My Aunt, The Author

Yesterday’s mail brought a welcome holiday gift: a book. Entitled Murder in the Village Library, the novel was co-authored by “Collett, Fogarty, and Webner.”

That’s Webner, as in my Aunt Corinne.

The back cover describes the plot as follows: “Vivid characters living in an idyllic gated community are confronted with greed, loss, and treachery in this action packed international thriller.” The book is focused on the library in the community where Aunt Corinne and Uncle Mack live, which admittedly is pretty darned idyllic. And the fact that the cover lists only the last names of the co-authors gives the book a hard-edged, two-fisted feel, like you might get in a Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer mystery.

I know from prior conversations with Uncle Mack that Aunt Corinne and her co-authors have worked hard on the book, and because Aunt Corinne is involved, you can bet your bottom dollar that the book is thoughtful, the plot is logical — and the prose is grammatically correct, carefully proofread, and properly punctuated down to the last semicolon.

Congratulations, Aunt Corinne! And if you’re interested in reading the book, I’d guess that copies are available from the Village Library itself.

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End Of An Era

After more than 75 years, the Diamond Grille in Akron is changing hands.  Since 1941, the restaurant with the great name and the classic, cool neon sign has been owned by the Thomas family and has held down the same spot at 77 West Market Street.

12024588-largeThis week the Thomas family announced that it has sold the restaurant to a long-time waitress who promises to keep things pretty much the same they always have been — with the exception of renovating the bathrooms and adding some fresh vegetables to the menu.  I guess that long-time fans of the restaurant, and I am one of many, will be willing to accept those slight modifications so long as you can still go to the Diamond to get the same great steaks and seafood, drink the same great drinks, and enjoy an atmosphere that makes you feel like it’s 1958 and Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr. might just be found in the booth next to yours.  It’s one of those joints that is unforgettable and timeless.

The Diamond Grille has been an important part of Webner family lore and was a place that my mother and father used to socialize with their friends.  Uncle Mack worked there when he was a callow youth, and Kish and I had had a memorable dinner there with Mom, Aunt Bebe, and Uncle Mack and Aunt Corinne a few years ago.  The last time I chowed down at the Diamond I took a colleague there for lunch.  She’d never been there before, and as we were eating she looking around with a sense of wonder and said:  “This place is great!”

Of course, she was right.  The Webner family wishes the Thomas family the very best as they move on to other things, and wants to thank them for a lifetime of wonderful memories.  If you’re interested, you can read about some of our experiences at the Diamond here, here, here, and here.

Diamond Dinner

A quick trip up to Akron today.  Aunt Corinne and Uncle Mack were in town, so Mom, Kish, and I went up to visit with them and Aunt Bebe.  It was great to see everyone and to check out “The Buckeye Room” at “Buckeye Bebe”‘s pad.

The quick jaunt was properly capped off by dinner at the Diamond Grille, which — as any regular reader of this blog knows — is a fabulous steakhouse and the source of many fond memories for Uncle Mack.  A few oysters, a glass of wine, some great conversation, and a perfectly cooked medium rare Porterhouse steak as big as a stop sign later, we were back in the car and rolling down I-71 to Columbus, letting the digestive juices do their work.

Aunt Corinne At 70

Today Aunt Corinne reaches the age of 70.  I want to wish her happy birthday and thank her for the special, and vital, role she has played in our family.

The five Webner children have been blessed with a trio of amazing aunts, each special in her own unique way.  Aunt Corinne has always been the intellectual aunt, the one who was not afraid to break free of the cultural constraints placed on women during the ’50s and ’60s, the one who encouraged reading, and thinking, and proper grammar and word usage.  (And let me tell you, there is no greater spur to developing a decent vocabulary and passable conversational skills than having a brainy and witty aunt who patiently corrects misstatements.)

Corinne Palmer Webner graduated from law school when few women even dreamed of a legal career.  She has always loved to cook and worked patiently on a needlepoint creation that hung for years over a special rack at their home.  She reads voraciously and was the first person I knew who extolled the value of a Kindle.  In short, Aunt Corinne has always marched to the beat of a different drummer — except in her case she is probably moving to the complex rhythms of a Bach cantata.

When Kish and I lived in the Washington, D.C. area in the early 1980s, Aunt Corinne and Uncle Mack were the nearest members of the family.  We spent a lot of time with them and their children Laura, Betsy, and Billy at their home in Reston, Virginia.  You could not ask for more gracious hosts.  Aunt Corinne always gave great advice (and, I think, gentle guidance) as we dealt with the beginnings of our professional careers, the early days of law school, and the first few weeks of parenthood.

At that time, Grandma Webner lived nearby, too, and Aunt Corinne and Uncle Mack bore the brunt of the many administrative and social responsibilities that come with caring for an aging relative.  Until you have done it, I don’t think you can fully appreciate what it means to field that ill-timed call for help, or to carefully explain the change in routine to a puzzled senior, or to progressively assume greater decision-making responsibilities for someone who is slowly failing.  Aunt Corinne did all this, and did it cheerfully and well.  We can never repay her, or thank her enough, for that.

Now she and Uncle Mack are retired, to their lovely home in the outskirts of Savannah, Georgia, where Aunt Corinne is re-doing the kitchen to her exacting specifications, giving that Kindle a workout, and doing what grandmothers do to make their grandchildren feel safe, warm, and loved.  Happy birthday, Aunt Corinne!  May you have many, many more!

Uncle Mack Hangs Up His Spurs

Yesterday I got an e-mail from William Mack Webner — known to me as Uncle Mack — announcing that he is officially retired from the practice of law.  His decision to retire marks the end of more than 40 years of practicing as one of the premier intellectual property lawyers in the country.

Mack Webner (right) at a 2008 conference

It has been a distinguished career, indeed.  Through his representation of the Elvis Presley estate, entertainers, and a wide variety of different commercial entities, Uncle Mack has played a significant role in the development of the law on licensing and marketing of personalities and protecting and enforcing trademarks and other forms of intellectual property.  As the American economy has grown to focus more and more on the value of concepts, brands, and ideas, intellectual property law has grown and adapted to respond to those developments.  Uncle Mack has been one of the agents of change.  He also has been very involved with his alma mater, the University of Akron, with various professional organizations, and with various community groups.  You might say that, through these different activities, people have seen him “in triple focus.”

Because of these other interests, Uncle Mack is not one of those people who have let their work define them, so that when they retire they feel lost and uncomfortable without a job to tether them.  I know he wants to work on his golf game (what retiree doesn’t?) and he and Aunt Corinne still have a lot of exploring to do in Savannah, Georgia and its environs.  He’ll keep reading, and thinking.  I expect that I will get book recommendations from him, as I always have; he was an enthusiastic proponent of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Watership Down, among many others.  Uncle Mack no doubt also will continue to be as open to trying new things as he always has been — whether it is experimenting with woodworking or finally writing that novel that he and I used to talk about when Kish and I lived in Washington, D.C. in the 1980s.  You would expect nothing less from a man who made his career dealing in the world of ideas.