Kind. Intelligent. Collaborative. Diligent. Those were the attributes Fred Webber brought to the table when he pitched ideas to myriad clients — big and small — for nearly 40 years as a Twin Cities advertising executive.
"He developed a reputation as the person you wanted to work with," said Steve Wallace, past president of the Advertising Federation of Minnesota. "He was famous for who he was, not what he did."
Webber did spend time in the headlines as chairman of the Robbinsdale Area Schools board in the early 1980s. He presided over the highly contentious decision to close Robbinsdale High School in 1982, a wound that still festers in the community.
"He knew it had to be done," said his wife of 59 years, Sue, of Medina. "It was terrible. It was very emotional."
But he was happy to have served on the board, even during the tumultuous times, she said.
Webber, of Medina, died of complications from COVID-19 Jan. 13 at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. He was 82.
Frederick Webber was born in Minneapolis and graduated from St. Thomas Academy. He earned a journalism degree from the University of Minnesota.
After college, Webber served in the 360th Psychological Warfare Battalion of the U.S. Army Reserve. He started his advertising career in the 1960s selling ads at the Star Tribune and later held senior account management positions at the Martin Williams, Campbell Mithun and Carmichael Lynch advertising agencies before ending his career as president and COO at Sable Advertising, a firm founded by longtime friend Jim Sable.
Throughout his career, Webber advocated for women and minorities and pushed the advertising business forward, Wallace said. He mentored many in the field, was a research wizard and a master at creating and giving presentations, Sable said.
"He was held in high regard in every place he worked," Sable said.
Webber's leadership included a stint as president of the Advertising Federation of Minnesota and serving on boards including the Minnesota Sight & Hearing Association, Minnesota Masonic Home and Senior Outreach Services. He was also a founding board member of the USA High School Clay Target League.
"He liked to run meetings," his wife said. "He was a good speaker. He liked agendas and outlines. He was devoted to Robert's Rules of Order."
In Robbinsdale, Webber heard passionate debate when the school board agonized over which of the district's three high schools to close. Eventually, he cast a vote to close the district's namesake school.
"He steered the district through some of the roughest times it had," said his son Charles, of Lakeville, a Robbinsdale High School student at the time.
A debater in high school, Fred Webber was a wordsmith and a stickler for proper grammar. In recent years, he was a proofreader at Minnesota Outdoor News and part of Wördos, a group that meets monthly to discuss words and the media's misuse of them. Webber teamed up with retired classical languages professor Jerry Reedy to author the 2019 book "Bethumped, The Best and Worst of the Wördos."
Webber treasured his family, enjoyed old movies and radio programs and liked watching public television.
"He was interested in so many things," Sue Webber said. But mostly, "he loved the ad world. He loved the creativity of it."
Besides his wife and son, Webber is survived by son David of Fridley, daughter Ann of Bethesda, Md, and four grandsons. Services have not been scheduled.
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768