Tom Webber 1943-2015
The Planned Parenthood family lost a mighty warrior on February 26 – Tom Webber died at age 71, far too young. His lungs gave out, no surprise to those who knew him, since he had a habit of using them at full volume on many occasions, whether he needed to or not. I first met Tom in 1991 at a meeting of the CEOs of the larger Planned Parenthood affiliates. Since I was new, I introduced myself to my new daunting colleagues. Whatever I said, it inspired Tom to come up to me at the first break to welcome me and thank me. Shortly thereafter, as the meeting recommenced, Tom launched into one of his habitual diatribes about some organizational failing, weakness or idiocy. He would lean forward, point his finger around the room and dare anyone to contradict him. It was great theater, and he also invariably made sense.
I know that I have been asked to leave more restaurants because of Tom than any other friend – the list of dining establishments would fill a Zagats of its own. We always had a good time unwinding after our meetings. His good humor and cheer were infectious.
Tom led the Planned Parenthood of Minnesota and South Dakota for 30 years. He fought the opposition valiantly and never gave an inch. Despite picketing and firebombing, Tom increased services to women and families manyfold during his tenure. So frustrated was the opposition that one of them physically attacked Tom in his office.
There weren’t, and aren’t, many men who had been named affiliate CEOs at Planned Parenthood. Those of us who have been have a special bond. We viewed Planned Parenthood as a beacon for reproductive rights, human rights and the betterment of the planet. This was a cause that demanded that men and women work together. It was an honor to work alongside Tom Webber. He did so much good for so many.