Monday, March 23, 2009

David Webster Obituary

On Friday, March 13, 2009, David Webster died after losing a fierce battle with cancer. I wrote the following for the funeral home at the request of David's family. I was fortunate enough to see David on Friday before he died. It meant everything to say goodbye to him. I hope my presence brought him a ray of light on an otherwise dark day.
Litigator, husband, environmentalist, father, entrepreneur, brother, sponsor, innovator, actor, son and friend. No matter how long the list of adjectives one compiled – and it could go on for pages – no such list could sum up the all-too-brief, but full and complete life of David B. Webster, who died at age 46 on Friday, March 13, 2009, at the Cleveland Clinic.

Webster, founding partner of the Cleveland law firm Webster & Dubyak and founder of the Clean Air Conservancy, is survived by his wife and law partner Beth Brandon Webster and his four children, Olivia Anne, Caroline Leah, Juliet Rose and John Philip Webster. In addition, he is survived by his parents Thomas F. and Olive "Tommie" Webster of South Euclid; two brothers, Mark of Cleveland Heights and Richard Webster of Denver, and a sister, Robin Webster of Cincinnati.

Whether successfully representing Cleveland music producer and promoter Steve Popovich against Sony Music or fighting to protect air quality, Webster poured his considerable intellect and energy into two of his passions: the law and the environment. In November 2007 Webster won a $5 million judgment against Sony for leaving Popovich’s Cleveland International’s logo off of Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell album.

One of Cleveland’s most respected litigators, Webster earned international recognition for his work in defense of our environment. In 1992, he founded the non-profit Clean Air Conservancy (CAC) which pioneered the “retirement” of pollution rights as a tool for improving the quality of our environment and slowing the pace of global climate change. The CAC was a key participant in the first major sale of pollution rights, symbolically buying and “retiring” a single SO2 allowance. Administered by the Chicago Board of Trade under the mandate of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, this new “cap-and-trade” market-based approach traded government-issued permits that give their owner the right to emit one ton of sulfur dioxide, the major precursor of acid rain.

The CAC’s early vision of the effectiveness of using these new markets to protect the environment was hailed by the national media, including The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio and the Associated Press. The “cap-and-trade” markets for S02 is credited with dramatically reducing acid rain in the United States.

President Barack Obama’s proposed “cap-and-trade” market to limit carbon dioxide emissions embodies many of the principles and concepts developed by Webster and the CAC. The CAC has retired more than 7 billion tons of pollution credits and allowances. In a 2007 profile of Webster published by Crain’s Cleveland Business, Mike Short, program director for the CAC said: “David always seems to be five to 10 years ahead of everybody else. He’s always ahead of the curve.”
The family asks that donations in Webster’s memory be made to the CAC, P.O. Box 181130, Cleveland Heights., OH, 44118 or The Church of The Saviour, 2537 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights., OH, 44118, where Memorial Service will be held, Tuesday, March 17, at 4 p.m.

The Cuyahoga Falls-native was a 1989 magna cum laude graduate of Case Western Reserve University School of Law and a 1983 summa cum laude graduate of Ohio University. Before entering law school, David performed as an actor in several productions, including Our Town in 1983 at the Porthouse Theater. Webster began his legal career with White & Case in New York City, before returning to Cleveland in 1990. He was president-elect of the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Bar Association and was due to become president in June.
He was diagnosed with cancer in January. Faced with a battle for his life, Webster relied on the dozens of friends he had earned as a sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous for support and assistance, along with a legion of lawyers and other friends he had earned throughout his life. A few weeks after receiving his grim diagnosis, he smiled while telling a friend: “I am humbled by the outpouring of support and kindness. I knew there were many great people in my life, but to experience it first-hand is truly powerful.”

While his legal and environmental work garnered international attention, it was his wife and children who received much of his attention. He had nearly completed the renovation of their Cleveland Heights home and could regularly be found at school functions.

Despite being weakened by the terrible tandem of cancer and the treatment to stop it, to the end Webster reserved his strength to care for others. On the afternoon of his death, he gave a friend that he was sponsoring in AA a much-needed “thumbs up” after being told his charge was sober. And before another friend could say his goodbye, David grasped his friend’s hand pulled it to his lips and gave it a kiss.

Litigator, husband, environmentalist, father, actor, entrepreneur, brother, son, sponsor, and innovator. He was all of those things, but most of all he was our friend.

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