Carl Herbet – Kalman ben Yosef v’Dora
May 1st, 1921 – August 18th, 2019
“Aizeh hu gibor? Who is strong?” asked Rabbi ben Zoma in Pirkei Avot, “hacoveysh et yiztro, the one who controls his passions.” Carl Herbet was physically strong, streetwise and a tough guy, but his nature was not tough. He was sensitive, emotional and empathetic, or as Judy said “for a man, he had feelings like a woman.” You could feel Carl’s strength in his mighty hands right up to the end of his long life.
Carl Herbet was born in New York City on May 1st, 1921 to Frederick and Dora Goldfish, both immigrants. It was a hard childhood with a tough Polish mother who threw Carl’s father out of the house, though there’s more to that story! Carl raised his two younger brothers Herman and Harry who always looked up to him. There was plenty of anti-Semitism on the streets of Harlem and the Bronx and Carl learned how to box and defend himself and that’s why the name was changed from Goldfish to Herbet. Many of us remember how when telling his many stories of those days, his hands would quickly become boxer’s fists enacting the memories. But his hands were gentle, loving and generous and when we asked Daliah, his great granddaughter, what she most loved about Carl, it was holding his hands. Rachel was struck by how beautiful those hands were right up to the end.
The Great Depression affected Carl’s education and he did not graduate high school, but he served in the Civilian Conservation Corps and the US Coastguard, stationed on a ship in Brooklyn during the war and later was a manager at a grocery store. Carl and Judy met in 1942 at Judy’s sister’s wedding, who married Carl’s best friend. Judy was 17 and Carl was 21. When she first saw him, she thought “what a drunken sailor!” But he called the next day and he came home and met Judy’s parents on the first date. “We loved each other and wanted to be together, so we got married,” Judy said. The wedding was in an empty apartment next to Judy’s parents and the rabbi came and married them at midnight on Saturday, with cold cuts from Katz’ deli on the Lower East Side. “You don’t need a big shul, or fancy surroundings, you just need love,” Judy said. Last December, Carl and Judy celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary and Susan said there was probably not even a month of nights that they were apart in that whole time. Judy says, “we grew up together.” And they did. Judy, we cannot imagine losing this other half of you after all these years and we are with you.
Carl was a good man, he was human and had a temper. And he was compassionate and kind. He was who was; there was nothing phony about him. Carl was very friendly, tender and outgoing. Everybody loved him and he adored his wife, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren.
Susan said that her father taught her how to fish, how to box and how to play baseball, and Paul has fond memories of fishing with Carl.
Marilyn’s favorite memories of time with her dad are taking walks together and Carl would tell her the names of all the flowers and the birds, and sometimes they would pick the wild flowers. When she was sick, Carl used to feed her tea with honey one teaspoon at a time.
What everyone will miss most is not hearing all of the stories any more and the fear and sadness of not remembering all the details and not being able to check with Carl.
Carl’s four grandchildren also remember the amazing stories about all the characters in New York, or the more fanciful stories about being mauled by a lion or being so skinny he disappeared down the plug hole. Rachel fondly remembers the bedtime choice of a story or a piggyback ride, which is what she usually picked, as well as the excitement and romance of going to the Amtrak station in Denver to pick up Carl and Judy from the train. Jason and Danny remember the conversations, the stories, watching boats and cars out of the window, hikes and a grandpa who was always there for them. Aaron thinks of playing cards with his grandpa while Twerp, the green parakeet would fly around the living room, often perching on grandpa’s head as they ate dinner, watched TV or chatted.
Carl and Judy moved to Colorado in 1991 and immediately became active volunteers at Eisenhower School where they were everyone’s grandma and grandpa. They also volunteered at the two campuses of Boulder Community Hospital, 9 Health Fair and the free tax preparation service for seniors through Golden West. With his outgoing personality, Carl was usually the greeter.
Carl loved singing and had a sweet, crooning voice, which I was lucky enough to hear a couple of times. As a young man, he sang in a barber shop quartet. One of his favorite songs was Pennies from Heaven. Perhaps he will rain down some for us in the form of precious treasures of memory. “Carl was a very religious man in his own way, “ Judy shared. He was spiritual, but didn’t care for organized religion, although I always felt deeply respected by him, as did all who knew him.
Carl is survived by Judy, his devoted wife of 75 and a half years, daughters Marilyn and Susan, sons-in-law Jerry and Paul, grandchildren Daniel, Rachel, Jason, Aaron, along with Mandi, Ryan and Malissa, and great grandchildren Kyle, Lexie, Gracelynne, Deontaye, Addalynne and Daliah, with one more on the way any day now. He loved you all and I know you loved him back and he will be greatly missed. Blessings of comfort and strength to you all.
May the memory of this strong, gentle, loving man always be for a blessing.