Today, we lost a leader of the ACI-NA Legal Committee and a dear friend to many of us.  We are sad to report that Debra Braga, former General Counsel at the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, passed away after a long, valiant fight with a serious illness. Debra was elected to serve as the Legal Committee Vice-Chair in 2018 and as Chair in 2019.  She is remembered for her extraordinary knowledge and judgment, and her gracious willingness to share it with her airport legal colleagues.  She was also the warmest, most generous, and most positive person many of us have ever known.  Debra, accompanied by her husband, Gary Burger, was a wonderful presence at Legal Committee meetings and social events for many years, culminating in her hosting a memorable Spring Legal Conference on Amelia Island in 2017.  Debra, who had retired just a few months ago, will be missed by all of us.

ACI-NA is collecting condolence messages from her industry colleagues and will share them with her family.

Industry Colleagues Remember Debra

I will always have fond memories of Debra, her exuberance for life, the love she displayed for Gary and her kind treatment to all of us. One could feel the warmth of friendship she offered, and her delightful laugh will be long-remembered. She shared her extensive aviation knowledge and support, invited me to share in the good times at conferences (I still have my shrimp and pearl necklace from the Shrimp Parade), and I enjoyed many dinners with Debra and Gary and ACI-NA colleagues, the last being our evening at El Patron in Albuquerque. While she dealt with various burdens, she always smiled and maintained a positive outlook. I feel honored to have known Debra, and hope that this brings some small comfort to Gary and family.

Janet Schafer
Houston Airport System

What sorrow! I had the privilege of working with Debra when she was an assistant city attorney in Orlando and then, of course through ACI. She always had a smile even when I’m sure she didn’t feel like smiling. Her laugh was wonderful! I’ll miss her. My condolences to Gary and her family.

Marcos Marchena
Marchena and Graham, P.A.

Our deepest condolences to Debra’s family, friends and all the members of the Jacksonville Airport. Our hearts and thoughts are with you. Debra will be missed.

Jamie Rhee
City of Chicago

She was a wonderful lady and will be missed.

Daniel Markind
Flaster Greenberg

We shared many a beverage, meal, discussion, and laugh…. Debra had a wonderful laugh. I will hold onto many memories, particularly our last time together at the Steering Committee dinner in ABQ sharing conversation peppered with jokes about Florida Man!

Gary, I can’t imagine the depth of your loss but please know that Debra was admired and appreciated for her intellect and knowledge, but most of all for her strong yet gentle spirit. I am privileged to have known Debra and will treasure the time we spent together.

With deepest sympathy and condolences, Leila Lahbabi

Leila Lahbabi
Charlotte Douglas International Airport & ACI-NA Legal Steering Committee

Wow, what a loss! I’ve been participating in the ACI-NA Legal Affairs Committee since 2014, and Debra was one of the people I always looked forward to seeing at conferences. I loved her warm smile and friendly disposition, and she always made insightful contributions to the Committee. I will miss seeing her. I send my condolences and best wishes to her family.

Todd Curry
Houston Airport System

I have known Debra since our days at the City of Jacksonville, Florida’s Office of General Counsel. We hit it off right from the start. Her infectious laugh brightened many of my days, so much so that we affectionately referred to it as her “Super Power.” I have always loved working with Debra, particularly because she possesses a practical wisdom that alludes most people, today. She will be sorely missed. I pray God’s comfort, strength and peace for Gary and others who mourn Debra’s passing (2 Cor 1:3-4; 12:9-10; Isa 26:3).

Devin Reed
Jacksonville Aviation Authority

I have not known Debra long, but in the time that was my privilege to know her, she was always so warm and welcoming of me to this exceptional community. I found her to be the perfect combination of human being and attorney, knowledgeable, personable and having great humor. I’ll miss her smiling face at future gatherings, and my thoughts are with her family and friends.

Chris Schmaltz
Tucson Airport Authority

Gary, my heart goes out to you. The love you and Debra shared with each other spilled over to me and everyone who has had the pleasure to know you. As a colleague, Debra was a great support to me, and I was honored when she chose me as her vice chair of the Steering Group. After all of the planning and presentations are forgotten, what I will remember about ACI-NA is Debra’s friendship.

In sympathy,

Peter Pierotti
City of Albuquerque Aviation Department

Debra loved good wine, her cats and Gary, but not in that order. She was unbelievably positive, even when she was sick. She was self effacing but funny. She worked for a time for a tour company in Scotland and had hoped to return there this past year. She loved “cozy” mysteries and introduced me to the Hamish McBeth series. She set a high bar when she and the Jacksonville airport authority hosted the Spring Legal Affairs Conference for ACI-NA—from great host gifts (including “Ahhhhmelia” blue fingernail polish that she dug out) to a top drawer welcome reception and, of course, the never to be forgotten Fernandina Shrimp parade. The conference was one of the best any of us attended. Although raised in Southern California, Debra ended up working as an attorney in Alaska, where she met Gary…another great contribution she made to the Steering Group, as she and Gary, with one exception, always attended the meetings together. They were devoted to each other with Gary always getting up early to have coffee and read the paper but always taking coffee to her to help her start her day. Gary was right when he said he “hoped God knows he’s got a special one.” We certainly knew that.

Ann Morgan
Reno Tahoe Airport Authority

I was already preparing for the giant hole Debra’s retirement would leave on the Legal Committee and Steering Group, and now I am heartbroken to think of the hole she has left in our hearts, the world at large, and most importantly with Gary and her family and friends.

When I think of Debra, the first thing I think of is her laugh. Though dealing with a heavy burden, she had a laugh that filled a room and always made me smile. That personality coupled with her intellect and ability to kindly mentor showed that she was a special and unmatched colleague, mentor, leader, and friend. She will be missed by many, including me. I hope memories of her bring solace to us all.

Erin Locklear
Raleigh-Durham International Airport

Debra was a wonderful woman and we will all miss her smile and infectious laugh. I remember fondly when Debra brought the group to Amelia Island. She brought many of you to my office for the Shrimp Festival Parade. She was a dear friend, a mentor and a boss for me at one time. Debra’s friendship has enriched my life. She will be missed by all of us. Thank you for honoring her life.

Teresa Prince
Tomassetti & Prince

I will always remember Debra for her infectious laugh and good humor. She was a wonderful colleague and friend and I always appreciated her wisdom. She was truly one of a kind. One of my favorite memories of Debra was at the conference on Amelia Island – she and Gary took us to the Shrimp Parade. It was a special day with special friends. Sending my deepest condolences to Gary. May her memory be blessing to all who keep her in their hearts.

Sheryl Bregman
San Francisco International Airport

I am very sad to hear of Debra’s passing. While I only worked with Debra for my first 18 months here at JAA, I found her to be one of my favorite people. She was very supportive of my work and always willing to meet with me when needed. I loved her joyful humor which resulted in fun, pleasant meetings. I highly respected her expertise as well. She will be greatly missed here at JAA.

Robert Weeks
Jacksonville Aviation Authority

Debra was an experienced and patient mentor. She made an impact on everyone she came in contact with. Her laugh was contagious and will always be remembered. Heartfelt condolences to Debra’s family and friends. She will be missed. Fly High!

Monica Frazier
Jacksonville Aviation Authority

My deepest condolences to the Braga Family, Debra was very a loving and caring individual who I had the pleasure of knowing! My heart aches for your loss! God Bless You and Rest in Peace!

Charles T. Smith, Jr.
JAA Procurement Dept.

Debra was a wonderful woman and a friend. We shared many lunches and our last 8 birthdays together along with Richard and Melissa. I will miss her dearly, her laugh and her funny stories!

Robbie Malvicino
Jacksonville Aviation Authority

Debra’s laugh was one of the most beautiful sounds that I’ve heard, and brought peace and joy to all who heard it. She has been a wonderful person to know, and her presence will be missed sorely. God Bless.

Cindy Laquidara
Akerman LLP (formerly OGC)

Deeply saddened to hear of Debra’s passing. I got to know Debra over the past several years through her role at the Jacksonville Aviation Authority. Each of my interaction with Debra was cheery and I always carried positive feelings away. I had recently learned of her retirement but had no knowledge of her illness. My deepest sympathies to her family and friends.

Sandeep Singh

My deep, deep condolences to Debra’s family and friends. Debra was generous in time and spirit, and never balked at helping us at DTW, many times going above and beyond. And she usually did so in good humor, adding to her help an observation or joke sure to make you smile. Debra, you will be missed.

Brian Sadek
Wayne County Airport Authority

Oh, how I will miss her beautiful smile and infectious laugh! Debra was warm and welcoming, and always had a great story. One of my favorites was her story about when she and Gary drove South from Alaska with a snow shovel in their trunk. When they finally arrived in Florida and no one knew what it was used for, they figured they had found their new home! Gary, my thoughts and prayers are with you and the rest of the family.

Elaine Rodriguez
Dallas Fort Worth International Airport

In the 4+ years I worked with Debra, I found her to be a breath of fresh air, light hearted and joyful. Her laugh was indeed infectious! When she laughed, you laughed with her. I pray God’s peace and comfort for her husband and family. Psalm 147:3-5

Dara Genus
Jacksonville Aviation Authority

Debra Braga was a sweet soul. She had a laugh that would lift the spirits of all that heard it, no matter how downtrodden one may be. She will be very much missed. I always enjoyed our lunches and time together; loved her insights, smarts and joy. God rest her sweet soul.

Jason Gabriel
City of Jacksonville, Office of the General Counsel

Debra was a wonderful colleague and great to work with on the Legal Steering Group. I will certainly miss seeing her. She was a great asset to the Jacksonville Aviation Authority. We will remember her fondly.
My deepest sympathy to Gary and the rest of the family.

Jeffrey Letwin
ACI-NA Legal Affairs Committee Steering Group

I am so sorry and saddened to hear about Debra. My sincerest condolences to her husband Gary and the family. I had the pleasure of working for her as my client way back when she was representing Fernandina Beach. I always enjoyed catching up with her at the ACI-NA Annual Conference Legal Committee meeting to learn what she was issues working on and to share my projects. I will miss her as I am sure will her colleagues and friends.

Dave Byers
Quadrex Aviation, LLC

I will always remember how welcoming Debra was to me as a new member on the steering committee. She had a wonderful laugh, quick wit and keen intellect. I loved hearing about the time she spent in San Diego and comparing stories. I am inspired by her strength of spirit and her ability to laugh even in difficult times. I will miss her and am honored to have known her.

Amy Gonzalez
San Diego County Regional Airport Authority

I had the pleasure of working with Debra and will miss her smile and contagious laugh. My condolences to Debra’s family. May you find comfort in her memories.

Marilyn V. Fryar
Jacksonville Aviation Authority

We are heartbroken to lose Debra, and our hearts go out to Gary on the depth of his loss. Debra was an extraordinary individual. She was a wonderful person, who endeared herself to everyone in the airport legal world, and I felt so privileged to have the opportunity to work closely with her when she was Legal Committee Vice-Chair in 2018, Chair in 2019, and Immediate Past Chair in early 2020. Very rarely can you honestly say that it was a real delight to work with someone, but that was absolutely true with Debra. Her knowledge and judgment were extraordinary, and she was truly a pleasure to work with. She was the warmest, most generous, and most positive person I have ever known, and she always brightened any room she was in, and every project she participated in. Her graciousness was second to none.

Debra was a generous colleague, always willing to share her insights with others, who greatly appreciated her skill as a lawyer and her warmth as a person. Along with Gary, she was a memorable presence at Legal Committee meetings and social events for many years, where we all go to know and enjoy the two of them. Whether Debra was regaling us with her own stories or interjecting her thoughts as others carried the conversation, she was a delight to be with. Her humor and good spirits were so wonderful. Debra also served as host of a memorable Spring Legal Conference on Amelia Island in 2017, arranging for tours, meals, and events that we will cherish, as she made sure that everyone had a fabulous time. My wife Nancy and I greatly enjoyed spending time with her and Gary, discussing our schnauzers and other pets, and making plans to get together in retirement. We are so sad that we will not be able to see the two of them enjoying retirement, but look forward to making plans to see Gary when we are able to do so.

Thomas Devine
Airports Council International – North America

I was so saddened to hear about Debra’s passing. I will forever remember her warmth, welcoming smile, and her ready willingness to share her knowledge and experience — memories that I will treasure. My life is all the better for having met her.

Pablo Nüesch
Airports Council International – North America