Kim Darrow -- hiker, self-styled
guardian of the great outdoors and lawyer for the mentally afflicted -- has
died of pancreatic cancer.
Darrow, of Huntington,
retired in 2010 as a principal attorney for the Mental Hygiene Legal
Service, a state agency that represents people subject to involuntary
psychiatric commitment. He died Thursday at age 64.
Dennis Feld, deputy director of special
litigation and appeals for the legal service, said Sunday Darrow was an
unwavering, dedicated lawyer for the psychiatric patients who were his
"He just felt his clients were being
mistreated by hospitals and psychiatrists who seemed to feel it was more
important to manage these patients rather than respecting their rights,"
Tina Minkowitz, of the Center for the Human
Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry in upstate New
York, said, "Kim often struggled
to get his words out and to be heard, and he was very careful as an attorney
to be accurate in what he was saying. He cared a lot about his clients'
freedom -- he knew they deserved it and hated when the system took them back
in spite of his efforts."
Family and friends said Darrow also had a
passion for the preservation of open space. He was a founder of the Long
Island Greenbelt Trail Conference, a nonprofit organization that has created
more than 200 miles of hiking paths. Darrow was also an avid hiker who
carried a stash of books in a rucksack with him on the trail.
"He would take people on nature walks in the
Pine Barrens and if anyone asked what's that little flower, the books came
out," said Darrow's wife, Sherry, who married him in 2009 and described him
as "the most sweet-natured person I have ever known."
"He was, for me and for others, he was such a
strong, sheltering presence," she said, adding that his grave will be marked
by a white pine tree, his favorite tree, in honor of his spirit.
Nancy Manfredonia of Central Islip, a past
president of the Greenbelt Conference, said Darrow helped preserve thousands
of acres of open space.
"Kim was very instrumental in all of that
work," Manfredonia said.
Kyna Darrow-Barr of Howell, N.J., Darrow's
daughter by a previous marriage described him as a patient swimming
instructor, master gardener and wine expert.
"My father taught me to always be kind and
respectful to all people, care deeply for the environment, protect wildlife,
always tell the truth, never give up on a goal and always do the right thing
even if it is the hardest option," Darrow-Barr said.
And Darrow's sister, Gail Darrow Ross of Charlotte,
N.C., said he had "a great sense of humor, very dry, but he didn't make fun
of people, except for me."
Darrow was born in Buffalo on Sept. 29, 1946,
and grew up in the upstate hamlet of Collins Center. He earned a bachelor's
degree in philosophy from the University at Buffalo and a law degree from
St. John's University School of Law. He was a conscientious objector during
Other survivors are three grandchildren:
Aidan Barr, 13, Maya Barr, 12, and Johnna Barr, 10, all of Howell, N.J.
A graveside service at Huntington Rural
Cemetery in Huntington Village is planned for noon on April 4, where
Darrow's ashes will be buried.