“What Is Webner?”

Our Word Press blog website provides us with lots of information, including reports on what searches people conducted that ultimately found our little blog.  One of the more common searches apparently is “What is Webner?”

IMG_3077What is Webner, indeed?  I thought the answer would be obvious:  Webner is the name of that charming and witty family that originally hails from Ohio but now is spread across the land.  It turns out, however, that the answer is not quite so simple.  We know, already, that there is a somewhat hardscrabble Webner Park located next to an expressway in Revere, Massachusetts.  There’s also a Webner Place in Palm Coast, Florida, near St. Augustine.  It’s a short, palm tree-lined street on which several houses are for sale, in a subdivision where every street starts with “Web” — the other street names are Webster Lane, Webster Place, Webb Lane, Weber Lane, Webwood Place, and Webelo Place.  (Pretty clever!)

More intriguingly, there appears to be a computer product made by Cisco called a “Webner.”   Apparently it’s a kind of hardware system called a “driver.”  I’m not sure exactly what that is, but it definitely sounds good — like a piece of cutting-edge technology that is part of the world-changing communications revolution, a device that spurs people onward and moves things forward to an ultimate, satisfactory resolution.  I can just imagine an IT nerd taking a look at a complicated computer set-up, running a scan with a complicated, beeping diagnostic tool, removing his glasses, rubbing his eyes, saying “I think we can fix this problem by installing a new Webner” and then calling someone on his iPhone 8 prototype and saying:  “We need a new Webner, stat!”

Of course, if you type “what is Webner?” into your Google search engine, after the inevitable Wikipedia “Weber” entry, the first thing you see is “Webner House.”  If that’s how you’ve found us, welcome!

What Goes On At Webner Park?

The other day someone mentioned to me that there is a “Webner Park” in Revere, Massachusetts.  I was skeptical of this claim, but sure enough, it’s true.  (Why is it called “Webner Park”?  Who cares?)

When I heard there was a Webner Park, I wondered what it looked like and thought it would be worth a visit.  I imagined it would be a bucolic area, richly forested, with perhaps a pond or two, some waterfowl, and furry woodlands creatures frolicking on the rolling grasslands.  No such luck.  The view from SatelliteViews.net show a half ellipse with a few straggly trees, ringed by an off-ramp.  The “park” is hard up against the Route 1 Northeast Expressway and probably is loud from road noise and reeking of gasoline fumes 24 hours a day.  There don’t appear to be any ponds or even baseball fields.

Webner Park looks like it could be the place in the neighborhood for teenage trysts, furtive beer-drinking, or other nefarious behavior.  In all likelihood, no Revere resident is going to have fond memories of their time spent lolling on the burnt-out fields of Webner Park.  Sigh.

Bertha Webner

January 20 was the birthday of Bertha Webner, my paternal grandmother.  She lived well into her 90s and, when she finally went to join her sisters in the Great Beyond, left some indelible memories for me and her other friends and relatives.

Bertha Webner, in her later years

Gramma Webner was one of those people who exemplified the complexities, and contradictions, of the human spirit.  She was a fun, supportive person with a great sense of humor who was always patient with and encouraging to her grandchildren.  She could laugh at herself, and the photo attached to this posting aptly captures the twinkle in her eyes and ready smile on her lips.  At the same time, however, she was a judgmental person who could slice you into ribbons for a badly played bridge hand or a refusal to go to church on a pretty Sunday morning.  At times, her sharp comments about cooking or housekeeping would reduce her daughters-in-law to tears.

Her life story is an interesting one.  Born to a large family in Uhrichsville, Ohio, she was close to her four sisters, who knew her as “Buss.”  Her life changed forever in her childhood, when she suffered an accident on a playground.  She was up in the air on a teeter-totter when the child at the bottom stepped off; she came crashing to the ground and her hip was shattered.  The doctors in her small town set the bone in a way that left one leg permanently shorter than the other.  For the rest of her life, Gramma wore special shoes, one of which had a five or six-inch raised heel, walked with a pronounced hitch in her step, and was in constant discomfort.

She didn’t let her physical condition bother her, however.  She had obvious musical talent, learned how to play piano “by ear,” and went to Bethany College to study music.  Sixty years later, she could still entertain everyone at family gatherings with her piano playing.  She played the piano for hours at Mom and Dad’s Ohio State football game parties and in the get-together the night before Kish and I were married.  I’ve met many people with amazing talents and abilities, but Gramma’s ability to play the piano “by ear” ranks pretty high on the list.  You could simply hum a song and she could convert it into a beautifully rendered piece that people just wanted to sing along to — whether they could sing or not.

She married my grandfather, had three sons, reared them during the Great Depression, and saw all three sons get advanced degrees.  She was a wonderful cook who made great, old-fashioned comfort food like baked chicken, mashed potatoes, and tapioca pudding.  The kitchen in her home on Emma Avenue in Akron, Ohio was a wonderful place for a kid, filled with mouth-watering smells and all sorts of pots, pans, spoons, and utensils to play with.  For years, it was a family tradition for every birthday to be celebrated with an angel food cake that Gramma baked — a cake that was always partially collapsed on one side, to be (unsuccessfully) filled in by an extra lathering of sugary icing.

My grandfather got lung cancer when he was in his sixties, and she nursed him in their house as the disease took its inevitable, horrible toll.  After Grampa died, she picked up and moved back to Uhrichsville to be with her sisters; they spent their days playing cards, gossiping with friends, going to church, and having Sunday brunch at the old Buckeye Hotel.  Still later, after her sisters died, she moved to Reston, Virginia, where my uncle and aunt and their family lived.  At that time, Kish and I were living in Washington, D.C., and on Saturdays we would go to her retirement complex and take her out to lunch.  During those lunches she loved to share a laugh and a good story about family members — the more salacious, the better.

While she lived in Reston she had to be hospitalized, and everyone expected the worst.  Her indomitable spirit carried her through, however, and during our visits she delighted Kish and me with her funny stories about the weird happenings and odd smells at the nursing home where she regained her health.  There is no doubt in my mind that her sense of humor was one of the reasons she recovered quickly from a debilitating condition, even though she was in her 80s.  She ultimately left the nursing home and moved back into her apartment at the retirement community, where she was later named Woman of the Year.  When, well into her 90s, her heart and her health finally began to fail her, she was comforted by her strong religious faith and happy that she would soon be seeing her sisters who, she was sure, were waiting for her in a better place.

It’s hard to capture a person in a short blog posting, but I am not sure that I could capture Gramma in a tome the length of War and Peace.  I just know that when I see her picture every morning I smile.

Sawmill Creek 2009

The intrepid crew of the SS Sawmill Explorer

The intrepid crew of the SS Sawmill Creek Explorer

Last weekend we had our annual Webner family reunion at Sawmill Creek Lodge, which is located between Huron and Sandusky, Ohio. The resort is right on Lake Erie and includes pools, shops, a marina, a golf course, extensive grounds, a nature preserve with walking paths, and one of the better sand beaches on the lake. We enjoyed fine weather, played golf, walked the grounds, hung out by the outdoor and indoor pools, soaked up some sun, read books, ate fried Lake Erie perch, played cards, talked politics and Ohio State football, enjoyed some adult beverages, caught up on each other’s lives, and generally enjoyed each other’s company. DSC06383

Friday night we took a Lake Erie cruise on the SS Sawmill Creek Explorer. Although it was sunny and the sky was for the most part clear and bright blue, the wind was up and so was the chop on the lake, and therefore our cruise stuck close to the shoreline, heading east from the resort. At one point our boat motored past an industrial site with large mounds of gravel on which hundreds of seagulls were mysteriously perched at evenly spaced intervals. As we went by, the seagulls all at once took flight in a scene eerily reminiscent of The Birds, wheeled slowly around the mounds, and then landed again in seemingly the exact same spots they had vacated moments before.DSC06423

Lake Erie is beautiful in late July, and we had a marvelous time. Thanks for a great time, Mom!

Webners On The Web

Pony Express rider Frank Webner

Pony Express rider Frank Webner

I’ve always thought there were not many Webners in the United States. It is certainly not a common name. Other than members of my own family, I’ve never gone to school with any Webners, or met any Webners while working.

The internet, however, has opened new vistas of discovery about the apparently far-flung, much more numerous than I anticipated Webner clan. A search of Google images reveals intrepid Pony Express rider Frank Webner, shown at left. The information about the photo says it was taken in the 1880s, and the huddled, blanketed figure holding the reins of the pack horse is described as a native American “squaw” who was just helping out.

The Charity Webner Family

The Charity Webner Family

The internet also features a photo of a family gathering of Charity Webner. She was my great great grandmother, and the photo also features my great grandfather, Ira Day Webner, who is fourth from the right in the top row, and may include my grandfather, Anthony Wayne Webner, as one of the kids in the front. They certainly look like a fun-loving group! And the explanation of why two potted plants are so prominently displayed apparently will just be forever lost in the mists of time.

Rush Webner

Rush Webner, station agent

Another interesting photo is of railroad agent Rush Webner, who was my great-grandfather’s brother. He apparently was a station agent at the Smithville, Ohio train station, and if the photo is any indication he personally performed many of the tasks involved in running a small train station, and did so while wearing a hat.

A “Webner” search also shows many living Webners, with Facebook pages, or entries on classmates.com, or other photos on other websites. Who are all of these people, and how am I related to them, if at all? It is a treasure trove of information, but how does it all fit together?

Oh, and I have to mention that, to my surprise and delight UJ’s high school graduation picture, which shows him grinning widely despite wearing appalling ’70s clothing, is available to the entire world via the ua74.c0m website.   For some reason I can’t link to it, but a Google Images search will get you there.