The following is what I read at my Daddy’s funeral service on Monday, May 15, 2023.
There are hundreds of stories to tell, but I’m sharing this first because many have asked for the transcript of my eulogy. You can read his obituary HERE.
Wow. Look at all these faces.
I dislike public speaking so I need to relax. Let’s break the ice.
Now, if you went to school with my dad, raise your hand.
If you ever served on a committee with my dad, raise your hand.
If you ever heard his band – any or every version of it – play, raise your hand.
Raise your hand if he’s played at your, or your child’s wedding.
There’s a few of you who can say they bought/received an engagement ring from him AND had him play at your wedding. Where are you?
Raise your hand if you have been on the receiving end of his kindness and smile.
I could stand here and talk for a week. As someone who loves to write stories, I’ve written a dozen versions of this over the last weeks.
This is a love story.
It’s a love story between a couple and their two children.
A love story between a man and his love of making music.
A love story between a man and his town.
And a love story between all of you and my Daddy.
As the son of two very proper people, DN and Mary Herbert, and with a much older sister, Betty, his early life seems like it was an episode of Leave it to Beaver. He was part Wally AND part Beaver. Strait-laced and buttoned up, but maybe a little mischievous. Certainly polite to everyone he came in contact with.
A perfect Eagle Scout: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. He lived that and the Boy Scout motto to Be Prepared, daily. “Scout’s honor” meant something – everything – to him.
I bet you didn’t know that he first met my mom when he was dating another girl. His buddy wanted to go see my mom, and told him he needed daddy to come along as his wingman, because “she has a younger sister who’s cute.” It would be a while before he confessed that he came to visit my Aunt Diane and not her that night. Imagine how different this story would be if their stars hadn’t aligned. But, of course, they were supposed to.
Six weeks later, they had their first date. Shortly after that, the Malibu’s had their first gig. Mama has been their forever-groupie since the beginning.
They had a long distance relationship when he went to Auburn, but she followed behind a year later. And then he did some post-grad work to stay another quarter until she graduated — but it was probably just for an extra football season. Just babies, they got married on July 12, 1970. Five years later, they were blessed with me. Four years after that, they were blessed with my sister, Lauren.
Except for a while when Mama worked at Blue Bird, and for a while when we were little, mama and daddy worked together every day. They were literally never apart. How they did this without killing each other, I will never know, but they did. They were one person. You couldn’t think of one without the other. And you probably never will.
Daddy and Mama worked hard. They were always either at the store or, it seemed like anyway, at a meeting for one committee or another. It felt like during our childhood, they were president of a different organization every year. But we always had them at our games or recitals or any other important event. I don’t remember ever thinking that their work and volunteering interfered with how much love we felt.
All of our vacations growing up revolved around jewelry shows and conventions. We went all kinds of cool places, even though at the time, Lauren and I were surely rolling our eyes at being seen with them. But walking through giant showrooms of diamonds wasn’t all that bad!
He was a quiet man and not overly affectionate. None of us were. But you could be sure there was always something fun or weird going on.
Did you know he could make balloon animals and would just make them randomly during sleepovers we had?
Did you know he had a plane and we would just go for rides to nowhere?
Did you know he made breakfast for Mama almost every day since they closed the store?
During the years, we’ve added wonderful members to our family. Lauren’s husband Douglas, their children Jasmine, Spencer, Luke and Mollie. Jasmine’s husband Jacob, and their baby – mama and daddy’s first GREAT grandchild – James. My first husband, Jason and our son Charlie, who Daddy’s rocking in heaven right now, and Henry. And then five years ago they graciously and excitedly welcomed my new husband, Brian and two incredible stepdaughters Brianna and Jamie into the family.
If you weren’t aware, which based on the raised hands you definitely are, Daddy loved playing music and being on stage.
As a teenager, Daddy had a friend who played guitar. He gave him a semi-broken one and Daddy fixed it up and taught himself how to play. For his 17th birthday, he received a Fender Stratocaster and a few guys formed a band. Daddy, Eddie, David, Wes, Mike, and Grady. They were quite successful, playing at local teen clubs, colleges all over the place, birthday parties, and even traveling to do week-long stints at clubs in Daytona and Tampa. They recorded tracks and records, had a promoter and manager, and came *this close* to making it big time.
But life called for all the guys. People married, people moved, lives changed, kids were born. Over the years, there was always a band. There were multiple combinations of original members and new folks. They added instruments and singers. But one thing was always a constant – that Fender Stratocaster. It became worn and almost molded to his body and hands. Yes, he had plenty of other guitars, but the strat was his old trusty. It never did him wrong.
Lauren and I always joke that the first thing we ever were, was a groupie. The bands always practiced at our house. I can still see, vividly, all the guys and sometimes girls, set up like a band gig in our living room, playing at what was probably way too loud for our young ears, practicing for whatever their next job was. We just went to bed like it was no big deal. I often hear songs and I’m taken right back to that place, grabbing the microphone while Lauren tried her hand at drums. Neither of us is musically inclined. Luckily my son got the guitar playing gene.
There have been hundreds of band jobs. Maybe thousands. I think Daddy once said his busiest year was 150 gigs. That’s a lot of trailer loading and sound checks and 2am waffle house stops. The bookings slowed in the last decade, along with the band members, but never fully stopped.
Daddy always said he wanted to learn to play Free Bird. We joked about it when I got married, but he shrugged it off. And yes, the band played my reception. Daddy walked me down the aisle, did the first dance with me, and then got on stage for the rest of the time. And it was perfect.
Now, when Lauren got married, she told him the only way his band played was if they learned Free Bird. He actually had someone come and teach him for two years so he could fulfill this wish. It was a lot of work for him. But that’s love.
At her wedding, I was very very pregnant with my first son. It was hot and sticky and I went inside to cool off and rest my feet. Somebody came in and said “they’re playing Free Bird” and by the time I got my pregnant self up and out of the building, it was over. We begged them to play it again and even though it was an exhausting song to play, they gave in and played it again at the end of the night. I think the only other time he played it was actually at a Kiwanis meeting a few years ago.
Daddy LOVED Fort Valley. After college, he came back to Fort Valley because he wanted to. He learned the jewelry business because he wanted to.
Making people happy, and making men heroes on special occasions or when they messed up sometimes, was what he loved.
Over the years, he served this town and county proudly.
He was a very proud, and longest serving, Kiwanis member, having joined in 1972. He was president many years ago, and currently, to celebrate their 100th year, he was asked to be the President again. He accepted, but casually and with a smile said, “you should probably have a good vice president.”
He served on so many other committees locally – too many to even start listing. But he was on committees at the church, President of the Chamber of Commerce. He helped promote Main Street and special events tirelessly.
If you needed someone to run an auction? He was your guy.
If the church needed someone to do videography? He said yes, with a smile.
Many hours were spent at Westfield, both while Lauren and I were in school and for years after, recording and mixing songs for the dance team, and doing sound for grandparents day, or just simply attending our activities.
He very proudly served on the Fort Valley State foundation as treasurer for 27 years.
Professionally, he was a jeweler, but passionately, he was a happiness maker. So many of you, and so many across the country really, have celebrated life’s occasions with boxes from Herbert Jewelers. How many times did we hear, “it’s not christmas without a box from Herbert’s under the tree.”
To daddy, you weren’t just customers. You were family and he would do just about anything to make sure you were happy with what he did for you. Up to, and including, running to the store real quick on Christmas morning, several times, to deliver something that someone forgot to pick up.
He just loved this town and everyone in it.
Before the big band reunion gig on Jan 28th, he was worried he would forget to smile. He was having some neuropathy in his hands, and some pain in his body – more than anybody knew. He had Henry learn the songs in case he couldn’t play it all, but he was determined to. That night? He played that same Fender Stratocaster that he played in 1963 for about four hours. It never did him wrong.
He had to really focus, though, on what he was playing more than he ever has. He told mama that “if I stop smiling get my attention and remind me to.” But he also had a sticky note on his iPad. It said “Smile” across the top. And smile, he did.
In the hundreds of comments on my Facebook post talking about him entering hospice, most of them mentioned his smile. He always greeted you with one. He always made you HAVE one.
I can’t help but think he would want us to smile.
Smile because he is cancer and pain free
Smile because he’s with his parents and his grandson and all of his friends who have gone before him
Smile because I’m sure he’s already joined a big group of rockstars up there
but most of all, smile because we ALL were lucky enough to live in a world with Dennis Herbert in it