Hidden talent, heartfelt words

Click play on the video player above to view this week’s special episode, the latest installment of our year-long weekly celebration of the firm’s 70th anniversary.

Throughout the course of his nearly 50-year legal career, retired McAfee & Taft attorney Pete Van Dyke was known for being many things: a JAG officer, nationally recognized labor law practitioner, administrative law judge, adjunct professor of law, volunteer arbitrator and mediator, and, perhaps most importantly, a mentor and role model.

Photo of Peter Van Dyke in his McAfee & Taft office in 2000
Retired labor and employment lawyer Peter Van Dyke
in his McAfee & Taft office in 2000.

“Pete treats every human being that he meets — whether that’s a lawyer or a staff member or an opposing counsel — with absolute respect, and he is always composed,” said Paul Ross. “In fact, he used to tell us that no problem could not be solved, and he always encouraged us to spend our energy thinking about how to solve a problem instead of looking backwards in anger or frustration at how the problem came to be. And that is how I practice still to this day, and how I encourage people that work with me to practice. And it is probably the most important thing anyone has taught me about practicing law.”

What even some of his closest colleagues didn’t know about Pete — at least until he was preparing to retire at the end of 2017 — was that he was also a poet. Pete’s hidden talent was revealed when he gifted a collection of his poems that he kept in his desk to a fellow labor and employment colleague whom he had mentored over the years.

“He was my teacher, my mentor, probably my strongest advocate for a period of time,” said Natalie Ramsey. “I practiced with him for years, and I know him to be a man who had his priorities in order. He had great faith, he was a very strong family man, and he was a very dignified practitioner. But he was also a poet, and I never knew it. And so he brought me this folder full of poems that he had written over the years and said, ‘Keep these. You know, they might make you feel better on a hard day.”

And they did. Especially this one.


God places people in our lives
To help us on life’s path.
Sometimes people come and go,
But some for a lifetime last.
Each one’s a special gift from God.
But this we might not know.
Some are difficult at best.
But those cause us to grow.
Lord, help me to see your hand in all –
Those things I see as bad
And reflect on all the gifts from you
And all the joys I’ve had.
For in the short it’s hard to tell
Why things are as they are,
But I know I’ll trust in God
Safe within His care.

— Peter Van Dyke —