Joel A. Thvedt, age 57, died peacefully at home on Saturday, Feb. 8, in Altadena after a five-year battle with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), a rare progressive neurological disease. He was born on May 14, 1962, in Newcastle, Wyoming, the son of Pastor James and Gloria Thvedt.
Joel grew up in Sisseton, South Dakota, and attended the University of Chicago, receiving his bachelor’s degree with honors in political science in 1984. He then headed west for law school and graduated from UCLA School of Law, where he was a member of the UCLA Law Review and a board member of El Centro Legal, a network of student-run legal aid clinics. While at UCLA, Joel met his wife, Patricia Libby, who was a fellow student, and they married on Aug. 9, 1986.
After law school, Joel practiced civil litigation with Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy for several years, before becoming an assistant U.S attorney in 1994. Joel prosecuted a variety of federal crimes, specializing in investment, bank and insurance fraud. After returning to private practice in 2000, Joel handled both civil litigation and criminal defense matters and was appointed to the Federal Indigent Defense Panel. He spent the last 12 years of his career as a partner in the firm Ritt, Tai, Thvedt and Hodges in Pasadena.
Joel was active in his community, serving as a board member of the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena and a trustee of the San Marino Schools Foundation. He spent many hours with his young sons as a longtime Scout leader in San Marino, a youth basketball coach, and an AYSO soccer coach and referee. Joel was an avid fan of his sons’ water polo games and traveled throughout Southern California most weekends to cheer them on.
Although diagnosed in early 2015 with MSA, Joel continued to practice law until 2018. He faced MSA with incredible grace, determination, and an ever-present smile and positive outlook. Despite the immense physical challenges of MSA, Joel was fearless, always game for any family get-together, including recent trips to Iceland, Hawaii and beyond, and many Thvedt family visits up until his final weeks. Joel was a lifelong fan of the Minnesota Twins and the Minnesota Vikings and treasured watching every game with his family, despite the regular post-season disappointments.
Joel is survived by his wife, Patricia (Libby) Thvedt and their sons, Andrew, Eric and Paul of Altadena, California; his parents, Pastor James and Gloria Thvedt of Brookings, South Dakota; his siblings James (Rebecca) Thvedt of Minneapolis; Kristin Thvedt of East Grand Forks, Minnesota; Jonathan (Joyce) Thvedt of Beresford, South Dakota; Karen (Daniel) Oie of Kenmore, Washington; Joseph (Tami) Thvedt of Brookings, South Dakota; his father-in-law, Paul Libby, of La Jolla, California; his brother-in-law, John (Cindy) Libby of Los Angeles; many cousins, aunts and uncles; and 17 nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, Joel requested that donations be made to: the MSA Coalition, 9935-D Rea Road, No. 212, Charlotte, North Carolina 28277, multiplesystematrophy.org/donate-now, or to the Armory Center for the Arts c/o Development Office, 145 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena 91103, armoryarts.org/joel