Monday, April 7, 2014

Herman "Humpsie" Finkle, 1924-2014

I lost a friend yesterday. Herman "Humpsie" Finkle passed away last night. He had turned 90 less than a month ago. I first met Herm in 2010. He was a good friend of Andy Greener, whose grandson played baseball with my son at Hopewell Valley Central High School. Andy coached baseball at Ewing for many years and had been drafted by the Dodgers in the 40's. Sitting and watching baseball games with Andy was always a pleasure, for his insight and understanding. One night, I told him about the Trenton Jewish Project and he told me about his friend, Herm, who had grown up on Lamberton Street and had worked at Ewing High as a guidance counselor. Andy played golf with Humpsie and two other guys on a regular basis.   He said we should meet. 

On December 20, 2010, I arrived at his apartment and I interviewed him for about an hour. He was thoughtful, funny and just a joy to be around. We met several times after that for lunch. He was an easy person to talk to and he always had a good story to tell.    

Maxine, his niece, sent out an e-mail last week, saying that Herm would be moving to a nursing home in Pennington. It was right across the street from my office. I looked forward to going over there for lunches with Herm. He never made it there. He took a turn for the worse and passed away last night.
When I started working on a "trailer" for the video that I would like to produce about "Jewtown", Humpsie was an integral part.  His stories were crisp and funny and he was endearing the way he told them.   Here's an earlier post of the TJP with the earliest cuts of the documentary, which I still would like to make one day.   I am posting a number of excerpts here of the interview I did with Herm. This one is about how he would like to be remembered. Rest In Peace, my friend.

Everyone in Trenton in the day had a nickname and Herm was no different.   Many times, the nicknames sounded nefarious, but from what I've come to understand, most came by their monikers innocently enough.   That's the case with Herm, who explains where his came from.

Herm talked about his family and about how he came to Trenton.

One of my favorite parts of the interview was when Herm talked about one of the local restaurants, Benny Hock's.   I had heard stories about the place from Sylvia Schultz and Mark Litowitz, but Herm's description of the place and the man made me wish I was about 20 years older.   I've asked other people about Benny Hock and they all say he was a character.   I'd love to find a picture of him and his restaurant.   This guy sounded like the Seinfeld's Soup Nazi, way before his time.

Herm's niece, Maxine Valunas tells me that the funeral will be tomorrow, on Tuesday, April 8th at 11am  Update--Herman Finkle's funeral will be at Orland's in Ewing on Tuesday at 2pm.   

Rest in Peace, my friend.