Henry Herschel, a longtime attorney who was supervisor of the Lucas County Public Defender’s Office and known for encouraging young attorneys and helping the less fortunate, died Monday in Toledo Hospital. He was 72.
Mr. Herschel of Sylvania Township underwent quadruple bypass heart surgery on Nov. 29, said Pam Herschel, his wife of 40 years.
She said the surgery went well and he was recovering, but he suffered a complication. “It was unexpected,” she said of his death.
Mr. Herschel, who was known as Hank, began as an intern in the county public defender’s office in the 1960s while attending law school at the University of Toledo, and took a position in the office as an attorney after graduating in 1967.
Sheldon Rosen, who was then the chief public defender and supervised Mr. Herschel as an intern and staff lawyer, said he was eager to learn and willing to take on appointments in court.
“He was always comfortable with his work. He was motivated,” Mr. Rosen said. “Not only did he want to learn, but he wanted to put things into the practice of being a success.”
When Mr. Rosen left the office two years later to become chief prosecutor for the city of Toledo, Mr. Herschel was promoted to chief public defender. He is believed to be the longest-serving person in that position.
“He just loved being a lawyer and helping people,” Mrs. Herschel said. “He felt everybody deserved fair representation, and no matter what their situation, should have that opportunity. He believed very strongly in that.”
Paul Accettola began his career in law as an intern in the public defender’s office under Mr. Herschel and joined Mr. Herschel as a staff attorney in 1975. He said he was a patient mentor who encouraged and guided interns and young attorneys, giving them enough space so they could learn on their own, but stayed close if they needed help.
“He gave us just enough room to do it on our own. But he was always there to guide us if we were frightened or felt we were in over our heads,” said Mr. Accettola, a close friend and a partner in Mr. Herschel’s law firm.
In addition to supervising the public defender’s office, Mr. Herschel maintained a private practice, often handling divorce and dissolution cases in domestic relations.
“He was a judge’s lawyer. He understood the law. He understood the facts. He understood the complexities of the personalities involved. He did whatever had to be done to advance his client’s cause,” said Lucas County Domestic Relations Judge Norman Zemmelman.
“He had a good sense of humor. He understood how the process worked. He worked well with all of the other lawyers and in some very contentious cases. He was able not to get involved emotionally. He was an expert. He knew what he was doing. He represented his clients fully. We need more lawyers like Henry Herschel in the practice of law,” Judge Zemmellman said.
Mr. Herschel was born Feb. 20, 1941, in Germany, and lived in the country during World War II.
Mrs. Herschel said his father was a soldier in the German army, and he had an uncle who had left Germany before the war and fought for the U.S. troops as an intelligence officer. She said his father and uncle worked together to rescue their mother, who had been sent to a concentration camp.
After the war, Mr. Herschel and his parents immigrated to the United States, living in New York City and later Philadelphia. He was naturalized as a U.S. citizen on Flag Day at Independence Hall in 1960 after graduating from high school.
He graduated from Rider University in New Jersey and enrolled in UT’s college of law as a student in the program’s first class for full-time day students.
Mr. Herschel later became active in UT’s Alumni Association, serving as president of the organization for a time. He also was on the UT’s Foundation’s Board of Directors for nine years, stepping down in 2005.
He married the former Pam Anderson on July 28, 1973. They met about four years earlier on a blind date arranged by mutual friends for the UT homecoming dance.
Mrs. Herschel said her husband gave warm clothing to people he encountered in downtown Toledo who were in need of help or assistance, especially in the winter months.
“I can’t tell you how many times he would take a jacket or coat downtown and give them to someone in need, and not necessarily on the street,” she said.
In lieu of requests for monetary tributes to charitable organizations, the family is asking that people perform an act of random kindness to someone in need of help.
“We are doing this because of his experience as a public defender and his caring for people, especially people who needed help,” his wife said.
Surviving are his wife, Pam; son, Craig; daughter, Meredith Hustwick; brother, Michael, and three granddaughters.
Visitation will be from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday in the Walker Funeral Home, West Sylvania Avenue. The funeral Mass will be at 11 a.m. Friday in St. Patrick Historic Church.
Contact Mark Reiter at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6199
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