Herman Hubbard was a familiar face for anyone who walked the halls of Mattituck High School up until the early 1990s.
And if you ever shopped at Mattituck Plaza over the years, you might have seen him there too, broom in hand.
Mr. Hubbard, who died in his sleep of natural causes at the age of 90 Tuesday, lived a simple life with his nine children on Factory Avenue. He never sought the spotlight and his life was defined by hard work.
But one day after the custodian’s death, a memorial post on a Mattituck alumni Facebook page led to a response that might have surprised even the man himself. The post had hundreds of reactions and comments, with almost all of them referencing Mr. Hubbard’s signature smile and head nod.
“I’m just blown away by the number of responses,” said 1983 Mattituck graduate Susan Fisher, who has run the page for five years. “This is the most responses I have ever seen on a post.”
For 1996 Mattituck High School graduate Rob Hopkins, who said he befriended Mr. Hubbard in the halls of school, the response came as less of a surprise.
“I think most of the kids had a connection [with him],” Mr. Hopkins said, adding that Mr. Hubbard was quick to offer advice or lend a helping hand to students. “I can’t fathom that he knew just how important he was to a lot of us.”
Mr. Hubbard worked as a custodian for the Mattituck-Cutchogue School District from 1968 to 1994 and one of his daughters, Katherine Hubbard, said she believes he called out sick just once in that time. He’d help take care of his children during the day before working the 2 to 10 p.m. shift at the high school.
“My dad was always working,” Ms. Hubbard said. “We had to make him take a vacation.”
For many of those years, Mr. Hubbard also held a second or a third job, working at Wickham or Sidor farms, cleaning the Southold Presbyterian church or doing masonry work. He swept the parking lot at Mattituck Plaza well into his 80s.
“He used to leave when it was dark in the morning and come home when it was dark at night,” daughter Audrey Kaypak said. “The joke was that he didn’t want to be in the house with all of the girls,” she added, getting a chuckle from her sisters.
Mr. Hubbard had eight daughters and a son, William, who died in 1996. His daughters described their father as protective of them and they said he’d joke with his son-in-laws to be careful, warning them he was once a boxer.
“He would try and be tough, but he would never hurt a fly,” Ms. Hubbard said.
Her father was also careful with his money, wearing shoes with holes in them and saying they were “still good,” she joked.
But when it came to his daughters, they were never left wanting. His wife Thelma, too. Even after the couple separated, he’d still drop by her house for anything that needed fixing or to take out the trash.
“He was still doing things for her up until she died [in 2009],” Katherine Hubbard said.
Mr. Hubbard would lend his helping hand to neighbors too, his daughters said, telling them to just pay him what they saw fit. Ms. Kaypak said his daughters all inherited their father’s work ethic.
“He raised us to be strong,” said another daughter, Marie Hubbard-Brown.
Paul Demchuk, a longtime custodian with the district, said his colleague “never had a bad word to say about anyone.”
“He always had a smile like it was the best day of his life,” Mr. Demchuk said. “We’re going to miss him.”
Mr. Hubbard will be buried alongside his wife at First Presbyterian Cemetery in Southold along with the ashes of one of his granddaughters, Tasia Laksono, who died in 2010 at 15 years old.
Mr. Hubbard is survived by each of his daughters, 16 additional grandchildren, and 21 great-grandchildren.
His family will receive friends at the Horton-Mathie Funeral Home on Monday, Oct. 3 from 3 to 7 p.m. An 11 a.m. funeral service will be held the following day at Unity Baptist Church on Factory Avenue in Mattituck.