I have just recevied a Christmas card from an old neighbor of mine who has lived in Queens Village for over fifty years. Henry Herte and his family moved to Queens Village one house removed from my own on 213th Street. The Christmas card had writing on the back which said,” I will be 90 in April if I make it.”
The very next day I called Henry and we talked a little while and he told me he had health issues and had surgery to improve blood circulation and was on medication. He told me there was only one other family left from the old days. He said some have moved while others have passed away. From the sound of his voice he seem a little sad. His wife had passed away a few years back, his son Steve still lived with him and his daughters were married and had children of their own. He told me he still attended Mass at St. Joachim and Anne in Queens Village.
After our talk and I hung of the phone, I started thinking how Henry hepled out my Father and myself so long ago.. It was 1963 and was in September and my Mother died suddenly and it was a most differcult time. My father was 73 years at the time and I was 14 not to mention my father took care of an elderly blind border we have living with us named John. Henry jumped in to help us even though he had a job a house and a wife and four kids to provide for. He took me on the side and told me I would need to help my father a lot around the house because father was old and could not do it all. He showed me how to do basic cleaning and genral chores inside and outside the house. I remember a time our house needed some cement work done after trees were removed and had to repair the sidewalk.
He showed me how it had to be done but made me do the work for he said it created skills but also character and pride in ones own home. We didn’t have a car anymore after my mom died because we had to sell it to pay bills. Henry would come over on Saturday and my father would make a list and Henry would go to various stores for food that were out of our reach and find sales that would save us money. He also did this for some of the other neighbors on the block. I remember also he would go the extra mile for my Dad. You see my father had trouble walking too far and would have trouble breathing. He would come over with a haircut kit and give my dad and our border haircuts for the barbershop was too far to walk to. As I, look back, I can’t help but think how much Henry gave to family friends, neighbors and community.
He truely must have had it hard himself for he was putting all four kids through Catholic School. I think of the Christmas movie called, It’s a Great Life,” where the character George wished that he was never been born. The angel Clarence show him how sad life would have been for all those he had helped in his life if he was never born.. I feel that is so true for my old friend Henry also who I believe had helped so many people in his life.
Oh, one more thing before I close- thanks Henry and a Merry Christmas and many more.