Tanya A. Gee – 1977-2016
In an email to friends this week, Tanya Gee wrote: “I always talk about cancer using terms like ‘fight’ and ‘winning.’ I don't like conceding that I have lost the fight because I don't feel like a loser right now. I feel like I have one last battle in front of me, and that is to die well. That's a battle I pledge to win.”
Tanya Amber Gee died well on September 28, 2016, of chondrosarcoma. She was 39.
Raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Rock Hill, South Carolina, Tanya decided to stay close to home for college, attending Winthrop University as a Trustee’s Scholar and graduating magna cum laude with a major in sociology. During her days at Winthrop, Tanya became involved in Pilgrim’s Inn, the local homeless shelter, beginning a lifelong commitment to community involvement.
Upon graduation from Winthrop, Tanya enrolled at the University of South Carolina School of Law, earning her J.D. cum laude. During her three years at USC, Tanya was engaged in almost every part of the life of the law school, often in leadership roles. She served as President of both the Pro Bono Board and the Public Interest Law Society and earned multiple scholarships. Tanya was not just a leader in law school. She also drew the admiration of her peers and of the faculty for her commitment to those around her. Upon graduation, she was awarded the Bronze Compleat Lawyer award, the most prestigious award chosen by the law school faculty and administration, as well as the Claude Sapp Award, chosen by her classmates “as possessing the best combination of scholarship, leadership and industry.”
Tanya spent the bulk of her career working at the South Carolina Court of Appeals in various roles. She served as a law clerk to Chief Judge Kaye G. Hearn, as Chief Staff Attorney, and as Clerk of Court. She left the court to take a position at Nexsen Pruet, LLC, where she worked for several years in business litigation and on appellate work.
In 2015, at the age of 37, she was elected to a seat on the South Carolina Circuit Court. In that role, Tanya found her true calling. She earned the respect of her colleagues on the bench and the litigants who appeared before her for her intellect, tenacity, and sense of fairness.
Though still early in her career, Tanya had already earned a raft of accolades, attesting to the same attributes of leadership and community involvement that had defined her student life. She was selected one of The State newspaper’s 2010 “20 Under 40” class of young professionals. She was a member of the Liberty Fellowship Class of 2012. She also was awarded the Silver Compleat Lawyer Award (awarded to three selected young alumni) and making her one of only two attorneys to have been awarded both the Bronze and Silver Compleat Lawyer Awards. In recent years, she served as a board member for Sarcoma Warriors.
Growing up in a small, tight-knit family, Tanya placed value on her nuclear family above all else. She rejoiced in playing family board games. She laughed out loud at her daughter Sabin’s jokes. She took pride in her son Will’s achievements. She was the perfect complement to husband Chris.
Her parents taught her to be a loving, caring, giving person, and she did not know how to be anything else. She made each person in her world feel like they were the most important person in the room.
Tanya was a person of deep faith. Reflecting on the recognition that she would die soon, in that same message to friends, she wrote:
“We all die, right? And we all know we're going to die someday. That's part of living…. I wish that I were able to make everyone feel as calm as I do. I am proud of the life I lived, the children I have, the husband I married, and the circle of friends I leave behind. I hate that I'm leaving the party early, but am awed by being on the brink of taking the next step, which we all should be looking forward to.”
Tanya is survived by her husband Chris Koon, her children Will and Sabin – who were her greatest joys in life – her parents Don and Angelika (Angel) Gee, her sister Bettina, her niece Nicole and her nephews Garrett and Cody. She is also survived by the circle of friends whose lives she touched.
A celebration of her life will be held on October 5, 2016 at 4:00 p.m. at Brookland Baptist Church, 1066 Sunset Blvd., West Columbia, SC 29169. In lieu of flowers, contributions to a loan forgiveness program may be made to the Tanya A. Gee Warriors for Justice Fund at the USC School of Law, 701 S. Main Street, Suite 202, Columbia, SC 29208.