Law partners Donald W. Weidner, 52, and G. Thomas Bowden
II, 31, limited their practice primarily to representing
physicians and other medical professionals throughout
Florida, but a legal matter to which they were attending
when their private plane crashed Wednesday had nothing to do
with health care law.
They were helping friends settle a family estate issue.
The two are believed to have died Wednesday along with an
Orange Park couple when Mr. Weidner's plane crashed in dense
fog short of the runway at Jacksonville International
Bruce Richardson, a public relations consultant and
friend to both lawyers, said it was Mr. Weidner's third
round-trip of the week between Jacksonville and Fort
Mr. Weidner, a pilot for almost 10 years, had a history
of public service, including an unsuccessful 1992 run for
Congress against U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, before setting up
a Jacksonville law practice.
The Baltimore native graduated from high school in
Virginia before attending Valparaiso (Ind.) University,
where he earned bachelor's and juris doctorate degrees. In
his 1974 law school class, he ranked third out of 119
students and was president of the Student Bar Association.
With his law degree, Mr. Weidner came to Florida and
served as deputy public counsel in Tallahassee until being
named executive assistant to Public Service Commission
Chairwoman Paula Hawkins. In 1979-80, he was executive
director of the Republican Party of Florida, resigning that
May to become Hawkins' campaign coordinator in her
successful bid for the U.S. Senate.
He moved to Washington, where he served as congressional
lobbyist for an assistant secretary of agriculture.
Mr. Weidner came to Jacksonville in 1984 as associate
general counsel for the Florida Medical Association, a post
he held for five years. During that time, the FMA formed the
Florida Physicians Association and Mr. Weidner served as its
general counsel and executive director.
When he worked for the FMA, his boss was John Thrasher of
Orange Park, a former House speaker who now is chairman of
the board of trustees at FSU.
"Don was a great guy, and this is a terrible tragedy,"
Thrasher said. "Don was one of the most energetic, creative
guys I've worked with. He always had a smile on his face and
a creative idea in his head."
Philip Gilbert, executive director of the Duval County
Medical Society, said of Mr. Weidner: "Don was a highly
motivated individual. He was a very, very creative and very
sincere person who was heavily involved with the medical
community. It was a great love of his."
A leading layman in the Lutheran church, Mr. Weidner
helped found Celebration Lutheran Church in Switzerland
after he moved from the Mandarin area, where he had been
president of Guardian Lutheran Church.
Mr. Weidner served as an adjunct professor of both
administrative law and aviation law at Florida Coastal
School of Law.
He is survived by his wife, Sherrie Weidner of
Switzerland; four daughters, Kristin Lewis of Jacksonville
and Caroline, Melanie and Jessica Weidner, all of
Switzerland; a son, Luke, of Switzerland; three
grandchildren; his mother, Elsa Weidner of Ormond Beach; two
brothers, Kenneth Weidner of Ormond Beach and Vernon "Bill"
Weidner of South Daytona; and a sister, Ellen Back of Holly