Monday, December 19, 2011

Herbie Head Aug. 17, 1925--Dec. 15, 2011

Herberth Edward Head Jr.
1925 - 2011
Herberth Edward Head Jr. was born in Owensboro , Kentucky on August 17, 1925, the son of Herberth Sr. and Henrietta Lanham Head. Herb's younger sister Mary Inez joined the family in 1927. The Heads moved to Detroit in 1930.

Herb made the most out of his education, winning a four-year scholarship to DeLaSalle Collegiate, a prestigious all-boys high school. After graduating in 1943, he served his country in the Army Air Corp during World War II. Herb used the G.I. Bill to attain a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Detroit .

Herb enjoyed a 35-year career as an electrical engineer with the Fisher Body Division of General Motors, where he was known for his ability to work well with others and for his hands-on style.

Herberth married Wilma Louise Carrico on August 21, 1948. Herb and Wilma had five children: Herberth III, Kenneth, Jeanine, Sharon, and Kathleen. Herb was a wonderful husband and father. He loved Wilma, his wife of 63 years, dearly-and they were a great team. As a father, Herb was the kind of dad who played with his children on the living room floor, helped them with their homework, and taught them to do the right thing. He was a great teacher and wise mentor who used to quietly counsel his children, when they asked for his opinion, with the phrase, "I'm not going to tell you what to do, but here are some things to think about." He took his family on many travels, enriching their education.

Herb had a great love for the traveling railroad circuses of his childhood. By the time he was a teenager, he had built a miniature model circus. Herb spent decades crafting his Head Bros. Circus, a near exact replica of the Cole Bros. Circus of the 1930s and 1940s. He carved the human figures, built elaborately embellished and gilded parade wagons, and even sewed the circus tents on an old Singer treadle sewing machine. Over the years, Herb's one-inch to one-foot scale model grew to include 12 railroad flatcars (that carried over 50 circus wagons), 5 stock cars and 7 coaches.

Most of the year, the model circus was stored at Herb's home. But once a year, during the summer, Herb set the circus up in his Roseville backyard, assisted by his crew-first his wife, and then his children and grandchildren. "Circus Day" lasted all day-and unfolded according to the real life schedule of a 1930s circus. Herb's circus was also shown at Circus World Museum in Baraboo , Wisconsin , and the Ringling Museum of the Circus in Sarasota , Florida .

People who had worked on Cole Bros. Circus during the 1930s and 1940s said it brought tears to their eyes to see Herb's miniature version. Those who remembered a trip to the circus during their childhood in the decades before World War II were transported back to that time. Younger audiences enjoy looking at the amount of detail, from the three-ring circus acts in the Big Top and the animals in the menagerie, to the "behind the scenes" activities as the miniature circus workers "carry out" their tasks. To all who see it, Head Bros. Circus is a very memorable experience.

For 35 years, Herb played the America steam calliope in the annual Great Circus Parade held each summer since the 1960s in Chicago , Milwaukee , or Baraboo , Wisconsin . (The America is a historic 1903 circus parade wagon in which a steam calliope was installed during the 1930s. It is part of the collections of Circus World Museum in Baraboo , Wisconsin .) Herb also played The Henry Ford's John Robinson calliope at events in Greenfield Village during the 1950s.

Herb was well-known among the historic theater organ community of metro Detroit . He was one of those theater organ buffs of the World War II generation, who remembered-and then rescued--the pipe organs that had graced the grand movie palaces of their youth. Herb's was a mid-1920s Wurlitzer organ that came from the Roosevelt Theater on Gratiot Avenue in Detroit, which he then installed in his Roseville home in 1955. Herb has played many organ concerts throughout Michigan , and at the Al Ringling Theater in Baraboo , Wisconsin . His Wurlitzer pipe organ was recently donated by his family to a 1912 McGregor , Texas theater that is currently being restored to its original appearance.

Herberth E. Head Jr. passed away December 15, 2011, survived by his wife Wilma, children, Herberth III, Kenneth (Lisa) Head, Jeanine (Glenn) Miller, Sharon (Randall) Ward and Kathleen (Jeffrey) Berliner. Also survived by 14 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

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