John F. “Jack” DeMeo, a Thoroughbred owner and breeder whose prominent Northern California law practice helped jockeys with legal claims, has died at the age of 82.
Mr. DeMeo was the recipient of the 2012 Award of Excellence in the Horse Industry from the Sonoma County Fair in his home town of Santa Rosa, where he served for decades as a county fair board member and president and was memorialized with a race named in his honor.
A well-known and respected trial lawyer who was given the “Star Award” from North American Equine Services, Mr. DeMeo was the son of an attorney and passed the bar at the age of 24 after graduation from the Hastings College of Law.
With the former Judy Revard, the high school sweetheart he would marry, DeMeo bred and raised Thoroughbreds for more than 50 years. One of the couple's last runners was Tiza Diva, who contested the Wine Country Stakes at Santa Rosa this summer. His partner in the business was Joe Negri, a friend since kindergarten who died in 2011.
When he received the award from the Sonoma County Fair, Mr. DeMeo said, “I'm heavy into horses. I raise, breed and sell them. I've been doing it since I was 19. I remember it started when someone was sending a horse to slaughterhouse and I said, ‘Don't do that.'”
Jack and Judy DeMeo “quietly donated to myriad local causes and encouraged young people to aspire,” according to the Press-Democrat of Santa Rosa. Mr. DeMeo was co-founder of a foundation that supports Valley of the Moon Children's Home, which assists abandoned, neglected and abused children in the region.
“He literally changed lives,” the charity's current president, Laura Colgate, told the newspaper.
In addition to his wife, Mr. DeMeo is survived by a son, Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Brad DeMeo, daughter Nancy DeMeo, and six grandchildren. One of those grandchildren, Emily DeMeo, is a member of the DeMeo Demeo & West law firm that was founded by Jack DeMeo's father, J.N. “Nick” DeMeo, and his uncle, Charles “Chop” DeMeo.
Mr. DeMeo continued to practice law until recent months, when the effects of the rare blood cancer myeloma began to take their toll.
According to the Press-Democrat, the family plans to hold a memorial at a future date.
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