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Friday, December 18, 2009

Ed Natt: Through life's accomplishments and lessons

Claire and Ed Natt.

Claire and Ed Natt.

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Ed Natt has been true to his roots. Born Aug. 22, 1945, and raised in Roanoke, he attended Wasena Elementary and Patrick Henry High School. After high school he traveled to North Carolina, where he received his Bachelor's in Business Administration.

"I just loved it. It was cheaper to go out of state than in state to UVA," Natt said.

After receiving his bachelor's, he headed to law school at T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond, where he graduated in 1970.

Life picked up for him quickly after that. Natt returned to Roanoke and became Assistant City Attorney and then the first County Attorney for Roanoke and in 1977 he started his own firm with several of his colleagues, Osterhoudt, Prillaman, Natt, Helscher, Yost, Maxwell & Ferguson, PLC.

Making the decision to go to law school wasn't easy for Natt, because he had originally wanted to be an architect. But during his junior year in college he decided law school was the direction he was headed.

"What I like most about it is seeing things being done, accomplishments, success stories," Natt said.

As an attorney his specialties are real estate law, zoning law, land use and development, corporate law, civil litigation, and business transactions. And his two proudest accomplishments are the Too Tall Building on Virginia 419 and the development of Virginia Lutheran Homes (Brandon Oaks). Most recently he is proud of a recent Virginia Supreme Court case, in which the courts found in his favor in September.

"We made a family affair of it," said his wife, Claire Natt. "The whole family came. We had a whole big entourage and watched him. It was an interesting time."

The two, who have been married 25 years, met when Natt was set up by a friend on a blind date. Claire came to the party expecting to meet Natt, but when he arrived four hours late, she wasn't impressed.

"I was four hours late," Natt explained. "I was at the airport in New York and couldn't get off the ground."

"I ignored him as best I could," Claire remembers.

However, that Sunday afternoon, Natt asked Claire to go out with him.

"We went to a park with my little boy, Robert, who then was three years old, to fly a kite," she remembers. "It was a beautiful day in April. I knew he [Natt] was a good guy because he liked Robert and Robert liked him."

They have two children: Robert and Allen.

Talk to just about anyone and they will tell you that Natt wasn't one to think of himself or brag on himself either, although he's had many accomplishments.

He was voted Father of the Year in the family life category by Credit Marketing and Management Association (CMMA) on June 17, 1993, and fought for the rights of the people in the valley.

Natt coached boys basketball for 30 years, including coaching his own children and worked with programs like Young Life, Youth Haven, and ARC (Goodwill Industries). He served as President of the PTA at Cave Spring Elementary School, Board of Governors at Hidden Valley Country Club, and President of Youth Haven, an organization to provide homes for troubled girls. Natt and his family also provided homes for college students in need, through their church.

And when he's not busy working or spending time with his family, he really enjoys playing golf and he's an avid Dodgers and Carolina fan.

In April 2008, Natt found out he had cancer, and practiced law up until about August. "It made me realize what's important and what's not. I used to think position, power, money and work were important. But now I know that faith, family and friends is what's important," Natt said.

According to his sister, Barbara Wise, Natt knows people all over the county. Once they created a Care Page for Natt, in just 30 minutes 75 people had viewed his site and in just two hours, 150 people had.

Wise said one of her favorite memories of her brother was on Saturday mornings when Ed was in charge and would make her hot dogs, baked beans and a chocolate milkshake and they'd watch "Sky King" together.

Mike Ferguson, one of Natt's partners in law, has known Natt since they were both 17; the two went through law school together. "Ed was one of the stars. He is a student of the law, the law seemed to come naturally to him. He is a very socially oriented person. He makes friends very easily." He added, "We've known each other almost our whole lives -- we are sort of like brothers more than anything else."

Charlie Osterhoudt, who is also a partner of Natt's, has known him for 39 years.

"Ed is a very diligent, hard working person. He's very likable. He's not a story teller but he has a sense of humor and he's very dedicated to his work. He's certainly recognized as one of the best land use lawyers in Southwest Virginia, if not in the state. I used to tell him I taught him everything he knew about it, but that's not true."

Peter Noce has known Natt for the last 15 years and Natt is his lawyer. Together they have played golf a few times a week for the last couple years.

"He's very unique, caring, friendly and generous. He is very highly thought of in his legal practice but he never talks about his accolades," Noce said.

For others who are fighting their own battles with cancer, Natt wants you to know this:

"You don't have to give up. Have faith in God and just make good decisions as you go and just make the best choices you can."

To read more anecdotes about Ed Natt, visit The Notebook on swo-co.com

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