HERBERT GREENGAS - HENOCH BEN AVRAM – July 24, 2016
We’re here today to mourn the passing but also to honor and cherish the life of Herbert Greengas, beloved husband, father, grandfather and friend. I have two emotions at this moment. One is that I feel strange, like I’m here not here saying these words. We knew it was coming, but his passing is difficult to absorb.
Herb was born in New Haven on April 15, 1935. He grew up with his brother Milton and close cousins. His dad left his mother early on so she was a single mother who was just trying to make ends meet. Everything he made, in jobs like being a paperboy, he gave to his mom. Since she didn’t speak English, Herb couldn't speak English until he went to school. But he did just fine, going to the University of New Haven and getting a degree in engineering.
He worked for the New Haven Water Company from the age of 16 and worked there for over 25 years, rising to become Director of Purchasing and Assistant Treasurer. He had a few jobs after that, including working for Benhaven; he would bring kids home for Passover and to swim in the pool.
Then came his favorite job, working for the City of Waterbury for over 20 years as School Inspector for the Board of Ed
He was like a superintendent of facilities.
Do you know how our email addresses express the way we identify ourselves? His is Sioherb, with SIO meaning School Inspector Office. Mayors came and went but he kept his position. It was a great job; he rode the snowplows, climbed on rooftops and ate donuts. He retired when he was 75.
Let’s talk about the center of his life, his family. For a boy who came from a small family, he certainly had one of the biggest families I’ve ever known. He was fixed up on a blind date with Linda and they had three dates before the rest was history; 47 years of marriage.
They were married at BEKI on Dec. 27 1967. They moved to Hamden 45 years ago, right after their firstborn Jeremy was born in 1969. He loved all of their children
He was such a wonderful father that the memories are too many even to outline.
The picture that emerges is that of a father who was always there for his kids. He changed over the years; with the older kids, he was more strict; by the time the younger kids came, he had given up, and they got nice and spoiled. When Linda was in Texas learning midwifery, there were times that the kids didn't go to school or Hebrew school because they didn’t feel like it.
Since he had been raised with nothing, he wanted his kids to know that they would never know that kind of life. When he took them on college tours, he might not have been sure how he would pull it off, but he always wanted them to have what they wanted. He told them that they should never discount themselves. He told them not to think about what they couldn't do, but about what they could do. He always took care of everyone. He spent everything he had on everybody.
When one of his kids was starting a job or in the hospital or needed another hand, he was there to babysit grandchildren or just be there. His kids talked to their father for hours, especially when they were stuck in traffic. You could be at the bar at 2am and call him. He was a great talker.
So many memories: Two cars with Walkie talkies on trips. Banana harmonica. Garbage food and soda when mom wasn’t around.
Of course, there were less than perfect moments. Teaching his kids how to drive was quite an experience for everyone.
He was an awesome skier; not.
He was Dad or Zaydee to a lot of his kids’ friends or grandkids’ friends. They thought Zaydee was his name.
He was so proud of his entire family: Jeremy, Joena, Rebecca and Russ, Joey and Jackie, David and Eden, Danyel and Ed and Rachel. He lived for his grandchildren – Tommy, Evan, Maura, Iris, Joshua and Gabriel.
Again, he came from a family without a father and look at what he became: A Patriarch, the head of a big family, the center of attention, sitting at the head of the table. Everyone waited on him. He loved hiding the afikomen at Passover Seders. He was in his glory when everyone was around
Ice cream was a big theme in Herb’s life. He thought it was the solution to many problems including sickness. There were Ice cream wars determining who could eat the most ice cream.
On our Israel trip, before we were even out of the shul parking lot, he was already late, we already had to wait for him, because he had left his camera at home. When we were in Israel, the common refrain was: “Where's Herb?”
He would say: “Patience is a virtue that I wasn't born with.” He was a funny guy and an active guy.
He loved sports. There were hockey games and
Yankee games. When he went to the Hall of Fame, he was like a little kid who knew all the old players.
He worked hard on the house. He was busy doing things on the weekends. He was always stacking and moving wood. He loved being out in the sun, baking.
He did the dishes but LInda had to do them afterwards.
He did crossword puzzles to the very end.
He was one of the most competitive card payers ever. He loved Pinochle and Setback. He loved video bingo at Foxwoods. At our Shul, he volunteered and sold tear offs at bingo.
There are certain things that I don’t want to mention, like when he had drinking contests at weddings and Bar and Bat Mitzvah receptions.
He enjoyed himself when he drank. But I won’t mention that.
It would be easy to keep talking, but here’s the point: Herb was a good man who worked hard and loved his wife and family. And this family has been there for him.
I would like to just say one more word and this is about Linda. People like me encouraged Linda to get more help during this last stage of Herb’s life, but she insisted that she could do it, and she did. But I just want to say to Linda that you’re more exhausted than you’ve admitted to yourself, and I hope that now that Herb is at peace, now that you were so superb in doing everything and more that could be done for him, maybe it’s time for you to give yourself a break. You were truly wonderful during all of this.
To Linda and the whole family, we wish you G-d’s comfort at this sad time. Always remember that you loved him and he loved each of you. He was a good man. May he rest in peace. Let is say Amen.