All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for October 2003

John Dettner, 63, a kind attorney

October 9, 2003
Larken Bradley
Point Reyes Light

Inverness resident, John Dettner, a retired estate-planning attorney who had suffered from multiple sclerosis for nearly 20 years, died at home of complications from the disease on Saturday, August 23. He was 63.

An Inverness weekender since early childhood, two years ago Mr. Dettner moved from his Broadway Street home in San Francisco to Inverness where he lived with his sister and brother-in-law, Martha and Alan Proctor.

Successful legal career

Mr. Dettner began his legal career with the San Mateo law firm of Hession, Creedon, Hamlin, Kely, Hanson & Brown, from which he retired as a partner after his illness rendered him increasingly incapacitated. He then opened a solo practice, which he operated out of his home.

Mr. Dettner taught continuing education classes in estate law to attorneys at Skyline College for 10 years, and was commended by the State Bar of California for providing pro bono and low-cost legal services to those unable to pay expensive attorneys fees.

He also edited and published Legal Bearings, a newsletter that provided clients and friends with estate-planning news.

Born on March 13, 1940, a fourth-generation San Franciscan, he was the son of Dorothy Hoag Ashley and Dr. George T. Dettner, who practiced dentistry at 490 Post Street for nearly 60 years.

Throughout his growing-up years he and his sister spent summers and weekends at their fatherís Inverness homes, first on Argyle and later Stirling Way.

After earning bachelorís and masterís degrees in political science at UC Santa Barbara, he went to work for the telephone company. Finding the work "less than stimulating," noted his sister, he enrolled in evening law school at the University of San Francisco from which he graduated in 1973.

Good-looking and assertive

Blessed with youthful good looks, Mr. Dettner was tall and slim with sandy- blonde hair and blue eyes. "I would describe him as mild-mannered but assertive with a good sense of humor," his sister said.

While Mr. Dettnerís illness caused him to lose his eyesight and left him bedridden for most of the last decade, he maintained a brave face to the world, despite his suffering, his sister observed.

In a letter to a friend he wrote, "Life is not always what we choose, but with a little luck and some imagination we can surmount all."

He maintained an avid interest in politics, world events and the stock market. He amassed a collection of more than 300 movies and DVDs, which he had viewed so many times, he could recite the dialogue by heart. Mr. Dettner has bequeathed this collection to the Tomales Bay Library Association.

He is survived by his sister and brother-in-law, Martha and Alan Proctor of Inverness.

Copyright © 2003, Tomales Bay Publishing Company/Point Reyes Light