Remembering Herb Barrett

Herb Barrett — a member of that great generation who settled in Westport soon after World War II, raised a family here and spent decades contributing to civic life — died today. He was 93 years old, and had moved with his beloved wife Lou to Pennsylvania several years ago, to be near his children.

George Barrett — one of Herb and Lou’s 5 children — writes:

My dad liked to describe himself as unremarkable, but  he was far from that. He was a gifted therapist, possessed of a special capacity to see the unique qualities in all people – and able to help people to see those things in themselves.

Herb Barrett

Herb Barrett

He was a very talented writer, a skill very few of us had the opportunity to enjoy, but so very obvious when reading though his journals and his letters to my mom from the war.

He had a raw musical aptitude which he never fully appreciated, but which his children were encouraged to polish. He could burst into song any time, and no microphone was off limits if it were in reaching distance.

He had a wicked sense of humor and an impish grin.

He was a proud veteran of the US Army – Signal Intelligence  Company, attached to the 5th Army headquarters. He spent 2 1/2 years abroad, in North Africa, Sicily and other parts of Italy. He lived through Anzio, which he rarely discussed.

He was married to my mom Lucille for more than 73 years. He was father to 5, grandfather to 10, and great-grandfather to 3 (with another on the way).

He loved Westport, and everything and everyone associated with Westport. At Compo Beach, he taught all of us to climb the cannons. Along with my mom, he lived and breathed the public school system, which drew him there in the first place. I’m not sure that he ever missed a Staples Candlelight concert when he was healthy.

He had a deep desire to see the walls between people dissolve. That is clear through his deep commitment to civil rights, his clear messaging to his children, and this classic section from a journal I found where he discussed his war experience:

I developed some wonderful friendships with the gang of fellows who shared the same tent…Neils O. Blackburn from Moroni, Utah; Kenny Biggs from Townsend, Montana; Charlie Sheehan from Cheyenne, Wyomingl Lou Ambort of Little Rock, Arkansas and Johnny Abs from Chicago.

Herb Barrett, during World War II.

Herb Barrett, during World War II.

I recall a discussion the night we pitched camp outside Santa Maria ( near Caserta). It was a bone chilling rainy night, and we piled together for warmth inside the buffeted pyramidal. How or why I can’t say, but we discussed religion — a Mormon, a Catholic, a Jew, a Lutheran, a Methodist and a Presbyterian.

We were no scholars. We just compared experiences. And when all was said and done, we felt that what we had in common ran deeper than our specific beliefs.

(Friends are invited to attend a service for Herb Barrett this Thursday (May 21), 11 a.m. at Temple Israel. Following burial, the family will receive visitors at the home of Marvin and Joan Frimmer, 138 Imperial Avenue. Contributions in Herb Barrett’s name may be made to Congregation Kol Ami, 8201 High School Road, Elkins Park, PA 19027.)

10 responses to “Remembering Herb Barrett

  1. Gene Seidman

    I knew Herb Barrett. I met his daughter and his grandson. Each Barrett possesses a special sparkle. Music was big. Herb definitely knew jazz. He had a very unique talent – which he developed in the Army no doubt. He could vocalize Morse Code. Never heard anyone do it before or after. Don’t think I will. Here’s to a great man. xooxxo Gene

  2. Chip Stephens - Staples 73

    George and family
    My deepest sympathies to your family. Your dad was great man who we all respected growing up on the Lone Pine/Tamarac homestead. I am sure he is watching down now on all his children, grand kids and many, many friends.
    Peace to the whole Barrett family

  3. linda (pomerantz) novis

    This is a beautifully written tribute to your dad.He knew my (late) parents,Frank &
    Jane Pomerantz many years ago back in Weston.
    Over the years,I’d see Herb & Lou in Sally’s Place.
    When I was in Weston High School,Danny Barrett played cello in local recitals & I accompanied him on piano; I still remember rehearsing-playing their
    spinet piano in their house on Coleytown Rd.
    My sympathies to the Barrett family.

  4. Truly part of the Greatest Generation. Our thanks to men like Herb Barrett. He and his wife were stalwarts of Temple Israel back in the Byron and Sue Rubinstein days. His daughter Sarah and his sons part of the fabric of our community too.

  5. Sharon Paulsen

    “I recall a discussion the night we pitched camp outside Santa Maria ( near Caserta). It was a bone chilling rainy night, and we piled together for warmth inside the buffeted pyramidal. How or why I can’t say, but we discussed religion — a Mormon, a Catholic, a Jew, a Lutheran, a Methodist and a Presbyterian.

    We were no scholars. We just compared experiences. And when all was said and done, we felt that what we had in common ran deeper than our specific beliefs.”

    Wow! This quote speaks volumes, and although I don’t really know this family, when one reads something like this, it brings you into his experience, and makes you feel those same thoughts (at least, for me it does).

    Beautiful and openly shared tribute – much respect for your family!

    Thanks for sharing this, Dan and all.

    (On a side note of humor, this could be a great opening line to a classic joke: A Mormon, a Catholic, a Jew, a Lutheran, a Methodist and a Presbyterian walk into a bar … ). I’m channeling some Robin Williams stand up here, because some of his best bits, of this standup genre, had substantially deeper meaning underneath. So, hope that’s how my take on this is perceived. Plus, a little humor is always healing.

    Thanks again!

  6. Amy Lesser Courage

    Beautifully written George. May your dad rest in peace.

  7. Jim Wheeler

    I knew, admired and respected Herb and Lou very much. Herb, as leader of a Human Relations group I was privileged to be in while I was on the faculty of Staples many years ago and as a performer when he and Lou did a skit in one of our Faculty Follies. He was a gentleman in the truest sense of the word and I am sure he will be greatly missed. Rest in peace Herb.

  8. Andrea Malaguti

    I shall never forget Doctor Barrett’s wisdom, sympathy, and humor. Even if we had only a few chances to talk, our conversations (and his memories of Italy during WWII) will always be in my heart.

  9. My deepest sympathy to the family, especially Lou, on the loss of dear Herb. I am so sorry I never met him. He sounds like a wonderful man, and his legacy will be passed on through his terrific family. Love, Lyra Halprin

  10. William Adler

    I remember Dr. Barrett, amazingly, from my being 3 or 4 at Westport Cooperative Nursery School, in Sarah’s class along with the likes of Wynn Plaut, Bob Sloat, Peter Schwartz, Bruce Beinfield and others. I remember an incident in which my mother wanted to slap a bunch of us for running into the street and Dr. Barrett instead proposed negotiating with us to mutually agree on a change in behavior. (This didn’t go over well with my British mother, but it obviously appealed to MY imagination since I recall it 60 years later!) Dr. Barrett was a contemporary and peer to my father Dr. Daniel Adler, part of a group of physicians and therapists who were core to the fabric of life in Westport for decades. My best wishes to Sarah and the Barrett family.