Seated under a tent in his front yard Saturday afternoon, Paul Herberholz looked like he was holding court as throngs of well-wishers and admirers paraded in front of his Pfaffle Street home to pay tribute to his 100th birthday.
But Herberholz, who came out to Oregon when he was only 16 years old, took it all in stride, waving to those who drove by – most honking, yelling or stopping -- to honor a man whose daughter said his greatest attribute throughout the years has been the kindness he's shown to others.
Those paying tribute included the Washington County Sheriff's Department, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, the Tigard Police Department and a variety of supporters on motorcycles.
Seated underneath a canopy with his dear friend, Mary Stobbe, Herberholz was asked if he was surprised with the turnout?"Yes, although I've been around Tigard since 1936," he pointed out, pausing to talk with some of his grandchildren who had pulled up in front of the home he's occupied since 1955.
And how exactly does it feel to be 100?
"I haven't had time to feel it," he replied with a smile, later pointing out that he's made it this long mostly by "minding my own business."
Born and raised in North Dakota, Herberholz came out to Oregon when he was only 16 years old, arriving with his family in the Banks and Gaston area where they initially survived by picking fruits and vegetables until they could find a place to live, according to his daughter, Katherine Brunner.
"They came back out on the back of an old pick-up truck," said Brunner, a Hillsboro resident.
Brunner said her father enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1938 and re-enlisted in 1941. As a member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, he would end up building some of the first military runways in Alaska as well as airstrips in the Shemya, Attu and Adak islands. Herberholz would later serve as an interpreter for German prisoners during the war and was involved in the Battle of Leyte in the Philippines.
He would also be dispatched to Hiroshima after the atom bomb was dropped in 1945.
"He was there just a few weeks after the bomb dropped and their job was to secure and clean up," said Brunner. "It was tough."
When he returned from the war, he married Anna Wayer and the couple settled in Sherwood.
There, he joined the original Robin Hood and His Merry Men of Sherwood, the group responsible for starting the Sherwood Robin Hood Festival, which hit its stride in the early 1950s.
(In 2017, Herberholz, along with original Robin Hood members Don Scheller and Boyd Timbrel served as grand marshals of the Robin Hood Festival Parade.)
Over the years, Herberholz even brought his original Robin Hood outfit, which he began wearing in 1949, to the annual festival.
Moving to Tigard in 1951, Herberholz would train to become an electrician, working for Reiter Electric initially, then Mike's Electric in Aloha before eventually starting his own company, Herberholz Electric. He personally installed electricity to many Tigard homes over the years and the family were active members of St. Anthony's Catholic Church.
The couple would have four children. (His son, John, would die in 1996 and Herberholz's wife passed away in 2006.)
But that's all in the past, and for two hours on Saturday, the cars continued to drive by and wish Herberholz a happy birthday.
"I think this is wonderful," Brunner said of the car parade. "Even people that don't know him very well are driving by and waving and wishing him well."
Herberholz, whose actually birthday was Thursday, still cooks many of his own meals and has a penchant for German food. He admits to whipping up bratwurst only "when there's nothing else to eat," preferring instead to create his favorite dish, paprikash, a Austrian-Hungarian stew.
As more cars and friends dropped by, Herberholz continued to wave and smile, observing at one point, "This is fabulous!"
Asked to sum up her father's 100 years, Brunner observed: "He's done a lot in his life. I mean he's an amazing person. I have a hard time comprehending everything he's accomplished."
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