At 85 years old, Jerry Sonenblick, a former attorney and local author, still wants to max out on life.
“I believe to retire completely is to stagnate,” says Sonenblick. “They say in order to keep your mind going you must engage in something new. For me it’s writing, that’s a whole new endeavor, because it’s constantly a new set of facts.”
Sonenblick spent 22 years as a private attorney in Tucson, specializing in real estate, commercial transactions and corporate litigation. He officially retired six years ago, he explains, but has no intention of slowing down.
He’s the author of three self-published novels. His latest book, “Vengeful Unhinged,” a thriller that follows a young lawyer’s turbulent battles in a world of corrupt politics and money laundering, was released in September. The book is set in Tucson and Las Vegas in the 1960s and ’70s.
“I’ve always had a passion for writing, even when I was practicing law, and eventually retired and went into the development business,” says Sonenblick. “It’s been a passion of mine all of my life.”
He grew up in Hyde Park, Chicago, and moved to the Old Pueblo with his family after graduating high school in 1949. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in finance from the University of Arizona in 1953, earning a Doctor of Jurisprudence at his alma mater four years later.
He’s the former moderator and creator behind “A Matter of Judgment,” a live television show that featured practicing local attorneys fielding call-in questions, which ran for two years, broadcasting from the UA campus in the early 1970s.
In 1974, he was a founding partner at Empire West Companies, a real estate developer for restaurants, business space and apartment buildings, which operated in six cities throughout the Southwest and was responsible for the construction of about 10,000 apartments. He left his private law practice in 1980 to take on the massive volume of work at Empire West, he says, eventually selling out his shares of the company about five years later.
Sonenblick served as board president of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona for two years starting in 1986, and was former chairman of the Arizona Jewish Post advisory board. He was named JFSA “Man of the Year” in 1987, which left him with “a strong sense of satisfaction. It’s nice to be recognized even though I know that fame is here today and gone tomorrow.”
But you really have to be satisfied with your own performance as a professional, because that’s what matters most, he adds, with a smile.
In 2000, Sonenblick founded the Desert Angels, a nonprofit private investment firm that specializes in funding start-up and new businesses in the Southwest, which has invested more than $40 million in 95 regional companies.
In retrospect, Sonenblick is delighted with what he was able to create throughout his professional life. “Almost everything I did, started from nothing; And I’ve always worn two hats.”
Sonenblick developed a penchant for writing as a sports reporter for his high school newspaper, he says, and practicing law only solidified his zeal. He’s capitalized on his professional life, basing many of his characters on real people, and finds the creative storytelling process ultimately inspiring.
“I love seeing these figures come to life, they almost take on a life of their own,” he says. “They do take on a persona, they are fascinating and the whole idea is to go along with their characterizations.”
Sonenblick is about halfway through the first phase of a new book, he says, balancing creating a new work with continuing to market his most recent novel. And the positive reviews of his latest fiction keep him motivated and ready to forge ahead.
“I will not stop until I’m forced to stop — I want to keep going,” he says.