Kim DiGiovanni Aluisi, a prominent divorce attorney who encouraged potential clients to try to repair their relationships before hiring her, died Dec. 5 surrounded by family at her home in Annapolis after an 18-month battle with pancreatic cancer, her husband said. She was 56.
Mrs. DiGiovanni Aluisi was committed to her clients and excelled at keeping in touch, forming a large network of friends over a more than 30-year law career, said her husband, former Prince George's County Sheriff Jimmy Aluisi.
Mr. Aluisi said she was the only divorce lawyer he knew who would push people to see if they could reconcile their differences.
"It was turning away business, but she was more interested in seeing people happy," Mr. Aluisi said. "She always looked for the good in people."
Mrs. DiGiovanni Aluisi was so devoted to her profession that, aside from chemotherapy appointments, she only missed 21/2 days of work in the year and a half after her diagnosis, Mr. Aluisi said.
Mrs. DiGiovanni Aluisi worked for 15 years as an associate attorney at Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller's law firm early in her career, and he said she refused to leave during a snowstorm one year — during the ninth month of her pregnancy.
"'Kim, you've got to go home,'" Senator Miller remembered telling her. "We had to drive her home. The beltway's got like 2 inches of snow. She delivered [her son] the next week."
Kim Marie Dawson was born Aug. 10, 1960, and raised in New Carrollton, the daughter of Frances and Donald Dawson, a homemaker and a gambling industry worker, respectively.
She graduated from Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg and earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1982 and a law degree from the University of Baltimore School of Law in 1985.
She married Mr. Aluisi, whom she had dated in law school, in 2004. She had a son, Frank DiGiovanni, now a resident of Washington, from a previous marriage that ended in divorce.
Mr. Aluisi said his wife's three loves in life were her son, her job and him — "and I was very happy to be in the top three." She beamed throughout her son's 2015 wedding, a four-day Italian-Indian extravaganza that came after her cancer diagnosis, family members said.
Mrs. DiGiovanni Aluisi was active in politics and was elected to the Maryland Democratic Central Committee early in her career.
Bruce Bereano, an Annapolis lobbyist and friend with whom Mrs. DiGiovanni Aluisi worked on Rep. Steny Hoyer's 1981 special election campaign, said she had a "beautiful, contagious personality" and will be sorely missed.
Despite her Democratic ties, she was close with former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, and his wife, Kendel, who lived across the street and whose children referred to her and Mr. Aluisi as "Aunt Kim and Uncle Jimmy."
Mrs. DiGiovanni Aluisi would cook a giant breakfast for the whole neighborhood around Christmastime, Governor. Ehrlich said. She asked Kendel Ehrlich to continue the tradition, and Mrs. Ehrlich plans to do so.
"She's the glue — they're really the glue — that keeps people together," the former governor said, "whether it's the legal profession in Annapolis, politics or the neighborhood."
In all her various roles, Mrs. DiGiovanni Aluisi was indefatigable, Governor Ehrlich said. "Full-court press. No off button."
"She had irrepressible will," he said. "When she called you and asked you to do something, you knew you were going to say yes. There was no sense in arguing."
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, another family friend, was diagnosed with cancer around the same time she was. The two exchanged LiveStrong bracelets, and the governor gave her a rosary that had been blessed by Pope Francis, Mr. Aluisi said.
"While cancer may have taken Kim from this world, it can never take away the love and loyalty she had for her family and friends, and that we had for her," Governor Hogan said in a statement.
Mrs. DiGiovanni Aluisi opened her own law firm in 1999.
Ed Veres, 67, a client who lives in Harwood, called her a "gracious person and a great lawyer."
"She had that Italian way — when you sat down and talked to her, she made you feel comfortable, and she asked the questions that were relevant," Mr. Veres said. "She was able to dig deep without being offensive or too intrusive."
She asked Allen Kruger, another friend and renowned Annapolis attorney, to merge his practice with hers last spring. They created Kruger DiGiovanni Aluisi, and Mr. Kruger said he plans to keep her name on the firm as a tribute.
Mr. Kruger said he often jokes that he makes his living off of the discord and dissent of other people. "She tried to prevent the discord," he said. "Kim fancied herself as much of a social worker as she did a lawyer."
Mrs. DiGiovanni Aluisi dedicated her body to the Johns Hopkins University for pancreatic cancer research. A memorial Mass is planned for 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Holy Family Catholic Church, 826 West Central Ave., in Davidsonville.
In addition to her husband and son, she is survived by ; her mother, Frances Eve DeLargo of Pennsylvania; a brother, Anthony Dawson of Delaware; a sister, Laura Priolo of Silver Spring; and nieces and nephews.