Ray Stewart, Founding Partner of F.C. Law Firm, Dies at Age 80

(Photo: Courtesy of Paul H. Barkley)
(Photo: Courtesy of Paul H. Barkley)

Ray Clarence Stewart, founding partner of the Falls Church intellectual property law firm Birch Stewart Kolasch Birch, died April 26 at Inova Fairfax Hospital. He had suffered Parkinson’s disease. Stewart, a resident at The Virginian Retirement Community, was predeceased by his wife, Marie Grace Stewart in 2009.

Born April 11, 1936 in Martins Ferry, Ohio, the son of Raymond F. Stewart and Ann Husser Stewart, Ray excelled at Bridgeport High School, winning essay contests and participating in the school band. In his senior year, he was chosen to play violin in the All-Ohio State Orchestra appearing before the National Conference of Music Educators in Chicago which also included appearances on radio and television. Stewart was an honor student with a 5.0 average and valedictorian of his 1954 graduation class. Stewart attended Ohio State University and the University of California at Berkeley where he earned his BS and MS degrees in Organic Chemistry, respectively. Later, he would earn his JD degree from Georgetown University.

Stewart’s expertise in organic chemistry led him to seek employment with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office where he served as a Patent Examiner. There, he met Joseph A. Kolasch who would become his partner in 1971, setting up a small Falls Church law office. To seek new clients, the two set out for Japan and Korea cold-calling on pharmaceutical and electronic firms. A number of the companies they visited became lifelong clients. In 1976, they joined brothers Terrell C. Birch and Anthony L. Birch to form Birch, Stewart, Kolasch & Birch, LLP. Stewart’s expertise in chemistry coupled with the increasing growth of the pharmaceutical industry contributed to the firm’s rapid growth and success. In 1983, Stewart helped establish and was a leader of the annual Birch Stewart Kolasch Birch Summer Training Program providing lectures and instructions on all aspects of U.S. patent law. While the month long program for Asian and European patent practitioners focused on U.S. patent practice, it also provided participants a view of American culture and perspectives.

At Birch Stewart Kolasch Birch, Stewart specialized in chemical patents, patent interferences and trademarks. He was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society, American Intellectual Property Law Association, Association Internationale pour la Protection de la Propriété Industrielle, International Trademark Association, American Arbitration Association, and Fédération Internationale des Conseils en Propriété Industrielle where he served as Secretary/Treasurer of the U.S. Section, among others. He was a past president of the Patent Lawyers Club of Washington, D.C.

A long time resident of the City of Falls Church, Stewart was a member and effective civic leader of local organizations including the Falls Church Village Preservation and Improvement Society, chairman of the city’s Business & Professional Development Commission and Economic Development Commission and long time member and Chairman of the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals where his legal expertise was credited with smoothly resolving a number of difficult cases.

Stewart and his wife enjoyed travel, dining out, attending National Symphony Orchestra concerts, designing and building two homes – their Falls Church home and another in Bethany Beach Delaware, and especially holidays and outings with family and friends. Stewart is survived by nieces Rachel Flowers and Lisamarie Hanson (Douglas), nephew Kevin Grace, bother-in-law Joe Grace (Linda), and children of close personal friends who knew him as “Uncle Ray:” Molly Slattery, Charlie King, Joely Mauck, Todd Kolasch, Chad Kolasch, Margery Bonafede and Heidi Markisello. Stewart was a loving and generous mentor encouraging and supporting each to seek their life’s ambitions.

Funeral services were held Tuesday, May 3 at the Resurrection Evangelical Lutheran Church in Arlington. A graveside committal service followed at St. James Cemetery in Falls Church.