When my wife, Cathy, and I saw our friend, whom I always called "The General," about an hour before he passed away last Tuesday evening, we couldn't control our emotions. Tears were in our eyes - tears of sadness because we knew this was going to be the end of a long and wonderful friendship.
This great man, who had not only led but touched so many lives, also knew that he could no longer fight on. He had given it his best shot, and now he was worn out. I understood and accepted it, but it still hurt nonetheless.
Herb Werner had taken a chance with me many years ago when I was given the opportunity to write the results of the Altoona Little League for the Altoona Mirror. It was nice for a young teenager to see a byline bearing his name in the local paper. The same opportunity occurred many times when I was in high school and wrote stories about our basketball games. It was a learning experience that I'll never forget, have always appreciated and used quite often in my future years.
I got to know Herb very well while working for Penn State radio and television. Arrangements had been made for the late Ray Scott to broadcast Penn State on TV, and I had been assigned to be his spotter at every game - home and away. As a result, Penn State had assigned me a seat on the team plane and also asked this veteran reporter, Herb, to take me under his wing as we traveled with the Nittany Lions.
This went on for a couple of seasons, and Herb and I got along quite well. We never had an argument. We logged many miles together. The experience cemented a friendship that would last a lifetime. For that I am extremely grateful.
As the years went by, so many great memories were formed - on local golf courses, trips to Myrtle Beach, at high school football and basketball games, and even over a beer or two. In the past year, Tuesday morning breakfast at Tom and Joe's was a ritual for Herb, Dick Richards, Dick Wagner and me. At age 79, Herb was still mentally sharp, and we had some good discussions about sports, politics and the world. It was fun to listen to The General. Gosh ... I'm going to miss him!
In less than a month's time, Herb's physical problems worsened as he realized the doctors were right - his time was short. I remember he told me he didn't want the cancer to take away his lifestyle; he decided to keep going until he couldn't go anymore.
That's why I knew, when I saw him twice in the hospital last Tuesday, that he wasn't going to allow himself to continue with this painful battle with cancer. The disease had won, and The General had finally given up his fight. There certainly is no shame in that. He lived every day of his life to the fullest; we can all be assured of that.
General, all I can say is thank you for the strong influence you had on my life.
'He was always friendly'
Reading Herb Werner's articles and his ''Lookin' at Sports'' column was a must read for me all the way back to elementary school.
When my buddy, Tom Fanelli, and I were selected as sports editors of the Altoona Area High School Mountain Echo as sophomores in the autumn of 1964, I think we would have agreed that Herb had taught both of us how to be quality sportswriters - long before we enrolled in Betty Folk's journalism course.
I still have some of Herb's columns and articles in my sports memorabilia. My favorite is his ''Lions tame Tigers'' account of the Mountain Lion football upset of the fabled Massillon Tigers in 1966.
As a Penn State Altoona student in 1967, I remember how thrilled I was when Dave Kimmel hired me as a beat writer of sorts to cover basketball and baseball games at Ivyside Park.
In those pre-computer days, I'd hammer out the article and box score on my typewriter late at night so I could hand-carry it to Herb in his Green Avenue office before 7 a.m. He was always friendly and treated me like one of his top reporters.
Whenever I ran into him over the past 40 years, he always called me by name and gave me a warm handshake. I, like thousands of other central Pennsylvania sports fans, will remember Herb fondly.
Director of Public Relations
Altoona Area School District
'Tuesdays with Herb'
As a sports writer in Clearfield, I was a short-time member of the "Tuesdays with Herb" club editors and writers from central Pennsylvania who convened in the pre-computer era to exchange stories and anecdotes during football season.
There was always a lot of laughter over lunch, and Herb was the generator of most of it. He had a wonderful, infectious sense of humor and impeccable delivery.
But about his work, and the importance of getting it right, he was quite serious. He was a dedicated, community-minded newsman, and he set a splendid example for younger journalists.
Altoona was lucky to have him.
Press & Sun-Bulletin
'I owe him a great deal'
My friendship with Herb Werner began in the late 1950s and early 1960s when I was the sports editor of the Centre Daily Times in State College, and he was the sports editor of the Altoona Mirror.
Back then, sports editors from the Altoona Mirror, Tyrone Daily Herald, Lewistown Sentinel, Clearfield Progress, Lock Haven Express and CDT got together at the Autoport in State College every Tuesday for lunch during the high school football season to exchange pre-game stories, including statistics and coaches' quotes dealing with games covered by the above-mentioned newspapers.
The group also met at the Autoport in November, at the end of the season, to pick the annual All-Central Counties Conference team. Coaches and sports editors participated in the voting. Ideas also were exchanged with regard to compiling the top CCC players who deserved consideration for Associated Press and United Press International All-State honors that particular season. Names of worthy players also were considered for participation in the annual Big 33 game at Hershey and their names were forwarded through proper channels.
Less than an hour after attending Herb's funeral, my wife and I met Tom Templeton, a former Tyrone High football standout, at a local restaurant. We mentioned to Tom that we had just been to the funeral.
"I went to Herb's viewing Friday night," Tom said. "Herb Werner was greatly responsible for me getting a scholarship [to Penn State]. I owe him a great deal."
I enjoyed the many road games and bowl games with Herb when we covered Penn State football. In those days, the writers traveled with the team. Some flights originated on Friday and ended Saturday after dark at Black Moshannon Airport.
Looking back, I remember the expression on Herb's face during descent, because the concern was whether or not the deer population had vacated the runway.
To repeat what Tom Templeton said, "He was a great guy."
'Well liked and respected'
Herb Werner was an active and dedicated member of the International Network of Golf almost since its creation in 1991.
He rarely missed an ING Spring Conference. In fact, Herb took pride in always being the first one to register for every conference as soon as the entry form was posted.
Herb joined his fellow golf writers and golf business executives for educational seminars, networking sessions, product introductions and golf, and he always shared the information he learned with his readers via his golf column.
Herb served as chairman of the Dennis Walters Courage Award for ING for three years. The award is given to someone who has overcome great odds to participate in, and contribute to, the game of golf.
But most importantly, Herb was one of the most well liked and respected members in ING. His friendly demeanor and smiling face will be missed by all of us.
Executive Director, ING
Lake Mary, Fla.
'One of my favorite people'
Herbie Werner was one of the best and most courteous guys you could ever know.
Herb was a great friend of mine, and it's an honor knowing that. I was lucky I had the chance to golf with Herbie and Chris and Lou Kabello. Herb was the best with his sense of laughter, sensitivity and nobleness. He was one of my favorite people to be around because he always made you laugh and was always real upbeat.
I will miss golfing with him.
Gregory Ferguson Jr.
'Credit to his profession'
I was a 17-year-old high school graduate in 1952 who was hired as sports editor for the Tyrone Daily Herald that July to replace W. Paul Price, who was resigning to take a similar position for a paper in Florida.
I had been sports editor for my high school paper, the Tyrone ''Spokesman.''
Herb Werner was a linotype operator for the Herald then, and he helped me with making up headlines and always had friendly advice.When I told him in July of 1953 that I was joining the army, he mentioned he would be interested in sports reporting.
Shortly after I enlisted, he took over as the sports editor, and, as they say, the rest is history.
Herb was not only an excellent bowler then but also a good softball player in our Tyrone City League. We remained friends, and I often ran across him at the Bull Pen Lounge and at sporting events.
He was a credit to his profession, and the area sports world shall miss him.
K. Talmadge Cupp
'Local Jim McKay'
I have loved sports and newspapers all of my life, and that causes me to reflect on the passing of Herb Werner.
The past decade or so I have had the pleasure to have daily access to Herb. He was my personal and local Dick Schaap, Jim McKay or Beano Cook. He had great stories about games or people that he covered.
However, the refreshing thing about Herb was that he was so humble that he would only share them because he knew I was interested.
He never grandstanded about himself and thus not too many other people today knew about him or what he did for the Mirror.
He was a guy who was friends with Joe Paterno but was always interested in what I thought about Penn State football. Such humility in a true gentleman is rare, and his passing is a huge loss.
'Will hold a special place'
Herb Werner was not only a loving family member, he was a loyal friend and co-worker to all.
There wasn't a morning that went by that he didn't greet everyone with a smile. You knew when he was around, when the wonderful smell of his cologne breezed through the air and at least one person would say ''Herbie's here.''
He was respected by all.
Two years ago, my father was paralyzed in a lawnmower accident, and Herb knew what big fans our family was of Notre Dame. He came into work one morning and handed me an autograph photo with a personal message on it from Charlie Weis.
Herb always knew how to put a smile on someone's face. He would always attend Notre Dame's Blue & Gold game with a group of friends, and he would always bring the game-day newspaper back to me. The one thing that will always stay with me is the picture Herb took himself of the ''golden dome'' shining in the clear blue sky on the campus. It hangs in our home today.
All of us at Thompson Pharmacy will never forget the fun times we had with Herb at the summer picnics at DelGrosso's and the Christmas parties at the UVA.
Herbie always loved to dance, and he loved his Friday morning breakfast with his friends, Alex and Babe, and the rest of the gang. They were three peas in a pod.
They would always bicker at each other like they were brothers.
Herb never gave up. He fought until the very end with family and friends surrounding him.
He will always hold a special place in my heart, and his memories will live on.
Our deepest sympathy goes out to Virgie and the entire family. His memory will live on.
Roberta M. Burns
'Organized and no nonsense'
I met Herb while working at Thompson Pharmacy over eight years ago.
Even in his late age, he was one of the most organized and no-nonsense employees there.
He would run circles around the other delivery guys and was always letting them know what they could do to improve their routes.
With over a 50-year age difference he was one of my best friends at work. I looked forward to seeing him and enjoyed our little inside jokes. I left Thompson's in 2001 but kept tabs on Herb via other employees or through the guys at Value Drug who enjoyed seeing him when he came in to pick up various items for the pharmacy.
I think Herb touched more lives than he could possibly know, and he will be missed dearly by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.
My sympathies go out to his wife and children.