Remembering my Dad’s Birthday

July 28, 2013 would have been my Dad’s 91st birthday.  In honor of that, this post is a “letter” that I wrote and read at his 85th birthday party. Note the date.

July 28, 2007

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton

United States Senate


Dear President-elect Clinton:


I am writing to request that as one of your first acts in office, you consider my father, William Coblentz, for the next Presidential Medal of Freedom. While I realize that this might not be one of your immediate priorities, I want to emphasize his numerous illustrious accomplishments. As you are aware, past recipients with equally significant achievements have included George Tenet, John F. Kennedy, Donald Rumsfeld and Doris Day.  My father ranks right up there with all of them.

His beginning years were less than auspicious after he flunked math in grade school.  He went on to receive straight “D’s” during his first year at UC Berkeley.  Still, he made it to Yale Law School and would go on to have a vigorous and illuminating career.

As former Chairman, President and CEO of the PINTHA Corporation, he demonstrated his outstanding leadership qualities in making unilateral executive decisions. Who better to lead a company that stands for pain in the ass?

To the best of my knowledge, he was the first man in a suit and tie to carry $50,000 cash in a briefcase on the New York subway. That frugal act alone saved him the $4.20 cab fare.

He has distinguished himself with community service activities. During his tenure as a Regent of the University of California, he occasionally forced Governor Reagan to bang his glasses on the conference table in anger. As a delegate at the Democratic Convention of 1968, he rose to prominence when called a “Fucking Jewish Commie.”

“I am two out of three,” he responded.

My father is the ultimate Renaissance man. An excellent canine linguist, he carries on conversations with all dog breeds. His taste in art ranges from a Roy De Forest painting to a Peter Arno drawing.  His preference in literature spans from War and Peace to The Ageless Woman by Pat Montandon.

His culinary tastes vary from smoked salmon to chocolate cake but never include beets, sweet potatoes or Beef Stroganoff.  His cooking skills excel in bologna and eggs.

A natty dresser, he always wears a brightly colored tie and matching handkerchief that his wife, Jean, picks out for him. In prior times, he insisted that his pajamas be ironed (not by his wife), but he outgrew that.

His musical talents include voracious whistling and belting out well-known oldies such as “I Like Bananas Because They Have No Bones,” “My Name is Dinky Pinky,” and “Good-bye, Good-bye, a Toosie-Tie.” At parties, he is notable for the Milkshake Dance.

He established himself as an early pacesetter with the acquisition of a BMW 1600, which he purchased after rear ending a San Francisco Yellow cab in his blue Corvair. Rather then let his wife see the paint marks, he bought a new car.

A dedicated arborist, he diligently cared for Luscious, Luscious, a eucalyptus tree in front of his house, no matter how many times a car knocked her over.

He demonstrated his ceaseless oratorical skills by reading the instructions on how to put together a metal jungle gym in the back yard of our house. His brother-in-law, Stuart, did all the work.

In his worldly manner, he collects maps to far away and exotic places. Often, against his better judgment, he relies on Jerry or Gerson to interpret the directions to these maps. As a result, they get lost.

A gifted athlete, my father led the 1965 official Stinson Beach/Bolinas Fourth of July relay race until he pulled a hamstring almost immediately after the race began. The judges awarded him first prize anyway after he promised to get them concert tickets to the Jefferson Airplane at the Fillmore.

My father is a member of very distinguished and exclusive clubs including the Bohemian Club, California Tennis Club, and Costco.

Obedient to his mother, he always wiped his shoes upon entering her apartment, kept his feet off the mirrored-paned coffee table, and never put a piece of See’s candy back in the box after taking a bite. He generously offered to send her on an all-expenses paid trip on the Trans-Siberian Railroad.

He only occasionally repeats himself in telling a story but always embellishes it to others so it seems different.

As you can see from my father’s many qualifications, he well deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  In closing, (and with apologies to Huddie Ledbetter), I’ll paraphrase my father’s favorite quote which he uses to end all of his speeches. “We’re all in the same boat brother.  And if you shake one end, you gonna rock the other.”

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any further questions.

Very Truly Yours,

Wendy Coblentz