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Longtime Sarasota attorney, pioneer in condo law dies at 91

A career-long fixture at Williams Parker, William Getzen also helped found the Argus Foundation.

Retired Sarasota attorney William Getzen died Tuesday.
Retired Sarasota attorney William Getzen died Tuesday.
Courtesy photo
  • Manatee-Sarasota
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William Getzen, a longtime Sarasota attorney and resident, died peacefully Tuesday morning just hours after watching his favorite documentary, Ken Burns’ “Baseball,” on Monday night. 

He was 91.

Born May 9, 1932, in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, he arrived in Sarasota at 27, a young attorney hired by the law firm of Williams Parker in 1959. The firm was experiencing a rapidly growing workload as legal representative to Arvida Corp. and its development of former John Ringling holdings on Bird, Lido and Longboat keys. Getzen earned his law degree at the University of Illinois in 1959 and was admitted to the Florida Bar that same year.

He was a member of a Big Ten championship University of Illinois baseball team, where he studied engineering as well as law. He married his late wife, Ruth, after his first year of law school and her final year of college. In 1955, Getzen delayed his remaining two years of law school to fulfill his ROTC obligations at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Ruth died in February 2023. 

Professionally, Getzen was known as a natural leader, possessing deep knowledge of Florida condominium law. Spending his entire career with Williams Parker, he helped guide the firm through periods of sustained growth.

“Bill Getzen was the last of the firm’s name partners so he was, in a sense, a Mount Rushmore figure,” says Sarasota attorney Dan Bailey. “He was physically imposing, having been a college athlete, but he also had the gift of gab and a generous supply of charisma that naturally made him the consummate rainmaker. More than that, he was an innovator, a pioneer in the practice of condominium law, and the first attorney in our firm to embrace technology, having a computer installed on his desk. He was also a model citizen and a great friend to several generations of attorneys.”

Personally, Getzen served as commodore of the Field Club and was involved with many other civic and charitable organizations. He helped found the Argus Foundation in 1983, served as its president from 1985 to 1986, and received the Argus Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. He was also legal counsel and later a director at FCCI Insurance Group of Sarasota.

In the 1980s, he and Ruth built a summer home at Wildcat Cliffs Country Club in Highlands, North Carolina. There, he helped lead the development of a tennis pavilion and family picnic grounds, a fitness and pool center, and a new sewer plant. In gratitude for his years of volunteer service, Wildcat Cliffs named its boardroom in his honor.

Getzen is survived by his children Linda, Sandie and Jim, and several grandchildren, all residents of the Sarasota area. A memorial service has not been scheduled.

(This story was updated to reflect the name of the town Getzen was born in.) 

This article originally appeared on sister site


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