Herbert Samuel Ernest was born in Detroit, Mich., July 26, 1920, to parents Semi Samuel Ernest and Lola Muller, immigrants from Alsace-Lorraine and Hungary respectively.
His family remained in Detroit through the Great Depression until 1931 when his father was appointed chef at the newly opened New Yorker Hotel in New York City. The family moved to Brooklyn where Herbert attended Erasmus Hall High School.
In 1941 he graduated from Cornell University with a degree in hotel administration.
He enlisted in the Army in July of that year just prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Because of his hospitality background, he was assigned to the Quartermaster Corps and following basic training, attended The American Institute of Baking in Chicago. His first tour of duty took him to Tunisia, North Africa where he commanded an African-American corps of bakers for more than two years. Later, with Mark Clark’s Fifth Army, he moved the 110th Quartermaster Baking Company to 13 different field locations in Italy where, as captain, he commanded 168 men and 48 ovens in a mobile bakery that churned out between 40,000 and 60,000 pounds of white bread daily, seven days a week.
At the end of the war, because of gifting local Italians a 55-pound sack of flour weekly, he was knighted as “Commendatore d’Italia” by King Umberto of Italy (who ruled for a brief 26 days and then was voluntarily exiled).
Despite contracting yellow jaundice which caused him to lose all his hair, he only recalled his war experience with enthusiasm for our county’s mission and his specific task at hand. He had the privilege of serving not only our veterans, but food and baked desserts to many military dignitaries and visiting entertainers, including Bob Hope, Lily Pons and Marlene Dietrich. He also met photographer Margaret Bourke-White, who perhaps inspired him in his own lifelong pursuit of photography.
Herbert served until 1950 with two promotions in that time to major and then lieutenant colonel. With many entertaining stories about his war years he always found a way to make the best of whatever he had and wherever he was, turning it into adventure.
While we often asked Dad to bake bread for us he said he only knew the recipe to make thousands of loaves at once. We never got to taste the magic baked by “the Captain with the cake,” as Ms. Dietrich once later referred to him.
After the war, Herbert moved permanently to New York City and where in 1954 he married Irene Barbara Buffalo, or “Buffy” as she was nicknamed. Daughter Lisa was born in late 1955, followed by Ethan in mid-1957 and Mark in early 1959.
Herb enjoyed a lifelong career in the insurance business, first as a salesman for Prudential and Aetna, and then later for Canada Life Assurance Company where he spent most of his time until he opened his own firm, the Herbert Ernest Corporation.
Forever an optimist, Herb was a natural born salesman. One of his favorite quotes was “No one has endurance like the man who sells insurance.” Forever energetic, Herbert never seemed to run out of ideas or enthusiasm for whatever he was doing. Aside from a growing family and business life, Herb had many other passionate interests: Citroën cars of which he was a connoisseur and devoted owner for decades, photography (he was never without his camera), skiing, biking plus anything and everything anything related to sailboats and yachts.
A committed New York resident, Herbert and family lived in East Side apartments until he purchased a brownstone on East 69th Street in 1966. This was an exciting chapter that continued for two decades until they relocated to Southold, Long Island at the end of the North Fork. In a bucolic area on Mt. Beulah Avenue, they undertook the large scale renovation of a landmark historic Georgian horse stable, turning it into a modern residence and private garden compound. Their final move was to Peconic Landing in Greenport, an assisted living facility very close by.
Buffy passed away in 2016 at age 89. Herbert is survived by daughter Lisa Ernest Mierop, son Ethan Ernest, granddaughter Emma Mierop and nephews Kenneth and Seth Shapira.
This is a paid notice.