Journalist/activist/speaker Fred Herman died of kidney disease complications at age 84 on July 12, 2014 at Kaiser Hospital in Modesto.
Herman served the Modesto Bee’s editorial department for more than 30 years, focusing on community activities after his 1989 retirement.
Starting with the paper in November 1958, he wrote a local bridge column in the 1960s. He began contributing weekly film reviews in 1972 and became a full-time feature writer in 1977, retiring in March 1989.
Born in the Free City of Danzig (today Gdansk, Poland), he emigrated with parents to California in 1938, attended Berkeley schools, graduated from the University of California with a BA in journalism 1951, master’s in ‘56.
He served on US Navy cruisers in 1952-54, in combat in Korean waters as a petty officer journalist, with the Oakland Tribune, Berkeley Gazette, San Leandro Morning News, Army/Navy/Air Force Times in Germany and in public information for the National Safety Council.
He founded Stanislaus Connections, monthly Modesto Peace/Life Center paper, edited it ’89-92, and has written many commentaries since. He lived half time in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, from 1994 to 2000.
In tournament bridge, he achieved American Contract Bridge League silver life master rank, served on ACBL unit boards in 1963, 1988 and 2005.
He chaired the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Stanislaus County in 1980 & 1985, five times was a delegate to the denominational assembly (once representing San Miguel) and spoke on political, ethical and social issues at 40-50 UU services in California, Mexico, Hawaii and Mississippi.
He was the first full-term chair of The Newspaper Guild’s Modesto unit, AFL-CIO, in 1975, chaired the Stanislaus chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union in ’07, sat on the ACLU board since its formation in 2003.
He was on the Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury on 2002-3, Modesto City Human Relations Commission in 1988-9 and city Community Qualities Forum in 2001-4, boards of Friends of the Library, Stanislaus Memorial Society and Central Valley Democratic Club. He was on the first Modesto delegation to set up a sister city relationship with Khmelnitsky in 1987.
He has spoken to Modesto Institute of Continued Learning and in many classrooms. He belonged to Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Amnesty International, People for Choice (as a volunteer clinic escort for a decade), Planned Parenthood, National Organization for Women, PFLAG, Servas, peace, social justice and environmental groups.
He is survived by wife Mary Menz; son Ross of Modesto; daughter Susan of Stockton; stepdaughter Corinne Currier Lewis, Sacramento; adopted son Sean Kanousis, New York; sister Ursula Harris of Reno NV, seven grandchildren, a great granddaughter and many former stepchildren.
Memorial services will be at the UU Fellowship 2172 Kiernan Ave, in Modesto, Saturday, July 19 at 4 pm Gifts may be sent to the ACLU, UUFSC, Peace Center or any reproductive rights group.