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Louis “Louk” Wijsen, a native Dutchman and college professor who became an attorney in his 50s and earned a reputation for his ardent criminal appeals work, died Tuesday of esophageal cancer. He was 70. Wijsen immigrated to the U.S. as a young man and served in the U.S. Army before settling in Monterey, where he studied and received degrees in electronics, history and German literature. After alternating careers in shipping and teaching, Wijsen in 1976 earned a doctorate in literature from UC-Berkeley. He met his wife, Mia Wijsen, after he had joined the university’s faculty and she was his student. Mia Wijsen recalled how her husband lamented the fact that he never went into law when he was younger. “That was his niche,” she said. Wijsen eventually fulfilled his dream in 1988, when he graduated from Hastings College of the Law at the age of 52 and became a criminal defense attorney for the Office of the State Public Defender. Gordon Brownell, a criminal appeals attorney who met Wijsen after he left the public defender’s office and joined the California Appellate Defense Counsel, said Wijsen was a “very vigorous advocate” for his clients. “He would go often above and beyond the call of duty,” Brownell said. “He would ruffle lots of feathers in the process if he felt it was in his client’s best interest.” Musawwir Spiegel, a Davis attorney who retired from the state public defender’s office in 2002, said Wijsen held strong, politically liberal convictions and wasn’t afraid to share them. When Spiegel, who supported gay marriage, as did Wijsen, argued on an e-mail listserv that pressing the issue in California may backfire and result in a U.S. constitutional amendment, Wijsen had none of it. “He sent me this fiery e-mail that was � just great,” Spiegel said. Wijsen argued that it was important to “stand up for the victims” of bigotry, “regardless of whether it inspires the bigots to greater intolerance.” Wijsen, who lived in Alameda, was also the author of about 200 academic, magazine and newspaper articles and enjoyed sailing, scuba diving and bicycling. Even while sick, he spent his final months bicycling with his wife and made several trips to Hawaii and Mexico. He also continued to send letters to newspapers about issues that concerned him. “He had a very strong personality, and he spoke his mind,” Mia Wijsen said. “Maybe he put people off, and he knew that � but he had to say what was on his mind. And he did.” A private service is being planned.

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