The storm hit just a week after his birthday. It would become known as the Hurricane of 1938, but to 10-year-old Herman it was just the scariest storm he had ever seen. The next day, he heard that an oil tanker had broken free from its moorings at Shell Oil and was high and dry on Riverside Avenue in Somerset. He and some neighborhood boys walked across the Brightman Street bridge and over to Somerset and touched the side of the ship. Alas, there were no cell phone cameras to record the moment, but the story is true, and it is one of many stories Herman W. Lapointe, Jr. liked to tell with a unique wit and uncanny recall for details.
He was intelligent, but not necessarily a stellar student. At one point during his junior year at Monsignor Prevost High School he quit, without telling his parents or the school – he simply stopped going. Herman’s father, whose formal schooling ended at the 8th grade, insisted that all of his children – Herman included – would get a high school education. Herman returned to Prevost and graduated in 1946. Another story to tell.
Upon graduation from Prevost, Herman joined the army and went to Japan as part of the U.S. Occupation Forces -- replacements for the older guys who had won the war. Herman and other Fall River men serving there at the time would remain close friends for the rest of their lives. His experiences in Japan and the army made for more stories.
Back from Japan, he was surprised to learn that the money he had been sending home to help the family finances was unspent, and had been carefully squirreled away for him by his mother. He bought a car. Herman’s younger sister, Helene, liked to go dancing at Lincoln Park ballroom. She would often prevail upon Herman to give her and some friends a ride home in his car, saving them all a long ride on multiple buses back to Fall River. One of Helene’s friends was a slim, red-haired beauty named Muriel Carr. After he met Muriel, Herman became much more interested in driving Helene and her friends home – making sure that Muriel’s house was the last stop. This courtship story was a favorite. Their subsequent marriage lasted more than 70 years.
Herman’s father encouraged him to take the civil service exam. He scored 110 (veterans were given 10 extra points) and decided to join the US Postal Service. Herman and Muriel were married on April 21, 1951 at Notre Dame church, and settled into a third-floor tenement with (only) cold running water. Suzanne, the first of their six children, was born in 1952 followed by Jacqueline then Colette.
In 1960, while working at the Flint post office, a businessman asked Herman if he might be interested in joining his insurance business. Herman loved to tell the story of how he started in business: taking classes at night and delivering groceries for Auclair’s Market to make ends meet. Three more children, William, Matthew and Elizabeth joined the growing family. In 1972 Herman bought the agency from the man who had hired him and The Lapointe Insurance Agency was born.
Eager to expand his business, Herman added real estate broker, real estate appraiser, and real estate investor to his repertoire. Stories, more stories -- about how he bought the family summer cottage on Common Fence Point (referred to, tongue-in-cheek, as “Lapointe Sur Mer”): When a bank hired him to appraise it and the buyer thought Herman’s price too high, the bank asked Herman if he was certain it was a fair price. Herman said, “absolutely, and if the buyer won’t buy it at that price, I will.” He did. Another great story.
In business, Herman was the original “networker” before “networking” joined the lexicon. As a realtor, Herman helped many people buy their first homes and on a few occasions quietly made-up a shortfall in a client’s down-payment. He was active in the Greater Fall River Board of Realtors and served as its President. He joined the board of the Durfee Bank & Trust. Always willing to lend a hand to help the community, he served as Chairman of the United Way, Chairman of the Greater Fall River Development Corporation, and volunteered for the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities and many other civic and community organizations. In recognition of his dedication to his community, Herman was named Fall River Citizen of the Year in 1975. Herman’s generosity and dedication to others continued in his retirement. Until the age of 91, Herman delivered Meals on Wheels to the less fortunate citizens of Collier County, Florida. He loved to hear the stories of the people he met through Meals on Wheels and he loved to recount those stories to others.
A welcoming and gregarious man, Herman loved entertaining, especially at the cottage. It was common for fifty guests to show up for a Fourth of July clam boil. Herman loved the summer clam bakes and Labor Day rock crabs. Herman and Muriel’s Christmas parties were legendary – stories told, and stories made. He loved his family and he loved his friends.
Herman’s adventurous spirit, traceable to that 10-year-old’s 3-mile walk to see the stranded oil tanker, developed into a love of travel. He made friends everywhere he went. In the early 70s, he and Muriel visited Herman’s sister, Harriette, a Dominican nun posted to Burkina Faso, in west Africa. Herman loved to tell the story about the African chief he met living in a mud hut who listened to the BBC on a small transistor radio. The Chief told Herman, “Nixon should resign. That would be best for your country.” Herman and Muriel would visit Europe, Russia, China, Scandinavia, the Galapagos Islands and many other places -- so many stories.
A devout Catholic, Herman attended mass daily for most of the later years of his life. His friends from St. Louis de France in Swansea and St. Christopher church in Tiverton were great companions and the Church was a source of great strength and constancy throughout his life. He went on several mission trips to Honduras, helping who he called “the poorest of the poor.” He was a Eucharistic Minister at St. Christopher church in Tiverton and San Marco church in Marco Island, Florida. Herman was a generous donor to Catholic Charities and other Church-related organizations.
Not a strong swimmer, Herman nevertheless took up sailing late in life and loved being on the water with friends and family. In his later years, he loved sitting on “Pepere’s Deck” at the cottage, watching the endless parade of boats passing by Common Fence Point, with fifteen grandchildren and thirteen great-grandchildren all around him, laughing and playing. And oh, the stories he would tell sitting on that deck!
Herman W. Lapointe, Jr. passed away at age 93 on September 17, 2021.
Besides his wife of 70 years, he leaves children, Suzanne Imbriglio and her husband Thomas, Jacqueline Etter and her husband Daniel , Colette McKeon and her husband William, William Lapointe and his wife Donna, Matthew Lapointe and his wife Kristen and Elizabeth Maxim and her husband Douglas; grandchildren, Adam Imbriglio (Crystal), Andrew Imbriglio (Courtney), Timothy Etter (Julie),Justin Etter (Colleen),Kaitlin Silvestre (Greg),Kristen Whittle (Scott),Caroline McKeon (Jeffrey),Luke Lapointe (Amanda),John Lapointe (Nicole),Benjamin Lapointe,Michael Lapointe, James Wood,Lindsey Wood-Kochman (Justin),Dillon Wood,Kristin Riordan (Kevin),13 great-grandchildren, siblings, Marie Helene Lapointe, Sister Marie William Lapointe, OP, and Jeannette Iwanski. He was the brother of the late Therese Lussier and Paul Lapointe and the son of the late Herman and Odila (Labrie) Lapointe.
A visitation will be held Tuesday, Sep.21, 2021, from 4:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. at the Auclair Funeral Home, 690 So. Main St., Fall River. His Funeral Mass will be held Wednesday, Sep. 22, 2021 at 10:00 A.M. at St.Christopher’s Church, Main Rd. Tiverton. Meet directly at church.
Burial will be private. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Rev.Thomas Carroll, The Piarist School, P.O. Box 369 7279 S KY Rt 321, Hagerhill, KY, 41222.
Online condolences at AuclairFuneralHome.com.
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