September 13, 1927 - November 8, 2004
I'd like to thank everyone for coming here today to honor the memory of Gerald Hervey. Family, friends, Chief Ripoli and the department's administration, PSD Hart and the borough administration, all members of PBA local 245 for their honor guard and fallout, and the Navy and American Legion for their honor guards.
Three days ago, I received the phone call that I knew I was going to get one day but hoped would never come. It was my mother telling me that my father was down and that he could not be revived. Officers' Rochford, Dawson, Gondola and Lt. Tim Ford were on the scene. They knew what the situation was and still made every effort along with the VAC and paramedics to conduct lifesaving procedures on my father and provide comfort and reassurance to my mother until we got to the hospital a short time later. I would like to thank those officers specifically for their efforts and their professionalism that day. Their actions were representative of the very best of what this job is about.
Dad was born in September 1927, with his twin brother Jean into a family that would grow to have five boys. His father worked for the railroad and his mother was a nurse. Gerry and Jean apparently developed quite a reputation as the terrors of their neighborhood while growing up, as I will talk about later. He was a sharp wit and quick learner but did not like school very much as a kid.
By 1944, World War II raged and Dad decided to end an unspectacular education early, as so many others of his era did to enlist in the Navy at age 17. He entered in spring of 1945 and had just finished boot camp when hostilities in the Pacific Theater ended. He took part in the Japan Occupation forces and did an extended tour in south and East Asia, making stops in Hong Kong, Hainan, and numerous other west pacific ports in addition to the home islands of Japan.
After 4 and 1/2 years, Dad returned home in 1949 and went back to work for the B&O railroad, his last employer prior to enlisting. In a few short years, he was one of the youngest tugboat captains on the Hudson River. During this time, he met my mother Mary Healey, married on December 8, 1951, and settled in Fort Lee on Maple Street. The first two of their children, Joan in 1954, and Glenn in 1958, would live at their first home.
By the mid 50's the tug business was changing, and would soon require Gerry to be away from home for a week at a time. He decided that this was not for him, took the civil service test and became a Fort Lee Police Officer on March 30th, 1955. He took a huge pay cut to do this, but it was what he wanted to do.
With the help of my mother and grandmother, they built a new house on 13th street and moved in on the first of January 1959. My brother Jay Peter and I were born and raised there.
After serving a number of years as a police officer, Dad got involved with the PBA, and eventually rose to the positions of President and Delegate of local 45 from 1968 through 1974. In those days there was much to fight for. Advancement in the FLPD was non-existent, the PBA was not yet a union and anytime the police wanted a raise, they would have to campaign for it and see it go to a public vote. I personally remember seeing and hearing about this. Through his efforts, along with the efforts of other PBA leaders of his generation, full union recognition was accorded the PBA, and by the late 70's the binding arbitration laws that led to the high standard of living we as police officers now enjoy were in place. During this time, he also served as high-ranking officer with the Bergen County Conference and the Mutual Aid society. If this wasn't enough, in the late 60's and early 70's he attended college and achieved an associate's degree in 1973. Very late in his life he told me that this was the single personal accomplishment he was most proud of.
Dad was assigned as General Investigation Detective in 1973 and made Sergeant in 1974. He would serve in both GI and Patrol as a sergeant before being promoted to Lieutenant in 1985. He spent his one year in rank and retired in June of 1986. As a detective he was particularly proud of two cases he worked in the early and mid 70's, one a sexual assault, and the other a homicide. Both cases were difficult and had very cold starts, but he was able to develop enough information and supporting evidence to make arrests, get convictions, and send the actors to prison.
In the early 1980's I was working as a tradesman when one day Dad told me that the FLPD was giving a test. He suggested that I take it just in case I wanted to keep an option open for the future. He helped me find a preparation course, and I took the test and came out second on the list. When the opportunity to take the job came a few months later, he urged me to take it, saying that I could always quit and go back to the trades if I didn't like it. He told me this knowing full well that only a complete fool would quit this job after getting it. I guess it was his way of testing exactly how much of a fool I really was. He must have relieved to find out that I wasn't that bad. So in September 1982, I joined him as a proud member of the Fort Lee Police Department.
For three and a half years we worked together on the job, sometimes on the same shift and same days. It was one of the best times of my career and is something that I am most proud of, having learned the job from him and having had some really great times together in the service of the people of Fort Lee.
Those who worked with him in the bureau and in Patrol liked doing so because of his humor and high degree of competence. Numerous times while he was still on the job and after he retired I was told by respected members of the department that they liked working for and with Dad because he always knew what to do no matter what the situation. In my opinion, this is the highest compliment that can be paid to anyone. Throughout his career, Dad was emblematic of the old school of police work, based on common sense, the ability to deal with people, and the ability to identify and solve problems.
Dad retired in 1986 at the age of 58, saying he wanted to take full advantage of the pension system for as long as possible. But he and my mom never left the area, and Dad was a fixture at various department and PBA-related functions and parties. He and I met almost every day at the range house for lunch, where he would want to catch up with what was happening on the job and with his grandchildren. He also enjoyed stopping by the new police station to check in with the people he knew and to stop in and sit in the office with me for a few minutes. He did this as recently as this past Monday. My Dad was endlessly impressed when told of some of the things that were being accomplished today by the FLPD and its members, and always maintained the deepest affection for the job and everyone on it. He especially enjoyed meeting the new guys as they came on the job.
One of his greatest points of pride since retiring was being able to pin the badge on me at the ceremonies for my three promotions. He saw my success as a validation of his advice to me to become a police officer and he saw the opportunities I had for advancement as the fruits of his efforts in years past through his PBA participation to change not only the laws of the state of New Jersey, but the organizational culture of the Fort Lee Police Department. I can say personally that he and his contemporaries were very successful at this.
Gerry Hervey was a great storyteller, especially when he was younger and more animated. He had a million stories, some of which he told all the time, and others he told only once. Unfortunately, most of them cannot be told here. But I did pick out some stories, from his childhood, from his navy service, and from his police career that I thought represented him well.
Little Gerry and his twin brother Jean had quite a reputation as they were growing up. They tried to join the boy scouts at age 12 and were told somewhat less than politely to leave and never come back. This reputation may have stemmed in part from an apparent fascination with gunpowder, where in one instance they had purchased ingredients from the local drug store and were found by their mother mixing them together in the basement- about three feet from a hot coal stove.
Another time, they somehow got their hands on some large commercial fireworks and thought it would be a good idea to set them off in the street intersection a few doors down from their home, prompting a huge fire and police response in addition to the fireworks show.
Graduating from gunpowder to guns, there was the time that he and Al Knaub were examining a shotgun in the living room of the house and managed to blow up his father's overstuffed chair with it. Through the ringing in his ears, the first thing Dad said that he heard after this was the old lady next door saying "there they go again".
In the Navy, Dad was assigned primarily to the Floyd B. Parks, a destroyer, but spent some time early on the Kretchmer, a smaller destroyer escort. Whatever ship it was, it was docked in San Diego Harbor and was equipped with a launch known as a motor whaleboat. This boat had a crew of three, a guy who sat in front and gave direction, a motorman in the middle, and the tillerman in the rear, who steered the boat. In this case, Dad was on the tiller, and the boat launched toward shore. About a hundred yards from ship, Dad leaned on the tiller handle too hard, and it broke, causing him to tumble off of the boat and into the water. The boat continued on, the other two guys unaware until they noticed they were going in the wrong direction. Dad was a strong swimmer, so he calmly swam back toward the ship, which by then had come alive with full man overboard procedures. Upon reaching the ship, he climbed the rescue ladder, approached the officer of the deck, snapped a salute and said "Permission to come aboard, sir" as if nothing had ever happened. The OD was slackjawed and speechless, only able to ask what the hell happened.
The last story I'll tell is one that he told me only once, at lunch couple of years ago. It is my favorite one.
One summer day in the 1960's Dad was working a 4 to 12 shift on the road when early on, he received a call of an injured child on Palisade Ave. near the south end of town. He arrived to find three little Spanish boys, 9 or 10 years old standing together, with one holding and injured hand. He looked at the injury and determined that the kid would have to go to the hospital for stitches. He wrapped up the injury and asked the boys what happened.
They said that they walked over the GW Bridge from Washington Heights and were looking for Palisades Amusement Park, and were playing around on the way as any young boys would, and one fell down and cut his hand. My father told them he had to take them to the hospital and tried to get information to notify the kids' parents.
Enroute to the hospital, the police department had no luck trying to notify the parents. They got there and Dad explained the situation to the ER people who were hesitant to treat the boy. Nonetheless, he somehow convinced them to stitch the kid up and gave them the info to try and contact a parent. He told the other two kids to sit in the waiting room and not to move a muscle.
A while later, Dad got the call to pick the boys up at the hospital. They too had no luck locating the parents. When he arrived, the one kid had a big bandage on his hand and the other two were in the exact same position he left them in, having not moved a muscle. He took them out to the car and offered to give them a ride back over the bridge to the heights so they could go home. Their reply was "We want to go to Palisades Amusement Park". Dad asked them how much money they had, and they all dug in their pockets and came up with about sixty cents. He said, "Okay".
They arrived at the park a short time later, and were brought in past the gate and brought to the administration building. Dad explained to whoever happened to be there (no doubt someone he was good friends with) what happened to these kids and got them set up with enough ride, food, and entertainment tickets to last them the rest of the day. He then told them to have fun and behave themselves and that he would be back at closing to check on them. He then went on the road and finished his tour.
After work, Dad went back to the park for closing, still in his police uniform. It was typical for him to do this because he took care of the ropes around the pool after closing for a few extra dollars a week. He located the three boys and took them out in front of the gate. A bus back to NYC was there, and Dad spoke to the driver. He told him the kids had no money to get home and asked the driver if he would take them, and make sure that they got off at the right stop. The driver agreed, and the boys said thank you to Dad and got on the bus for the ride home. And as the one boy with the bandaged hand was getting on the bus, he turned and said to my father: "You're the best cop I ever met in my whole life!"
I think that sums up the way Dad did his job the best.
My closing comments are going to be personal ones concerning our relationship and his sudden death.
I am not sad, and in fact am very happy about my relationship with my father during his last years, and have no regrets about it. You see, he and I had this understanding of each other. There was no need to discuss it, no need to say things to each other that might sound or come out awkwardly. We just knew it. I knew how proud he was of me for getting on the job and going as far as I have come, and he didn't have to say a word about it. He knew how much I respected him since I was a kid, regardless of whether we agreed or disagreed about something, through the years we worked together, and after his retirement. He knew why we met for lunch every day, and why I took pictures of him with my kids whenever I could. He loved being around them, and loved that they will have those memories of him. He knew why I took him upstate to see his brothers a couple years ago when he was very frail with his arthritis, and why I was trying to do that again before this winter set in. He knew how much I loved him and wanted to see him as much as possible in the last years of his life just in case something like this happened. He knew I liked being with him even if we just sat and watched TV at the range because there was nothing to talk about that day. And he liked it too. We did not ask that much of each other, except for a little of each other's time every day whenever possible. And neither of us had to say it. We both just knew all of this, and had this thing together that I came to think of in the last five or ten years as an understanding. It is something that I will be happy about for the rest of my life.
Having died suddenly while in good health even at 77 was shocking and saddening to all of us to say the least. But after the shock and sadness of that suddenness wears off and its attendant pain fades away with, and into time, I suspect that I, as well as all others who knew my father and felt the same way about his sudden death will come to be relieved that he lived a long and healthy life, and will actually come to be happy that he passed without any terrible or prolonged pain and suffering.
But there still is a sadness, a single one, one that I will carry in my heart forever. It is the sadness of knowing how much my three children loved their grandpa, and how much they are going to miss him, and of how much I am going to miss him too.
If anyone else would like to come up and say some kind words, please feel free to do so now.
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September 13, 1927 - January 21, 2006
When Jean Hervey died on January 21, 2006, I was broken-hearted, even though I had known for weeks that it was inevitable. His bright blue eyes sparkled less and less every day of his slow demise. I knew it was the end, and he knew it too, although he could not communicate out of his imprisoned body. But he could hear, and he could track the images and voices of those who surrounded him on his hospital bed. I could not speak of his ultimate end in his room, and I requested that the hospital staff not speak of it in his presence either.
When his ignominious death finally came, the only relief I felt was that of no longer having to cry over his diminishing strength, the wasting away of his once virile, strong body, his handsome, confident countenance, his positive, outspoken outlook on life and the national body politic. The questioning of our joint decision - that of his sons David and Jean Paul and I, in deference to his wishes - to withhold prolonging his life by artificial means when it was obviously futile, will haunt me always. In a sense, I was complicitly involved in his death no matter how reasonable and logical the ultimate decision, the medical opinion on the subject, and the non-existence of reasonable alternatives. I stood by helplessly watching him die and I was instrumental in the cause, if not the proximate cause, at least an intervening cause. It pained me then and it pains me yet.
Jean Hervey was proud to be a founding member and long-time Chairman of the Greene County Conservative Party and its main financial support. Never to back down from a fight, whether physical or intellectual, with his limited formal education, he could debate any politician and office holder to a standstill. He was admired by those who appreciated his tenacity and knowledge and despised by those who feared his grasp of issues beyond their pedestrian understanding of government and education.
He was a candidate for the House of Representatives in the 1960's on the Conservative Party line, challenging the likes of incumbent Democrat millionaire Joe Resnick and Republican Brahmin Hamilton Fish, Jr. He was told not to expect more than ten percent of the vote, and his advisors were right on target. But what disappointed him most was his poor support in his hometown election district of Palenville. Long after his loss, he once said to me, "Wouldn't you think they would have been proud to have someone from Palenville in Congress for the first time in history?"
I shared his disappointment. Then and still. But in this context, I always remember the words of Shakespeare's Iago's warning to Othello: "O, beware, my Lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on."
His sons and my son, Robert and I had a small memorial service for him at my house one evening while he lay comfortably in Hospice. We shared some memorable and hilarious anecdotes about Jean Hervey to relieve our pain and sorrow in the face of the inevitable, which I will relate further down this page. To have known him as intimately as we did was surely a one-in-a-million shot at some kind of celebrity, because he was unique, as will the anecdotes reveal, bearing in mind that he does deserve some discretion in the telling of these stories, and regretfully, some cannot be told, due to the sensitivity of the subject matter, that is not until all parties to the episodes are long deceased themselves.
The morning of his death, I transmitted the following e-mail to close relatives and friends, which I dare to presume, speaks for itself:
My favorite brother, your Uncle, Cousin, friend, died at 0620 this morning after struggling to survive a massive stroke, first indicated on New year's Day and totally disabling on January 9th. The past two weeks have been the saddest and most painful of my entire life, watching his labored breathing and sensing his frustration at his inability to communicate his thoughts to the world outside his body. But he could hear, he could see, he was able to recognize us and respond with a blink of an eye or a raised eyebrow to a question, a remembrance of an amusing incident of our life together, of which there were many, some more hysterically funny than others - everything we did was an adventure - until yesterday. Yesterday, the eyes didn't focus, he couldn't see me, he didn't seem to be able to hear me. I told him he was the best brother a kid could ever have had, and left, telling him as I did every day, "I'll see you tomorrow, Jean." This morning I kissed him goodbye for the last time. (I am crying as I write this. I am broken-hearted.)
At his wishes there will be no viewing, no services. He donated his mortal remains to Albany Medical College's Anatomical Gift Program for research. After cremation his ashes will be distributed at a place yet to be determined by his sons, David and Jean Paul.
What do you say about your favorite brother, your life-long best friend, your mentor, the guy you could always count on to be there when you needed him? No little brother could have asked for a better big brother. He was crazy-funny, loyal to his friends and family and feared by his enemies, ambitious, hard working and an eternal optimist, always scheming about some way to make a buck. And fierce... with an extremely high tolerance for pain. I watched him saw a cast off his broken leg once because it itched. He was not afraid of any other man, and two or three at a time didn't deter him from a fight. If the stroke had fought fairly, Jean Hervey would have beaten the sh*t out of it.
Please don't call me with condolences. I am inconsolable. Jean Paul can't talk about it yet. Neither can I. Maybe David can. All we know or can tell you is written above.
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My earliest recollection of my brother Jean is the summer he was run over by a truck in Port Jefferson, near our summer home in the sand dunes of Selden, Long Island ( Suffolk County, New York).
Jean was lying in a hammock strung between two tall scrub oak trees in the back yard at 521 Maplewood Avenue. How the trees grew to that height is a testament to tenacity and good fortune, because the double lot our father bought as an investment (LOL) might as well have been in the Sahara Desert, except for the fortuitous coincidence of its proximity to the Lake Ronkonkoma station of the Long Island Railroad, where our father could ride free every day in his commute to Sunnyside Gardens in Long Island City where he was the power house operator in the railroad yard complex.
Jean relaxed in the hammock most of the day and he and I entertained each other with whatever nonsense brothers do in the middle of nowhere before the invention of electricity, running water and indoor plumbing. Thomas Edison, who I now realize had died years earlier, had not yet made known his inventions this far east. But what I remember was the cast on Jean's leg. I was intrigued. He was the first person I ever knew who had been run over by a truck. Which was an episode. He related to me later in our adult life, that he ran out in front of the truck - his fault entirely - it was a coal truck as I recall - and he said that when he regained consciousness, he was lying in the street and when he looked down at his leg, his toe was touching his knee! His leg had been literally broken in half, hanging on by his shin ligaments. He was rushed to the nearest hospital where surgeons informed our mother that the leg had to be amputated. Our mother had her own opinion. They would put it back together. And they did. He carried a stainless steel plate in his leg that plagued him all his life until he elected to have it removed (the pin, not the leg) in the 1980's. During the operation, one of the hospital staff had to leave the operating room and go to a nearby hardware store to buy a chisel strong enough to get it off his leg! They didn't have one sufficiently durable in their surgical equipment. Unfortunately, bad weather and frigid temeratures still plagued him all his life even after the plate was removed.
The significance of my recollection of this episode is its place on the time line of our family history. It was the summer of 1943, the summer before our mother died, because our brother Virgil commemorated the event by taking motion pictures of my father, mother, Adele and Anthony Maberino, and Jean and I walking on the sidewalk in front of the Selden house, Jean hobbling along in his cast... which, incidently, did not impede his spirit one bit.
Another early recollection, and I cannot place a time reference on it although it was at home in North Bergen, involved a toy cap pistol of mine. It didn't work. The trigger's double action didn't pull back the hammer and release it to fire a cap, and it couldn't be fired by single action either. So Jean decided to fix it for me. Taking it apart in retrospect was a lot easier than putting it back together, which never got done. I was just a little bit disappointed. I didn't throw a tantrum, or throw the gun at him, but I was disappointed.
After our mother died, and until our father had the deficiency of common sense to marry a Met Life debit agent, upon whom my brother Virgil bestowed the not-too-inappropriate sobriquet, "The Dutch Bitch", our wonderful Aunt Rita would visit on a regular basis and make sure that we were all properly fed and cared for. One day she made lemon meringue pies, a regular sized pie for everyone, and a special miniature just for me. She put them in the refrigerator to cool for dinner. When I came back from my wanderings, I checked on my little special pie, and it was half eaten. I was furious; I went into a rage, wanting to know who had the audacity to eat MY pie! Jean confessed; he didn't know it was mine. Aunt Rita tried to calm me down. I was so pissed off that I threw the uneaten part of the pie in the garbage! I never let Jean forget that. Nobody eats my pie!
Our parents bought our house on 86th Street (nee State Street) along with my mother's brother and sister, Uncle Andrew McGee and my Godmother Aunt Molly Singer, side by side. Uncle Andrew and Aunt Mag's little girl Martha, one year younger than I, was my best friend and playmate from my earliest memories. She was the prettiest little pigtailed redheaded Irish girl you could ever wish to see. One day, I was told by Jean, we were fighting about some silly thing, and Jean and Jerry, who were painting inside our house, pulled us each aside to stop the quarreling. Jerry gave Martha a nickel to stop her crying and Jean gave me a nickel to leave her alone. We both now had a small fortune at our disposal. Martha reputedly said to me, "C'mon Butchie, let's go to Uncle Willie's and buy a soda," and we went skipping off together holding hands. Best friends again.
Uncle Willie, by the way, was Willie Perzin, a Hungarian Jew immigrant who escaped Hitler and Stalin, I was told, who had the local convenience store at the corner of 87th Street and Newkirk Avenue. Martha and I would go there on a regular basis, buy a soda, drink a little of it and ask Uncle Willie if he would save it for us in his cooler until later when we were thirsty again. His answer was always, "yes." Can you imagine such graciousness? What a nice man. I remember him vividly, adding up the cost of the groceries on their paper bag with a pencil.
The most poignant story about Jean was when our new Nazi GooseStep-Mutter, the Dutch Bitch, threw my brothers out of the house to fend for themselves. Jerry went to live with Al Knaub's family; Jean around the corner to live with Bobby Reinhart's family. Can you imagine what those wonderfully magnanimous people were thinking when they took in my brothers? Teen-agers being thrown out of the house and their father permitting it! He did nothing! And it wouldn't be long before the youngest, at age nine would follow! Jean told me years later that when he was leaving, I asked him, "Are you still going to be my brother?" My brother! The best big brother a kid could ever have.
I had forgotten about the lemon meringue pie.
Click here for more (tastefully censored) Jean Hervey Adventures.
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