A great loss to Suffolk

Published 9:59 pm Thursday, January 31, 2013

Usually the context of the term “The Greatest Generation” has something to do with World War II. It’s a term journalist Tom Brokaw termed for the generation of Americans that grew up during the Great Depression and then went on to fight in World War II, rescuing Europe from the clutches of a brutal dictator and America from the hegemony of imperialist Japan.

But many of the people from that generation just seem so much bigger than life and have made such a difference in their world — even apart from whatever wartime service they might have done — that Brokaw’s term just seems to fit them especially well.

Jack Webb Sr. was one of those people.

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Mr. Webb, who died in his sleep at the age of 89 on Wednesday, served the United States military in WWII and again in Korea, just like so many of those who were of fighting age when their nation needed them. His military service had actually begun on the drill field as a member of Virginia Tech’s Corps of Cadets before the war intervened in his education, and his love for the Corps in future years revealed a continuing connection to military service and its disciplines.

But in the final analysis, Mr. Webb’s greatness had less to do with what he did overseas than it had to do with what he did right here in his hometown of Suffolk. It was here that he made his mark, it was here that he improved the world, and it is here where he will be sorely missed.

Right here in Suffolk is where Mr. Webb started Nansemond Insurance Agency in 1957, a company that has employed two sons, a son-in-law, four grandchildren and one grandson-in-law, along with others. Here is where he served on the city’s School Board and then later earned election to the City Council. Here is where he spent four terms, from 1977 to 1993, on what was then known as the Industrial Development Authority, now the Economic Development Authority.

His service, according to son Joe Webb, sprang from an opinion that he often shared: “To those whom much has been given, much is expected.”

Such is the conviction of great men.