On December 18th, two months following his 100th birthday, Herbert Manning Heilbrun of Sycamore Township has “left the surly bonds of earth and is dancing the sky on laughter-silvered wings.”
Heilbrun lived all but 3 years of his life in the Cincinnati area. His youth spent in North Avondale would end up defining the last 23 years of his life. A lover of sports, Herb was a strong young man who spent a couple of years at Ohio State playing polo in the late 1930’s before Pearl Harbor changed the world. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps and flew 35 missions over eastern Europe earning the Distinguished Flying Cross for flying his wounded aircraft over the Alps and the Adriatic Sea and back to base with the lives of his crew in-tact.
Herb returned from the war in 1945 and embarked on a cross country trip in a Model T Ford. In the 1940’s after working for Wright Aeronautical and Lackner signs he was sales manager for WKRC and he then entered the real estate world where he worked for the next 30 years. He was named president of the Cincinnati Board of Realtors in 1970 and officed out of the Gwynn Building in downtown Cincinnati where he brokered shopping center, office building, theatre and other projects throughout southeastern Ohio.
A chance meeting in 1997 change the course of Herb’s life. At 77 years old, he decided to crash a reunion of Cincinnati Chapter of the famed Tuskegee Airmen. Since the Redtails flew protective air cover including missions defending Herb, he wanted to reach out and thank them for saving his “bacon” in the skies over enemy territory. Upon arriving, a young man pointed to his father, a Tuskegee veteran who also flew out of Italy. Herb introduced himself and a remarkable story unfolded. Not only did John Leahr fly protective cover for Herb on at least two missions, but they discovered he and Herb worked at the same place before the war. Most incredibly, when comparing notes on their upbringing, they discovered that they grew up very close to one another in North Avondale. Herb was a sentimentalist who saved everything and when he went to an old box of memorabilia, he recovered his 3rd grade class picture and beyond the greatest coincidence, found he and John were standing next to each other in the photo.
John and Herb became very close friends. They loved and respected one another and it showed in the numerous talks given to High School children, social organizations, corporate meetings and public interviews. They were honored with the Harvard Foundation Medal and were recognized with distinction by multiple organizations and municipalities. Herb was also elected to the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame in 2014. Black and White Airmen: Their True Story, a book written by John Fleischman, was released in 2007 covering this special pair of friends. The story was covered in national publications, NPR, The History Channel , Readers Digest and even in a piece by Tom Brokaw. Herb spent many Septembers as a fixture at Lunken Airport with his friends from the Cincinnati Warbirds signing books and meeting the public with the roar of B-17 engines in the background.
There were no strangers to Herb. He loved people and was rewarded with their love for him. His magnetic personality and quick wit drew in a variety of personalities. His world experiences introduced him to presidents, a Pope, Hollywood celebrities, champion boxers, Generals, Admirals and Indy 500 winners. Herb just made you feel better when you were in his company.
Herb gave his time to Charlie’s 3/4 House in Cincinnati. He was an advocate for recovering alcoholics having spent his last 38 years in sobriety. Friendships made through “the program” were some of his longest, closest relationships. He was an icon of the sobriety cause, merging his life experiences for the benefit of those in need.
Herb married Phylliis Dautch Juvelier, the mother of his two sons and stepdaughter, in 1957. After their divorce he met Carol Van Audall Thies in 1986 and they married in 1993. She was Herb's primary care giver and by his side and until his passing. They had a wonderful life together with friends and family in Ohio, California and Wyoming. “Herb-and-Carol” became one word. They had a special, tender relationship of great love and respect. Herb is survived by his wife Carol Heilbrun; his sons: Jeff (Tracey) and Doug Heilbrun; step-daughter: Susan Juvelier (Mark Houser); bonus children: Pam (John) Ford, Bill Thies, Christi Kettman, David Thies, Marni (Andrew Rakow) Thies, and Cari Kettman; 10 grandchildren, 5 great grandchildren and scores of Carol’s “Chids”. He is also survived by hundreds of “best” friends near and far.
A celebration will be held in the spring or early summer. In lieu of flowers, contributions will be graciously accepted by Honor Flight, Charlies 3/4 House and Hospice of Cincinnati.
The family wanted to thank VA Homecare, Hospice of Cincinnati and all of the wonderful caretakers that became extended family and their profound friendship.
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