Herman was born on March 28, 1928 in Minot, North Dakota, the ninth child born to Michael Meyer and Helen Senger. In all, he had six brothers and six sisters - John, Johanna, Wendelin, Michael, Leo (who died as a young child), Catherine, Anna Maria, Rochus, Martha, Helen, Leo Joseph, and Sally.
For most of his early years, Herman lived on the outskirts of Karlsruhe, North Dakota and when he was about 5 years old the family moved into that town. Karlsruhe was a small German community comprised of mostly Catholic families who had immigrated from Russia in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Times were tough for large families in this North Dakota farming community when Herman was born and it became more difficult in August of 1929 at the start of the Great Depression.
Herman’s parents were both of German descent and spoke German at home to their children. While most Catholic Church services were conducted in German and songs were sung in German, the children began to learn English at the Catholic school at a young age. When Herman was 6 he started 1st grade at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School in Karlsruhe. On the first day of school he tried to run back home, but the nuns caught him and tied him to his chair. He would be first to admit that he wasn’t a great student but he persevered and graduated from Karlsruhe High School in 1946 in a class of 15 students.
With so many brothers and sisters, there was always someone to play with, but there was also lots of work to be done on the farm. Herman helped his father repair shoes for the people in their town, learned some carpentry skills from his father and had chores to do on the farm, especially during the wheat harvest. When Herman was about 10, the WPA came to town. The WPA was formed as part of the New Deal and stood for “Works Project Administration”. It employed millions of unskilled workers for public works projects all over the country. They couldn’t find enough workers so sometimes hired children. Herman and his brother, Roy, were hired by the WPA to help with loading trucks with rocks and gravel and they promised to pay the boys in candy bars. Neither of them had gloves and they both developed blood poisoning from blisters on their hands and were hospitalized. Bad blisters and a little pain were all in a day’s work in those times, but the worst part for the boys was that they never got paid those candy bars.
From a young age, Herman was industrious and he earned his first silver dollar at age 12 when he shoveled the snow from the roof of the only store in town. At age 14 Herman’s father lied about Herman’s age and told the Social Security Administration that Herman was 16 so that he could get a job with the railroad. He was hired as part of the “extra” gang which put in the rails and ties for the electric military trains that transported arms and tanks for WWII. His pay for this work helped contribute to family household expenses.
By the time he graduated, Herman had decided that life on the farm was not for him and he followed several of his older brothers to Portland, Oregon where he lived the remainder of his life. In the first summer he worked on a cement crew in Cedar Hills prepping foundations for houses, and then he had an assembly line job for the Purdy Paintbrush Company where he was paid $1/hr. After 6 months on that job, he and another worker went to the owner to ask for a 5 cent raise. Thinking that they might convince other employees to do the same, the owner fired the two of them that day. Herman soon found a job with Western Cooperage making barrels. The work was backbreaking and to top it off, it was a night job which left no time for dating, so Herman quit.
It was just around this time that Herman met his future wife, Naomi Slack, at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Portland. She sang in the choir there and was a member of the Young Peoples Club even though she was not yet a Catholic. The year was 1947 and Herman was new to Holy Cross Church. The first night he came to the Young Peoples Club, the group played musical chairs. Herman and Naomi both tell the story about how Naomi shoved Herman off the chair…she always wanted to win at every game. Herman thought she played a little rough for a young lady. It was NOT love at first sight but once they started to date, it wasn’t long before they fell in love.
As Herman became more serious about Naomi, he searched for more stable and permanent employment. He looked into an apprenticeship program and chose the “fur “business thinking it was something to do with fir trees. Little did he know that he would spend the next 35-40 years of his life making women’s fur coats. His apprenticeship lasted 6 years and he eventually received a “master furrier” designation. Over his lifetime Herman designed and made fur coats, jackets, collars and hats for several department stores and then for Schumacher Fur Company. He retired from that company in 1993.
Herman and Naomi were married on April 23, 1949 at Holy Cross Catholic Church. They honeymooned in Victoria, British Columbia at the Empress Hotel and later returned for their 40th wedding anniversary. The newlyweds did not own a car, so Herman borrowed one from his new father-in-law for the honeymoon.
In 1951, their first child was born. Herman and Naomi have six children- Deborah, Theresa, Andrea, Gerald, Michael and Jonathan.
Herman was the ultimate family man and a wonderful husband and father. He was very involved in raising his children. He took them swimming at the YMCA and taught them to ice-skate. The family had many vacations at the Oregon Coast and Herman never missed a Rose Festival Parade with his kids. He was a Little League coach and umpire when his boys played baseball and attended all of their games. He sometimes worked the concession stands with his girls. Herman also helped Naomi with canning peaches, pears, cherries and pickles. And he loved to fix his family a big Sunday breakfast and to BBQ chicken on Saturday nights.
For many years, Herman and Naomi volunteered for numerous charitable organizations. Since the beginning of their relationship, they remained active in the Catholic Church, first at St. Charles and then at The Madelaine. Herman was a kindhearted and selfless man who was known for donating his time to numerous charitable organizations including, Meals on Wheels People, the Oregon Food Bank, St. Vincent DePaul Society, The Kids on the Block Awareness Program, Habitat for Humanity, and the Portland Downtown Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation and many others. He was on a number of committees at St. Charles Catholic Church and was active in leading his neighborhood association.
After Herman retired, Naomi urged him to take up quilting as a hobby. Together they made special quilts for most of their grandchildren and great grandchildren. After Naomi passed away on October 21, 2014 Herman continued to quilt with two of his daughters and they donated many quilts to Randall Children’s Hospital.
Slowly over the past eight years, Herman developed Lewey Body Dementia and lived at Tabor Crest, a memory care facility for the last three years of his life. Our family wants to thank Rodica and Stelly Malos and Lacra and Dan Radulescu as well as the caregivers at Tabor Crest I and Tabor Crest II for the loving care provided to our father as his dementia progressed. We would also like to thank the doctors, nurses and the Hospice team at Housecall Providers for their support in our father’s final days. Finally, we send a special thank you to Barbara McCormick from St. Charles Church who visited our dad every week for over three years to bring him communion and to pray with him.
Herman passed away on December 14, 2019 at age 91. He had been married for 65 years to Naomi at the time of her passing. He was predeceased by his wife, Naomi, his daughter-in-law, Cheryl Meyer, son-in-law, Roy Atherton, grandson, Jacob Atherton and 8 of his siblings. Herman is survived by his six children, Deborah Pienovi (Randy Lee), Theresa Stonecipher (Scott), Andrea Atherton (Tom Pagh), Gerald Meyer, Michael Meyer (Katy), Jonathan Meyer (Sheila), his 12 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. He is survived by one brother, Leo Meyer (Dixie), and 3 sisters, Martha Gay, Helen Hovland and Sally Kasper.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. Rita’s Catholic Church, 10029 NE Prescott, Portland, Oregon on Monday, December 23, 2019 at 11:00 AM., preceded by a Rosary at 10:30 AM. A private interment will be at Evergreen Memorial Gardens in Vancouver, WA.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that any donation in memory of Herman be made either to the Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation, 1010 NW 22nd Ave., Suite 144, Portland, OR 97210 or to Housecall Providers, 5100 SW Macadam Ave, #200, Portland, Oregon 97239.
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