To paraphrase Mark Twain, the rumors of George Gabel’s retirement are greatly exaggerated.
That’s what Gabel, a well-known maritime and First Amendment and public records law attorney, said Monday before being recognized by the Rotary Club of Jacksonville.
The Holland & Knight partner is still representing clients and is general counsel for FHM Insurance Co. So he’ll continue to practice even though he and his wife, Judy, are moving next month to Davidson, N.C., near Charlotte and Davidson College, where Gabel earned his undergraduate degree in 1961.
He graduated from the University of Florida Levin College of Law and was admitted to The Florida Bar in 1964.
“Davidson is like a second home to us,” he said.
It’s where their daughter, Meredith, her husband and two of the Gabels’ four grandchildren live.
Attorney Hank Coxe said Gabel was nominated for membership in Rotary by Tommy Grimes and joined in 1977. Gabel was president of the club in 1987-88, when Rotary invited its first female and African-American members — Frances Bartlett Kinne and Willard Payne.
Holland & Knight partner Tim Connor said Gabel’s maritime law practice has allowed him to travel the world, always touting Jacksonville to the international shipping community as a great place to do business.
“George has always had an international vision,” said Connor, who has been a colleague of Gabel’s for 27 years.
Club member Howard Kelley was general manager of WFGA TV-12 about 40 years ago and said he hired Gabel to represent the station in freedom of the press issues.
“His commitment to the First Amendment lit us up as journalists,” said Kelley.
Coxe said he’ll miss Gabel’s presence and his counsel.
“He is the person you can turn to for advice and get the right answer,” said Coxe.
Gabel, 77, said he and Judy are renting a house in Davidson, but plan to move to The Pines, a senior community near his alma mater.
“We’re on the waiting list,” he said.
Gabel is representing Tote Services Inc. and Tote Maritime Puerto Rico in litigation related to the sinking last year of Tote’s El Faro cargo ship during Hurricane Joaquin, among other clients.
Gabel said he can maintain his practice while in North Carolina and he’ll be coming to Jacksonville on a regular basis as he begins the next chapter in life.
“I may actually retire in a couple of years,” he said.
The club also heard from Donna Orender, CEO of Orender Unlimited and founder of Generation W, a nonprofit to educate and inspire women and girls to create change for themselves and their community and take leadership roles.
“Our idea is to create a national thought leadership platform,” she said. “Women in leadership bring added value to companies and families.”
Orender and her staff are preparing for the 2017 edition of Generation W March 31 at the University of North Florida.
The all-day program will offer mentorship and networking opportunities for women, along with speakers and panels on topics of interest to women from career development to health.
“Leadership is black and brown and tall and short,” said Orender. “And equality isn’t about being the same, it’s about respect.”