Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Tom Herbert (1938 - 2015)


Tom Herbert was born on June 13, 1938 in Pittsburgh, PA and died on the same day in 2015 in Vienna, VA from complications following a stroke. He was the second-oldest of 5 children: Nick, Tom, Marilyn, Donald ("Duke") and Nancy who all grew up together in the Linden neighborhood of Columbus, OH, which was then populated mainly by immigrants from Italy, Ireland and Eastern Europe. Our Father spoke Ukrainian; Mom spoke Slovak. And both grew up in coal mining towns in Pennsylvania and Ohio, migrating North to Lorain, Ohio where some of the family found work in the steel mills along Lake Erie.

Thomas Anthony Herbert (1938 - 2015)
Tom was younger than Nick but stronger so we two were physically an even match to wrestle, box, sled, skate and explore the woods and creeks within easy reach of our neighborhood. Tom and I both went to grade school at St Augustine Catholic school (where Mom ran the cafeteria) and both completed high school at St Charles Borromeo Preparatory School. Tom was fond of animals and of water -- in our back yard he raised rabbits, chickens and ducks in addition to the obligatory dogs and cats. Not only did Tom work as a lifeguard at our local Morningside pool, but he also organized special events at the pool including water ballets. Tom also bought a kayak which he piloted on the Olentangy and Scioto rivers -- and he imagined that someday he would follow the route Huck Finn took down the Mississippi on his raft. The floor of our boy's bedroom was covered with a big linoleum map of the USA, so we could rehearse Tom's future trip down the big river using bottle caps for boats.

Tom, Nick and Duke Herbert at Betsy's Memorial Celebration
Both Tom and I obtained Bachelor's Degrees from Ohio State University, Tom in Electrical Engineering and Nick in Physics. For the next stage in his life, Nick made a move to California -- our parents gave me the family station wagon as a graduation present. Tom and I decided to use this opportunity to explore the country we had only seen printed on a floor mat. So we packed camping gear in the car and embarked on a long road trip. In those days (1960), the US was relatively uncrowded and on the few occasions we could not find a campground we just set up camp near the road and were never bothered. We explored Colorado, Utah, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and large parts of California together. Tom was a congenial companion and good camping buddy -- no matter what hardships we endured he would always see its humorous side. And, yes the two Ohio boys finally got to experience the mighty Mississippi (near St Louis) and to cool our feet in the Father of Waters.

Tom liked to eat and was especially fond of the Slovak food that Mom put on the table, which included stuffed peppers, stuffed cabbages (holubki), cabbage, nut and prune roll pastries. Tom enjoyed eating this kind of food so much that, unlike his brothers, he actually learned to duplicate Mom's recipes for himself. And in addition to cooking holubki, etc, Tom learned how to make Perfect Spaghetti Sauce which Mom probably learned from Leona Vanelli, her best friend. Mom used to say that Tom preferred a meal of her spaghetti and meatballs over steak.

Tom cooking Perfect Spaghetti Sauce
After our road trip, Tom flew back to Ohio State where he completed his degree, met and married his first wife Dawn and began an engineering career with the Air Force at Wright-Patterson in Dayton, Ohio. Tom and Dawn produced five children: Mark, Julie, Terri, Dan and Joe. After their divorce, Tom met a female physicist who had learned how to turn silicon into gold -- Gail Walters was a brilliant computer chip designer. Their combined careers took them to Colorado, to California's Livermore Valley and finally to their present home in Virginia near Washington, DC. Tom and Gail produced one child Meghan who, when asked what she wanted to do, answered: "Anything but what my parents do."

Tom Herbert and Gail Walters
Tom and Gail on a jet ski.
After leaving Wright-Patterson, Tom took on another government job that was so secret  he could not talk about it. Since this job often involved trips to exotic locations near the equator, I assumed it had something to do with the tracking of military spy satellites. Whatever the nature of his clandestine work, Tom always found time to explore the underwater beauties of these tropical locales in his SCUBA gear. Later Tom, Gail and Meghan would vacation in exotic places like the Caymen Islands that Tom had no doubt reconnoitered on his "business trips"

Tom Herbert in SCUBA gear
Becalmed?
Tom Herbert worked hard, played hard (and often underwater) raised two fine families, was possessed of a contagious cheerfulness. I do not know whether he believed in reincarnation, but I'd like to think that in his next life Tom might come back as a smart, sexy, good-hearted dolphin.

Tom embraces his alter ego
Bon voyage, wonderful Tom. I will miss you, little brother.




11 comments:

Dr. Will said...

Moving memorial, Nick. Sorry for your loss.

Jungle Girl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jungle Girl said...


Nick, this is such a beautiful tribute to your brother and friend. Wishing you love and peace.

Jack Sarfatti said...

My sincere condolences Nick. Sounds like he was the sweet one of the two of you. Sorry I never met him.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nick,

Thank you for the lovely round up (but hard news) of your sweet brother. So sorry for your loss, my dear.

Mysti (sometimes Leu)

Anonymous said...

thank you Nick for letting us know, and appreciate what a fine man he was
and what a loving brother you are as well.

Anonymous said...

This is so nice to read, Nick. Thank you and sincere condolences from Gail's family in Indianapolis. Love, Diana (& Neal) Gilliatt

Pat Arnold said...


What a wonderful tribute and summary of Tom's life! I'm so very sorry for the loss of such a terrific guy. I thoroughly enjoyed Woody and I spending the weekend with him and Gail in Rothenburg, Germany and exploring Heidelburg. But the icing on the cake was the two of us exploring Augsburg when Gail and Woody were working. We had a great time and always remembered walking through the "Verboten" Bishop's residence area. We always reminisced about that day at the NCR Christmas parties. I will miss his smiling face immensely!!

Sincerely and with great sympathy,
Pat Arnold

Harald Striepe said...

My heart goes out to you, Nick. This kind of loss is never easy. But there is so much more to this universe than we know, so who knows. What we do know is that we all go this way - what a good thing for our children...

judy wenderlich said...

wonderful
story of what sounds like a really full and joyful journey. I'm sorry for your loss Nick. I bet your brother has already begun his next adventure with a smile on his face. we need more people like him. lovingly, Judy ( the drug store lady) who now lives in Hawaii.

Unknown said...

A lovely tribute. My heartfelt condolences.