Dick Herndobler, a native Oregonian, longtime Ashland business owner, civic leader and combat veteran with nearly four decades of military service, passed away December 2, 2012, at age 90. He was an American patriot to the core.
Dick was born August 21, 1922, and grew up in Portland, Ore., one of two sons of Albert H. and Mary Jane (Knowles) Herndobler. He graduated Grant High School and Oregon State University with a bachelor of science degree.
While in college he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was later commissioned an officer in 1943. Trained as an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) officer, he served aboard six destroyer escorts on convoy duty in the Atlantic and Mediterranean where he taught the crews ASW tactics. He was on the bridge of the U.S.S. Fogg (DE-57) off the coast of Spain when the ship was torpedoed by German submarine U-870, resulting in major damage and killing 15 sailors. This event haunted him for years. Later in the war, he served on destroyers in forward areas of the Pacific. There he experienced the hell of kamikaze attacks near Okinawa, participated in the shelling of Japan in preparation for the planned invasion, and supported the Marines in China. He remained active in the Naval Reserve (29 years) and later joined the U.S. Army National Guard. At retirement, Captain Herndobler served 14 days less than 40 years.
After the war, Dick married Waunita J. Dye, in New York City May 8, 1946. Both grew up in the same Portland neighborhood and knew each other for 85 years. Like his father and grandfather, he started working in the retail home furnishing business in Portland. In 1949, he purchased J.P. Dodge & Sons in Ashland, located on East Main St. where Paddington Station is today. In the early 1950s, the store was renamed Herndobler's Furniture Co. He operated the business until he retired and closed the store in 1973.
Dick was a voracious reader and learner, had a strong work ethic, a good sense of humor and thoroughly enjoyed working with people. Over the years he was president and board member of many organizations including the Oregon State Elks Association, Ashland Chamber of Commerce, Ashland Rotary Club, Ashland Library and Ashland Community Hospital. He was an active member of the Ashland Elks lodge for 60 years.
In 1980, the Elks headquarters asked him to develop a national program that put the Elks' financial muscle behind community efforts to discourage illicit drug use, tobacco and alcohol among children in all 50 states. President Reagan appointed him to serve on his drug advisory council. He served in a similar capacity for Presidents Bush and Clinton. He retired (once again!) from managing the Elks program after 18 years of volunteer service.
Dick was very self-reliant, almost to a fault. For example, at age 80, he was discovered up on the steep roof of his cabin cleaning the chimney. He also loved music and managed a band called The Brass Buckle in the late 1960s. He led an interesting life.
He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Waunita; his brother and wife, Dr. Allan and Sue Herndobler, of Portland, Ore.; his boys and spouses, Mark and Donna Herndobler, of Medford, and Christopher and Yumi Herndobler, of Richland, Wash.; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
At his request no funeral or memorial service will be held. Burial is at the Eagle Point National Cemetery. Remembrance donations can be made to the Harrison Fund for College Scholarships, c/o Ashland Elks Lodge, 255 East Main Street, Ashland, OR 97520.