Rich Herold, an athlete, hunter and small businessman who accrued a century’s worth of stories, died Friday at age 102 in an Omaha assisted living center.
“I think he just wore out,” said one of his sons, Lance Herold. “His clock ran out on him.”
Herold, who grew up in Plattsmouth and Omaha, was a baseball pitcher who was inducted 10 years ago into the Nebraska Baseball Hall of Fame.
He also played basketball and football and, after he became a senior citizen, began organizing softball games for older players. His son Bob coaches the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s baseball team.
Jim O’Keefe Sr. of Omaha, a friend of Rich Herold, said Herold kept playing softball in his 90s in informal games and practices at Churchich Park. “What a raw-boned individual he was,” O’Keefe, 74, said. “Boy, he was tough.”
Herold was quoted in The World-Herald in 2003 as saying that his temper as a boy and young man was so bad that he was “suspended for life” from leagues three times.
“My mother, though, was a wild woman,” he said. “When I got in a fight, she’d be out on the field swinging that pocketbook.”
Lance Herold said his father played against baseball greats Satchel Paige and Bob Feller. In the Army, he played for baseball and football teams in Fort Riley, Kan.
Then he was sent to the South Pacific to fight in World War II and saw heavy combat in island-hopping missions. His son said his father had his helmet and canteen shot off on the same day. He was hit by shrapnel in the legs and suffered the effects of malaria for years after fighting in the South Pacific.
Lance Herold said his father told World War II stories but remained haunted by the war. “He still had dreams about it” near the end of his life, Lance Herold said.
Herold loved to hunt and fashioned his own decoys from tires, pop bottles, cardboard and other items. Hunting buddy Bob Vincent, 65, said Herold insisted that duck decoys be painted black because he believed ducks saw those decoys better.
If a guy showed up with store-bought duck decoys that were the green and gray shades of mallards, Herold would call them “unpainted decoys” and want to paint them black.
He was tireless and didn’t mind below-zero hunting weather. Lance Herold remembered one frozen day in particular near Indian Cave State Park in southeast Nebraska. It was way below zero, his son said, “and we were out all day. ... And we got one rabbit that day.”
“He was the toughest guy I ever met,” his son said. “Good guy, but just tough.”
Herold didn’t go to college but learned how to install flooring and carpeting. He started his own linoleum business and retired at about 75, Lance Herold said.
“He was kind of a self-taught guy,” his son said.
His wife, Ann, died in 2002. They were married more than 60 years. He also was preceded in death by daughter Judy Jarolimek of Lincoln.
Besides Lance, his survivors include sons Richard, Bob and Kim Herold, all of Omaha, and John Herold of San Antonio; daughters Teresa DeHart and Ann Smith, both of Omaha; 19 grandchildren; and 33 great-grandchildren.
Visitation will take place from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday at Heafey-Heafey-Hoffmann-Dworak-Cutler Chapel, 78th Street and West Center Road, followed by a vigil service.
A funeral Mass will be at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday at St. Cecilia Cathedral, 701 N 40th St.