A good friend and mentor passed away just a few weeks ago, Sam Werbin. He was an attorney, judge and real estate investor. He took his business obligations seriously and was extraordinarily successful in all of these endeavors. It was, however, his personal life, his family, wife, children and grandchildren, that gave him reward, satisfaction, enjoyment and as we say, naches. He worked to live and he lived for his family. Something I suspect we can all learn from.
Sam was a partner at Blandford & Werbin. He was also the sole practitioner for the last 27 years, but never took the name of his partner, Jack Blandford, off the door. It was Jack that initially hired him and taught him the ropes, and even though Jack passed away decades ago, Sam wanted to keep his partner’s memory alive.
As judge of the municipal court of Chamblee, Sam was respected and trusted by virtually all city employees, but none as dear to him as those in the police department. He had a close relationship with its leaders and chief, but more telling, he had a close personal relationship with each and every officer. It was not uncommon to see police officers in his offices asking for advice and council on everything from work issues to personal problems at home.
For me, I will fondly remember smoking cigars with Sam, sometimes on a deck overlooking trees and a stream, and sometimes in a garage, close enough to the entrance so the smoke would waft away from the house, but far enough in so that the torrential downpour wouldn’t leave us soaking and our cigars extinguished. We would talk about politics, work, and of course, family. He was a generous man to a fault. I wish he would have let me pay for even one dinner during the entire time I knew him, even if it was McDonald’s!
Above all, I learned from Sam that family always came first, always. Practical jokes, however, were a close second. I am not sure which was funnier: When Sam would move one of his children’s cars to a different parking place or when Jeff, his son-in-law, stumbled upon Sam’s car in long-term parking after a flight and moved his car to a different space! One of Sam’s practical jokes has withstood the test of time. Sam hid under his daughter Robyn’s bed when she was a young child for an inordinate amount of time, just to be a monster and scare her and a friend during a sleepover one night. I won’t share the little girl’s name since she didn’t make it to the bathroom.
On a serious note, Sam passed away one day shy of his 72nd birthday and a little over a year away from his 50th wedding anniversary. Sam was the consummate husband. He shared his life entirely and fully with his wife Renee. They traveled together at least once a month over the past two decades that I have known them. They enjoyed dinner together about 360 days a year and operated their businesses about 50 feet away from each other. They were inseparable, and that is the way he wanted it. Robyn and his sons Stuart, a rabbi and attorney in Manhattan, and Ian, a rabbi at Congregation Beth Jacob, are close seconds. Sam would do anything for his children, and often did – with and without Renee’s blessing and sometimes knowledge. His patience, generosity and good spirit knew no bounds with his family.
To Renee, Stuart, Ian and Robyn, Sam was their patriarch, their rock, their consul and consigliere, but most importantly, he was their best friend. I am truly grateful to have been part of Sam’s extended family.