Melvin Mooty, whose legal gifts and enduring joy in his work helped build the successful Minneapolis law firm Gray, Plant, Mooty, Mooty & Bennett, died of complications from Parkinson's disease Wednesday at Gianna Homes, a Minnetonka care facility. The longtime Edina resident was 84.

Mooty specialized in real estate and finance law at Gray Plant Mooty, one of the oldest, largest and most respected law firms in Minnesota. "He had a keen mind and was a leader in his field," said his son, Paul, of Edina. Among the projects Mooty worked on were Edina's Southdale and many downtown Minneapolis developments.

He was born in Adrian, Minn., and grew up there and in nearby Worthington with his older brother, John, who also became a partner in the firm that bears their name. Their father was a banker who also managed farmland, a family interest that continues today, Paul said.

"I have fond childhood memories of driving to the Red River Valley, of visiting farmers, of him reading the newspaper in places like Wheaton, Minnesota, avidly following crop and land prices," he said.

At 18, Mooty joined the Army, serving in Germany at the end of World War II. Back home, he graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1951 and married Sally, a teacher, in 1955. They settled down in Edina, and children Paul and Mary were born in 1960 and 1965, respectively.

Early in his career, Mooty went to work for Minneapolis' Kingman firm, which became Gray Plant Mooty. He spent 50 years there before retiring in 2004.

"He absolutely loved the practice of law and had such joy in everything he did at work," Paul said. "And ethics, integrity and fairness were paramount in all he did."

Among the young attorneys Mooty mentored was Wade Anderson, now a partner at Gray Plant Mooty. "Mel was quiet and understated, but always the smartest guy in the room," he said. "He'd take in all of a case's technical angles, but also the big picture. Then he'd wisely discern how to get to the finish line in the client's best interest.

"No matter how high-pressure or difficult the situation was with opposing counsel or a challenging client, Mel was invariably courteous," Anderson said. "As a younger attorney, I'd come out of situations where I was ready to come unglued, and he'd calmly coach me through it."

Despite his busy career, Mooty had family as his top priority, his son said. "He was home for dinner every night, and there for all of my sister's and my games and to help us with homework," he said.

"There was nothing more precious to him than family," Paul said. "[In the 1980s], my wife was downtown Christmas shopping with our first child ... and she stopped at the firm. My dad's door was closed. ... His secretary told her to wait so she could let my dad know she was there. He cleared his office of the people he was meeting with, got paper and colored pens, and sat on the floor ... with his granddaughter and colored."

One of several causes Mooty championed was the Courage Center in Minneapolis, where he and his wife created a scholarship for people with disabilities. They also established the Melvin R. Mooty Scholarship Fund at the U Law School.

In addition to Paul, Mooty is survived by his wife, Sally; a daughter, Mary, of Orono; a brother, John of Bloomington, and five grandchildren. Services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, 50th Street and Knox Avenue S. in Minneapolis, with visitation at the church an hour beforehand.

Pamela Miller • 612-673-4290