Guilty of being a local treasure

| November 3, 2011 | 0 Comments

With our perfect climate, our scenery, the excellent universities here, and our general ambiance, it is not surprising that San Diego is home to some very interesting and special people. More than a few Nobel laureates live here as do retired astronauts, scions of the business world and award winning scientists and authors. I am fortunate to count one of San Diego’s most interesting people as a friend and I felt privileged to watch him waltz gracefully around the floor at his 90th birthday party last month.

Before retiring from the bench, Norbert Ehrenfreund distinguished himself as a superior court judge for 30 years. Two of his courtroom rules became state laws and many policies affecting domestic abuse victims were due directly to Norbert’s influence. He also received the American Bar Association’s prestigious Award of Judicial Excellence given annually to one judge in the United States as trial judge of the year.

Yet law is just a part of what makes this man one of San Diego’s treasures. After being awarded the Bronze Star in World War II, Norbert went on to cover the Nuremberg trials as a reporter for The Stars and Stripes. That experience drove him to his life’s work and he entered Stanford Law School becoming a distinctive student before beginning the road to his illustrious career. Law was his profession, but Norbert is a renaissance man of many interests. He wrote a well respected book, “The Nuremberg Legacy,” chronicling the war crimes trial and how it changed history. Not content to rest on those writing laurels, Norbert also wrote two other books, “You Be The Judge,” and “You’re The Jury,” allowing readers to solve real life crimes along with the judges and juries who ruled on them.

A good attorney has a bit of the ham in him and Norbert played on that strength as well. He became involved in local San Diego theatre and in keeping with his reputation for excellence, won a best actor award for one of his portrayals. Although retired he is still invited to preside at trials from time to time, not just in San Diego, but other venues as well, and as if that isn’t not enough for a man who has reached 90, he takes writing courses to sharpen his skills while working on yet another project, a romantic novel.

I met Norbert when I joined a play reading group he participates in along with his wife and dearest companion Jill. I was mad for him at first sight. Although he could be my father, there is no feeling of age difference. To me he is the embodiment of the art of aging gracefully, a true role model. Discussing everything from world politics to literature, from sports to travel, from religion to the arts, a conversation with Norbert is a wonderful thing. I realize that much of how we conduct our life as we age has a great deal to do with many things, with health, with mental acuity, with socio-economic circumstances and Norbert has the luck to be on the positive side with these factors. Luck has a lot to do with many things and I am lucky that this charming, bright, charismatic man crossed paths with me and I got to wish him a happy 90th year. L’chaim Norb.

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