To her colleagues at Lewis Rice, Kimberly B. McDermott Wulkopf was a brilliant lawyer whose mastery of tax law and estate planning was matched only by her ability to win the trust and confidence of the sophisticated clients she served.
To her friends, she was the sparkling heart of every gathering, the impeccably dressed, witty guest you most wanted to chat with at a party, the “uniter of women” who brought together other smart and talented friends to forge relationships with each other.
To her family, she was the devoted mother who never missed a sports game or event, who loved being the mom of Chase, 12, Quinn, 10, and Cruze, 4, even more than being a lawyer.
“She was amazing,” said Lewis Rice attorney Jeremy Brummond, who met and became friends with Wulkopf and her husband-to-be, attorney David E. Wulkopf, in 2000 when they were summer associates at Lewis Rice. “She was a fabulous mother, a fabulous attorney, and people who can do both of those things in that way are few and far between.”
And after being diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago, Wulkopf was determined to remain fiercely private about her illness and treatment, sharing information with very few people to ensure others weren’t reluctant to contact or depend on her. She worked in the office and at home for as long as she was able until her death March 3, at age 42.
“She masked her pain . . . she chose not to tell most of her clients until the end, which was admirable. Many, many times I tried to convince her we were here to help her, but she was very stubborn,” recalled Lewis Rice Chief Administrative Officer Jami L. Boyles, who also met and became friends with Wulkopf when both were 2000 summer associates.
“She’d say, ‘I got this,’” Boyles said. “She’d say ‘I need that intellectual stimulation [of work].’ She handed her death in the way she handled her life — in control, so strong.”
A native of Kentucky and a 1998 graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Wulkopf joined Lewis Rice after graduating magna cum laude from Saint Louis University School of Law in 2001. She continued to use her maiden name professionally after marrying in 2005.
In the estate planning department at Lewis Rice, Wulkopf quickly became known for her ability to embrace and break down the intricate nuances of tax law for clients while making them comfortable enough for frank discussions about family finances and bequests, Boyles said. She became a firm member (partner) in 2009.
“Her clients absolutely loved her,” said Larry Parres, another longtime friend and colleague at Lewis Rice. “I’m in corporate finance, but I always made sure my clients went to her [for estate planning] because she made them feel like the most important person in the world.”
Those who knew her also marveled at her ability to “juggle it all” to be present for friends, with whom she loved to socialize — and especially for her family at home in Webster Groves.
“How she loved those boys . . . She never had the same smile on her face as she did when she was hanging out with those children,” Brummond said.
Added Boyles: “She wanted her boys to see that she could continue to carry on and have this fantastic career but still be a fantastic mom. She was a superstar.”