Obituary of Herman Louis Brav
“July 4, 1949 was the greatest day of my life”, the quiet wonderful man would often proclaim during his last years. That was the Monday seventy years ago that Herman Brav met Adele, the love of his life, at the old New Yorker Hotel on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan. She was a tall and beautiful young woman who had lost much of her family in the Holocaust but herself survived in a Siberian forced labor camp, arriving in America three years earlier and working at nearby Macy’s Herald Square. He too had come from Europe in 1946, returning with the Fighting 69th Infantry after sixteen months of heavy combat from Normandy through France and Germany and the Elbe River meeting with the Russians that signified the end of the war in Europe, earning a Bronze Star and French Legion of Honor for the Liberation of France.
Having lost his father at four years old and his identical twin brother Seymour to a car accident and sister Nanette to illness by the time he turned thirteen, Herman was forced to grow up early in Depression Era Brooklyn. These tragedies, and the wartime deaths of his Army brothers, would always haunt but never stop him from building a life out of struggle. After marrying Adele in 1950, they bought a house, raised two children on Long Island and embraced the relative normalcy and tranquility of their postwar years. Herman became well known for his almost sixty years as a hollow metal door salesperson in the New York area large construction trade, employed full-time until he was 85 years old. He was an active member of Temple Hillel in North Woodmere, New York and a casual weekend biker on his old Schwinn three-speed.
Forced in 2011 by his wife’s illness to move closer to his longtime Princeton resident son Peter, he was beloved at Stein Assisted Living in Somerset, New Jersey where he spent his final years, visited often by his son and his daughter Miriam. He no longer had his head for numbers or any memory of what had been said or eaten five minutes earlier. Yet he never lost his love of family and always expressed appreciation for the daily efforts of the nurses and aides, something marveled at for its genuine affection. His smile would always widen when one would mention his wife of 65 years or ask about his military service. “I don’t play Bingo, son,” he would say when his son would arrive every Wednesday evening to call the games at his facility. “Just come sit with me,” his son would reply always. He would come along, he would play and win more than his share, place the few quarters in his son’s hand, and all was good. After years of worries and an instinct to protect that never faded even as his body wound down, in his last years he found for the first time a relaxed peace and an awesome appreciation for the simplest of things, be they kind words, a half hour in the courtyard sun, one scoop of butter pecan on a sugar cone, or a visit by one of his son’s dogs looking for a lap to sit on.
Over his 96 years, he had said goodbye to so many loved ones, including Adele who passed four years ago. Now his two children, beloved daughter-in-law Janet, five grandchildren Zarah, Julia, Nathaniel, Gregory, and Seth, and three great-grandchildren Orianna, Josephine and Luna Adele, say goodbye to him with the greatest of love and admiration for this humble man who always thought of everyone but himself.
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