Herbert L. Gaines, 100, of Beach Haven West, entered heaven on March 5, 2019 four days after telling his daughter he had an appointment with his wife, Patricia, that he couldn’t miss. Patricia predeceased him in 2015.
Herb was also predeceased by his son David Gaines of Coconut Creek, Florida. He is survived by his son Michael Gaines, and his wife Anne, of Bridgewater, NJ, and four daughters: Jan Sullivan and her husband, Tom of Newtown, PA, Virginia Boenigk and her husband George of Westwood, NJ, Elizabeth Amrose and her husband, Joe, of Cranford, NJ, and Barbara Farrell of Washington Twp., NJ. He is also survived by Manny Lopez of Westwood, NJ. Herb was blessed with fourteen grandchildren: Laura Mott (Ben), Keri Nelson (Eric), BrianGaines (Rachel), Christopher Sullivan (Lainie), Erin Lally (Chris), Michael Sullivan, Ryan Casaseca (Gonzalo), Danny, Shannon and Jessica Boenigk, Dylan Amrose, Sydnie, Cassidy and Jayden Farrell. He was also blessed by thirteen great grandchildren: Nolan, Paige, Reese , Ella, George, Desmond, Aidan, Addison, Elle, Felix, Noah, Alba and Luna.
Herb was born at his home in Brooklyn, New York during the great influenza epidemic of 1918. His father Harry and mother Rachel were immigrants from Kosovo, Lithuaniaand arrived separately in the U.S. through Ellis Island. They later met discovering they were from the same town. His parents moved to the Bronx when he was young and owned a small market which enabled his family to get through the depression modestly. Wanting to earn extra money, he sold programs at Yankee Stadium as a pre-teen and created his own peanut-selling operation outside the stadium as a teen. He got to know many of the Yankee greats, including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and all-star catcher, Bill Dickey. Dickey was fond of Herb and left free tickets for him at the Will Call window from time to time. At one time, he had the autographs of every Yankee player but they were never kept - to the mild dismay of the avid family Yankee fans he produced. He was honored as the Veteran of the Game at Yankee Stadium on August 31, 2018.
Herb loved Jazz and learned to play the drums as a kid; he played gigs around the city in a number of bands. He knew where the great jazz and big band players plied their craft in the dozens of small clubs and restaurants. He also played gigs in other major cities as a young man. He joined the army music corps before WWII. Music was part of Herb’s life well into middle age when he had his own band, the Herb Anthony Orchestra.
After his honorable discharge, he took a job as a security guard at the federal building on Court Street. After WWII broke out in December 1944, he quickly enlisted in the Navy, rationalizing that he wanted to see the world, and also had better chances of survival. He trained as a radio man and was assigned to the USS Birmingham, a cruiser that initially saw action supporting the invasions of North Africa and Italy before deploying to the Pacific where the crew participated in all the major campaigns and invasions. He became a supervisor and trainer of other radio men and edited the ship’s newspaper, using his Morse code skills to get news from the fleet and from the US. He occasionally filled white space by inventing fun and entertaining stories from the states that became the talk of the ship. He survived major attacks including Kamikaze, torpedo and general fire. The Birmingham crew was alongside The Princeton fighting a fire on the aircraft carrier’s deck when a massive mezzanine explosion took the lives of 239 Birmingham men in an instant. This event would have claimed Herb’s life had he not been ordered down to the radio station a few minutes earlier. The ship returned to Pearl Harbor where the wounded survivors were tended - an excursion that enabled Herb to enjoy the beauty of Hawaii – a destination he returned to twice in his later years, bringing his family along and paying for the experience.
After the war, Herb got his desired job in the movie business at Warner Brothers. He climbed the ladder with his wit, smarts and charm - eventually becoming responsible for all movie distribution to theaters in the eastern half of the U.S. He retired after 40 years and being bored got a job at the IRS to keep his mind active. In the meantime, his wife Patricia, who he called Debbie (her stage name as a dancer and model) had finished up her PhD in counseling psychology and her career at an occupational center in Union County. She opened her own counseling practice in her home office in Manahawkin with Herb serving as the administrator; overseeing the appointments and books until he was 94 years-old. Herb was a devoted family man who assisted his wife, Debbie, day in and day out, throughout her numerous health and mobility concerns. He managed so much, seemingly tirelessly year after year. A role model for sure!
Herb’s health started to decline in the month after his 100thbirthday. Being fiercely independent, he required that he stay in his home but accepted a home health aide. He was very popular with the many VA and hospice nurses and aides he encountered, always entertaining them with his dry sense of humor.
The family will have a small service to honor Herb at the Maxwell-Tobie Funeral Home in Manahawkin, NJ on Tuesday, March 12. Rabbi Michael Jay will lead ceremonial prayers at 11:00 am. Herb will be buried at the Brigadier General William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Wrightstown, NJ, in the same plot as his wife Debbie.
Those seeking to honor Herb should do so in their own way by extending friendship, kindness and humor to all they meet. When often asked by strangers how do you live to such an old age, he would reply, “it’s easy, just don’t die.” We will miss you, Herb. Great job!