Who was Herman Mulman?
Herman was only one person, yet when you hear his life story, you'll swear he was at least seven men! He had broad interests and it's hard to fathom that anyone could do as much as he did in only one lifetime. Even one as long as his, nearly 88 years!
Born in 1917 to poor Russian immigrant parents, as a child Herman lived in the Jewish ghetto of Newark, NJ. He went to work at the age of nine to help support his family: his mother and father, his brother and sister and himself. After his father was killed in an accident, Herman became the main breadwinner of the family at age seventeen, and supported his mother until her death in June of 1963. He was also a championship athlete (football, handball and wrestling) and a very popular student, judging by the 171 classmates that signed his senior yearbook.
As an adult, Herman was a postal clerk who fought for his fellow union brothers, a real estate agent, an advertising specialties salesman, a devoted husband and father (to two sons and me, his adopted daughter), a political and environmental activist, an avid reader and an excellent Scrabble player. He loved to hike on volcanoes and at Joshua Tree. On one hike, he fell off a mountain and would have plunged to his death if it weren't for a concrete retaining wall which broke his fall (and 3 of his ribs).
Herman was usually kind to almost everyone, even strangers on the street or on the bus (which he rode to help fight pollution, using his own car only when really necessary). He seldom had a bad thing to say about anyone, except "bad guys" like the George Bushes (but that's another story for another day). He also did not tolerate BS from anyone and wasn't shy about letting people know it when he thought they were "full of shit."
Throughout his life, Herman had an infectious smile and many friends. He also had made some enemies however, as he was considered by many to be a "troublemaker." During his younger days, he fought for the rights of postal workers. During his senior years he was always marching in protests or going head to head with the City Council, where he would often hear the comment "Uh oh, Mulman's here."
In 1970, he lost his beloved wife, Etta, to cancer. Mom's death nearly destroyed him. I'll never forget how he sat alone in the dark mourning her. My parents had a good marriage and Mom "completed" Dad in many ways. Still trying to adjust to being a single father with an 11 year old daughter, on his 55th birthday, June 10, 1972, he retired from the post office having served 35 years, 10 months and 14 days of duty.
As Herman grew older, he fought for his fellow senior citizens. He ran for City Council and he fought City Hall. He wanted National Health Care for every American. He wanted our government to do right by its citizens whether they voted for the candidate in office or not. No special interests, just human interests. He wanted the things that make this world a pleasant place, such as jobs with fair wages, fun times with family and friends, clean air and water, freedom of speech and, most of all, no war.
Eventually, most of Herman's enemies had to admit that they really did admire his tenacity and unwavering convictions. And the way he kept them on their toes. He wouldn't let the "rascals" get away with any dishonesty and whenever a chance to right a wrong came along, he was the first guy there. He campaigned for every candidate he felt would make things better for us all.
During the final years of his life, his girlfriend, Lily Lyons, was placed in a nursing home. He worried about her constantly, visited her as often as he could and even spoon-fed her, although he was, in reality, more gravely ill than she. Despite everything, he never gave up on his ideals and continued to ride the subway to go to Downtown L.A. to the Bus Riders Union's meetings. Weak and ailing, he managed to attend the 2004 Christmas Party at Congressman Berman's office. The Congressman even sent a car for him and gave Dad the VIP treatment he so richly deserved.
For most of his life, he was so physically strong and so strong-minded that everyone thought that he certainly would live forever. He was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer in the early 1990's, underwent radiation therapy and beat the illness. Herman also had to have hip-replacement surgery a few years later. Then, in 2000, he was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure.
By 2001, it became apparent that his heart was having problems and he became prone to passing out. He totalled two cars in two weeks. One crash was extraordinarily bad. His car struck a telephone pole, then a fire hydrant. The car went airborne, flipped over and landed on the roof of a parked car! Yet he survived once again.
He fought CHF as long as he could, but it finally wore him down and his condition continued to worsen. He had to live in a Skilled Nursing Facility for the final two months of his life when it became impossible for me to continue to care for him at home. Right up until the day he died, he continued to receive flowers and Get Well Soon cards from his many friends, congressmen, house representatives and others who felt certain "the comeback kid" had one more fight left in him.
The battle with time is one that nobody wins, not even Herman, but sheer determination kept him here longer than all the doctors said he would be. I've learned a lot this past year, not just about my dad, but about myself. I think he gave me strength that I would not have had otherwise. In retrospect, I'm glad that Herman was my dad. I can honestly say he did more for me and loved me more than anyone else ever has. I was very lucky that he and mom picked an 18 month-old me to adopt that day in Nov 1962.
I am tremendously sad that he is gone from this world, but I am also relieved that his suffering is over. As always, he fought the good fight. I'm so proud of his dignity and sense of humor even when he knew "the end was near." He complained very little. He still worried about me and how I would get along without him. He even read poetry to me. Again. Just like when I was a kid. I think I'll miss that most of all. That and his smile and the way his blue eyes would twinkle when he would try to make me laugh.
By Doreen Mulman (Daughter)
Tuesday, March 22, 2005