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.