Dobbs Ferry, NY: My friendâ€”friend of manyâ€”Herb (J. Herbert) Silverman died at home Nov. 24 at the age of 89, after a long illness. Long a writer on wine, food and travel, always a ready wit, gentle soul and admirer of dry martinis, Silverman, began his career in advertising and publishing (now called â€œmedia,â€ but never by him).
One of that rarest and proudest of birds, the New Yorker native-born, Herb went from City College to the Air Corps in World War Two. After his service he worked for various publications and was adver-tising manager and promotion director of several CondÃ© Nast Publications, including Glamour and Vogue. He was also publisher of American Girl, the magazine of the Girl Scouts of America.
Many have â€œquit the rat race,â€ but not Herb; instead in his own words he â€œthrew off the corporate chainsâ€ and turned freelance. That was in 1972, just in time to catch freelancingâ€™s last decades as a gentlemanly trade. He was always modest, so it fell to others to tell me that Herb had covered the Iditarod, entered Russia from northernmost Norway and had a gun-point encounter with Argentine rebels who mistook him for a CIA agent.
He was a gentleman and a scholar in the days before that phrase became mere facetious window dressing. No meeting with him was ever quickly forgotten, for he left a savor, a long finish, if you will. Wit and hu-mor surfaced frequentlyâ€”along with teasing liter-ary referencesâ€”in his prose, which was graceful and gracious, as if when he touched the keys he con-ferred a blessing. I never knew him to utter a cross word, save on one occasion of extreme provocation: he had told a waiter his martini was not dry, and the damfool tried to tell him that it was. It was an instructive incident of the kind that has since be-come known as a â€™teachable moment.â€™â€
Herb always treated me as a comrade and an equal even though when first we met I was just a striving punk who was, as they say in Alaska, "still in wheel pants." In his last years, he missed many of the usu-al writerly events, so I’d call occasionally to catch up. Such was his gallantry then that he made noth-ing of his illness. Like all Americans of taste, Herb had the desire to be as well as the makings of an Italian. He didn’t make much of it but every so often it would come to the surface, as when with a puckish grin he’d say to me, confidingly, "I’m really Umberto Uomo d’Argento."
I knew him too short a time. I can only hope to be so well remembered
He is survived by his wife Betty, a son Braden Silverman and his spouse, Dr. Amelia Case, a daughter Nora Kinne and her spouse Aaron, and two granddaughters, Isabella and Sophia. He was predeceased by a son Wiley. A memorial service will be held at a future date. There is a on online guest book at www.edwardsanddowdle.com; log in, please, all who knew him, and say your fond farewell.
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