Obituary of Gary Joseph Herbert
Obituary of Gary Joseph Herbert
December 20, 1948 – July 10, 2023
On the evening of July 10, 2023, at age 74, Gary Joseph Herbert passed away at St. Joseph Hospital in Denver, Colorado, from complications that arose from small cell carcinoma. Gary’s actual journey dealing with cancer began in May of 2022, when he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer. Even though the chemotherapy was rough, Gary kept a positive attitude. And so, six months later, in November of 2022, his multiple myeloma went into remission, and for the next eight months, he seemed to be on the mend. Then, early in July of 2023, his doctors discovered that he had developed small cell carcinoma, a particularly aggressive form of cancer. His earthly sojourn ended five days later.
Anyone who knows Gary would agree that he was a quiet man with strong convictions and a quick sense of humor. He is well-loved by his family and close friends, well-liked by those who kn0w him, well-regarded by colleagues and associates, and will be well-remembered by all.
Gary was born in Tucson, Arizona on December 20, 1948, to James W. Herbert (Jim) and Rosalie Latona (Rose), both of whom predeceased him. He was the second of four sons. Kenneth, Gary, Victor, and James. James passed away at the age of 12.
In 1950, the Herbert family moved to Portland, Oregon, where Jim was employed as an instrument technician at a naval shipyard in nearby Vancouver, Washington. About six months later, as Jim re-enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, the family relocated to Long Beach, California for the duration of the Korean War. Shortly after his father’s return, the Herberts moved to Garden Grove, California, where Gary grew up with his three brothers Kenneth, Victor, and James. James passed away at the age of 12.
Gary and his brothers Vic and Ken have always been close. As kids with huge imaginations, they had many adventures and misadventures together. Their parents only knew probably 30% of the trouble they got into or narrowly escaped. The funniest sentence their parents, in later years ever uttered upon learning some self-confessed fact 20 to 30 years later: “That was you?” Always when they get together, there is laughter and brotherly mischief.
As a kid growing up in southern California, Gary developed several interests. For instance, his parents had become avid bowlers, and so by the time Gary was 10, he was bowling in a junior league. As a side note, during his mid to late teen years, he and his friends would conduct their own private “tournaments,” where each bowler would pay a small “entry fee” to be divided into first-, second- and third-place cash prizes. There were also additional side pots for high game, most strikes, converting splits, and the like. Eventually, he bowled semi-professionally for a couple of years.
Besides bowling, Gary was interested in art and became a reasonably good painter, preferring to work with oils. His best work was in land- and seascapes.
On yet another front, Gary’s interest in flying led him to first obtain a private pilot license with an instrument rating, and then a commercial certificate. Ever the prankster, the first time he took his brother Ken up for a flight over Long Beach he pretended to be slightly clueless. As they were taxiing, he started turning the “steering wheel” rapidly to the right and left, a look of anxious horror on his face. “The steering wheel isn’t working!” By now, Ken is frantically wondering how they’re going to get out of this alive. Then, Gary announces, “Just kidding! The brakes attached to the rudder pedals turn the plane while it’s on the ground.” In spite of this dubious beginning, Gary showed himself to be a very competent pilot. He and Ken flew together several times after that.
Of all his interests, golf was Gary’s most beloved, and he and his brother Vic joined a troupe of non-professional enthusiasts who called themselves the “Fun Hogs.” He and Vic attended many of their 29 annual tournaments, and at
one of them, Gary non-professionally won a first-place prize of $2,500. Also, he and Vic often golfed together when they would visit each other.
In late April of 1970, Gary new that his draft lottery number would be coming up soon. He didn’t like the idea of being an infantryman slogging around the rice paddies and jungles of Viet Nam, so to avoid the draft, in May of 1970, Gary enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he served for six years. After completing nuclear power school in Twin Falls, Idaho, he was stationed aboard the USS Bainbridge, a nuclear-powered missile frigate, for the duration of his active duty. He attained the rank of E-6 and earned the National Defense Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, and Vietnam Campaign Medal. He was honorably discharged in May of 1976, one year after the war had ended. Although he served with honor and distinction, Gary often said those were the longest six years of his life.
Once his military service was complete, he continued his education and earned his Bachelor of Science degree at California State University, Long Beach, where he double-majored in political science and chemistry. He also studied Law for a time at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma. In truth, he never stopped learning, both at work and in his personal life. He kept abreast of world events, sports, and politics. You could talk with Gary about almost any topic.
Over the years, Gary became a jack of many trades. His first real job stemmed from his love of bowling and led him to work as an automated pinsetter mechanic at two bowling establishments. Later, he worked for a time in the Long Beach Police Department’s narcotics division as an undercover officer. Whenever he regaled folks with his cop stories, deftly employing his wit and humor, he would have you laughing for years to come. After leaving the Navy, he joined his parents and his brother Vic in Oklahoma, where they owned and operated a small bowling alley and restaurant. It was there that Gary once again applied his knowledge of automatic pinsetters. And what’s more, he learned how to remodel a space, add a room, run wiring, put in flooring, put up, mud, and finish sheet rock, add plumbing, install appliances, and other valuable skills. It was as if he were honing these fixer upper/builder/remodeler abilities so they could be put to good use after he and Marcy bought their house.
His degree in chemistry, along with his service in the Navy as a nuclear reactor operator, eventually brought him to his career as a water filtration expert. In that capacity, he traveled around the globe, from the Middle East, to South America, to Africa, to Canada, and all over the U.S. He worked in gold mines, potato chip factories, and Pepsi, Coke, and other soft drink plants. To this day, he has friends in all of those countries.
Gary was a very loved and welcomed friend of the Lujan family and joined them regularly on holidays and outings for many years. This is how, in the summer of his life, he met the love of his life, Marcella (Marcy) Dolores Lujan. In 1994, they became a couple and began building a life together. They married in 2010 (this is ironic because Marcy always said she would never marry a cop). In that same year, they bought their house and Gary officially became part of the Lujan family, although they had considered him “official” long before. And so, for almost 30 years, they shared their hearts, their souls, their triumphs, their tragedies, and everything in between.
Gary loved dogs and it seems he and Marcy always had at least one, if not more, sharing their home. His favorite was Buddy, the dalmatian. However, he also loved labs, as they had three. Now, though, only Molly is still at home. She is a dog that can’t hold her licker, and she gave Gary many an unexpected “kiss” on the cheek. If you see her now, you can tell that she misses this man, her friend, very much.
One last note: The fact that Gary was once in law enforcement and had a degree in political science was not lost on his nieces and nephews. When coupled with the fact that he often travelled to far away, exotic places, sometimes in the middle of nowhere, their imaginations came to one conclusion: “water filtration” was a cover for his work in the CIA. Although in reality that is not the case, as far as the nieces and nephews are concerned, it remains an open question.
Even when they asked him outright, he would laugh, but never confirm or deny. To them, that was a confirmation, and to this day, they can’t be convinced otherwise. Besides, why was it that occasionally, the U. S. President would travel to a country Gary had been in a month before? As they would say, “Just sayin’. . .”
Gary is survived by his wife Marcy; step daughter Marya Vallejos; brothers Vic and Ken; nieces/nephews Kelly (Hawthorne) and Matt Smith; Hilary (Hawthorne) and Bob Smith; grandchildren Cameron Smith, Margaret Smith, and Evelyn Smith; a very special and loved friend of the family, Ellie Van Breukelen; a Godson James (Buck) Beal; and of course, Molly the loved lab. Along with these, Gary is also survived by a host of Herbert nieces and nephews, grand nieces and nephews, and great grand nieces and nephews. Gary was preceded in death by his father, James W. Herbert, his mother, Rosalie (Latona) Herbert, and his brother, James W. Herbert II.
A Memorial service will be held at 12:30 PM on Monday, August 14, at Fort Logan National Cemetery. Guests should gather no later than 12:15 PM at Staging Area C (Denver Drive), which is the first left into the cemetery. A reception will follow at Holiday Lanes Bowling Alley, inside The Elbow Room, from 1:45 to 4:30. The address is 10350 W. Colfax Ave, Lakewood, CO 80215.
Condolences may be offered to the family online at https://allveterans.com/tribute/current-services/index.html
Instead of sending flowers, the family requests that you make a donation to a charity related to blood cancer research or that you donate blood at your local blood bank.To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Gary Herbert, please visit Tribute Store