By BONNIE GRAHAM
Ocean Grove’s Herbert Herbst, who spearheaded the massive renovation of the dilapidated and historic Neptune High School, located at the intersection of Main Street and Main Avenue, into the fully functional Jersey Shore Arts Center in Ocean Grove was remembered on Sunday afternoon with a “celebration of life” program and repast.
The program, held in the center’s auditorium, included formal acknowledgements from Neptune and state elected officials, several Power Point slide presentations with an abundance of photographs of the Herbst family and friends, the restoration of the JSAC, the Ocean Grove fishing pier, and other local activities, musical selections, tributes and stories from the audience, and plenty of smiles, laughs, and tears.
Neptune Township Deputy Mayor Nicholas Williams read a proclamation from Neptune Township Mayor Dr. Michael Brantley which included a synopsis of the journey Herb undertook as he formed and led the Ocean Grove Historic Preservation Society in the restoration project. Among the points mentioned were Herbst working with the late State Senator Joseph A. Palaia (R-Monmouth) in securing title to the building from the Neptune Board of Education in 1997, with the purpose of transforming the structure into a place for education and the arts.
Neptune Township Committeeman Robert Lane said, “Herb had a vision, and his legacy will live on.”
Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling (D-11 District) expressed his appreciation for Herbst’s work on the JSAC. He said he was a graduate of that school and that the school “looks a lot better now than when I was a student there.” He said, “Herb was a visionary man, and he had a great love for the township.”
A tribute video by Heather Wanner and the Shoreline Dance Academy, whose home is at the Jersey Shore Arts Center, was shown.
Several musical selections were presented, including tenor Theodore Chelstos’ rendition of “The Impossible Dream” to a slide show of views of Herb with then-Governor Christine Todd Whitman and State Senator Palaia, the Ocean Grove Fishing Club with “Restore the Pier” signs, and numerous family photos. He also sang “My Way.”
Herb was remembered by numerous family, friends, and neighbors as man who loved his family and community, and someone who considered the staff and tenants of the JSAC as his family. Many of the JSAC’s current tenants – including artists, writers, and dancers – paid tribute to Herbst and expressed their appreciation for having this facility as their venue.