Tribute For Brenda Ravenell, Lawyer With a Compassionate Touch, Dies at 64


This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

Brenda Ravenell was a lawyer for more than 30 years, most of it with the same colleague in a general practice in East Orange, N.J. How they divided up their cases said something about Ms. Ravenell.

“We had a good mix, like yin and yang,” her fellow lawyer, Beverly Giscombe, said. “She was very kind and conscientious, which made her better for family matters and divorces. I had the stronger personality, and I was free to deal with personal injury cases.”

At first, Ms. Ravenell worked for Ms. Giscombe. Then, in 2002, they became partners. The partnership ended in 2017, when Ms. Ravenell retired because of complications of diabetes. A year later, when her condition required a kidney transplant, her daughter, Adebunmi Gbadebo, donated one of hers.

“She was the ultimate optimist, smiling, joking and praying through it all,” Ms. Ravenell’s sister, Daneen Cooper, said.

Ms. Ravenell died on April 4 at a hospital in Rockville Centre, N.Y., on Long Island. She was 64. The cause was Covid-19, Ms. Cooper said.

Brenda Marsha Ravenell was born in Limestone, Me., on July 22, 1955, when her father, James Ravenell, was stationed there, at Loring Air Force Base. Her mother, Carrie (Marshall) Ravenell, was a medical secretary. Her father worked in the commissary at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn after he retired from the Air Force.

Ms. Ravenell earned her bachelor’s degree from New York University in 1976, majoring in political science and minoring in Spanish. She worked as an insurance underwriter to save money to go Rutgers Law School, from which she graduated in 1984.

She began her association with Ms. Giscombe after working for Legal Services of New Jersey in Newark, which provides help on civil cases to people who cannot afford a lawyer. “She was a compassionate and concerned person who gave a lot of time to people,” Ms. Giscombe said. “She was lovely.”

Before she received the Covid-19 diagnosis, Ms. Ravenell was in a rehabilitation facility in Hempstead, N.Y., on Long Island, recovering from further complications of diabetes, including the amputation of toes. Her father was also a patient there, recuperating from shingles and a severe staph infection.

“We couldn’t go to see them because there was a lockdown, but she could see him,” Ms. Cooper said. “It was a blessing,” Mr. Ravenell, 93, died of a heart attack in the facility.

In addition to her sister and daughter, Ms. Ravenell is survived by her mother. Her marriage to Adebo Gbadebo ended in divorce. Her brother, Derek, 49, died of colon cancer last November.

On the day before she died, Ms. Ravenell remained optimistic in a call to her sister and daughter.

“She said, ‘I’m fighting through this, don’t worry,’” Ms. Cooper said. “She was upbeat, she never let this get to her. So when I got the call that she died, I was shocked.”



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