should be celebrated, not merely because of its length, but because of his professional accomplishments, and the affection people had for him in our industry,” including being a recipient of the Career Achievement Award from the Municipal Forum of New York City. 

Personally, Fernandez grew up in Bellmore, Long Island, during the Great Depression. Fernandez recently moved to Florida to be closer to his family upon retirement.

Outside the municipal bond market, Fernandez enjoyed traveling with his wife of 68 years, Beverly, who predeceased him in 2016, as well as his son Bruce, learning about new places and cultures, as well as spending time at their home in Maine. 

He loved going to garage sales, going to the opera as a season ticket-holder to the Metropolitan Opera for many years; collected naval items, loved the New York Mets, and also had a strong faith.

“It was easy being a friend of Jerry Fernandez for the past 60 years, for he was a gentle gentleman who knew no strangers, just people he had not met yet,” Tom Hodge, his friend of many years, said.

“I admired his intelligence, his striving to learn something new each day, his keen sense of humor and his devotion to family, to friends, and to his profession,” Hodge continued.

He is survived by his son, Bruce Fernandez, granddaughters Amber Arbital, Brittani Manock, and Courtney Fernandez, and his great-granddaughter Taylor Arbital, as well as many close family members and friends. 

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