We'll Miss You, Joe!

Earlier this evening, Joe Herzenberg passed away at UNC Hospitals. Joe had been in failing health for some time.

This is a very sad moment for those of us who worked closely with Joe through his Chapel Hill political career in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Sadder still for those who remained close to him until the end.

For newcomers who did not know Joe, there was a time when he was the standout progressive leader on the Chapel Hill Town Council, a strong neighborhood advocate and civil libertarian. He was highly popular, the top vote-getter in 1991, and considered by many at the time to be a likely mayoral candidate.

As wikipedia summarizes it, "Herzenberg was narrowly defeated in a 1979 bid for the Chapel Hill Town Council, but was later appointed to the town council when council-member Gerry Cohen stepped down following a failed bid for mayor. Herzenberg lost his reelection bid in 1981, but he returned to the council in 1987 and was reelected with overwhelming support in 1991."

But Joe was best known as the first openly gay elected official in North Carolina. Next Saturday, Equality NC (of which Joe was a founder) was set to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Joe's 1987 election at the Equality Conference & Gala.  
Joe was also a mentor to younger political leaders, gay leaders like Mike Nelson and Mark Kleinschmidt, but also straight leaders like Mark Chilton.

Through the years, Joe always had a keen eye on local politics and freely shared his insights with those with the good sense to ask. I will remember his warmth, his sense of humor, and his friendship.



I clipped this from an email Kathie Young just sent me (she asked me to post):

A memorial service for Joe Herzenberg will be held Thursday, November 15, 2007 at 10:30 a. m. at the Chapel Hill Kehillah, 1200 Mason Farm Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, with Rabbi Jennifer Feldman officiating. Funeral will be in Franklin, New Jersey and burial will be in North Church cemetery in Hardiston Township, New Jersey.

His”Chapel Hill Family” will receive friends from 11:30-2:00 November 15, 2007 at Margaret's Cantina where a light lunch will be served and there will be time for sharing stories and memories of Joe.

Thank you, Gerry. I used to see Joe at Margaret's all the time. I'm sure he would love to know we were eating such delicious food in his honor.

I especially remember Joe's postcards. Long after email was invented, he kept buying those plain postcards from the post office and sending out quick written reminders of BoR Day at the Post Office and other events. They were little treasures that arrived in the mail, artifacts from an earlier time.

I agree with Diana's suggestion that Joe's name should be added to the plaque in front of the Post Office.

-- ge

I remember Joe so well from the early days in the formation of what is now MeckPAC. He was one of the first openly gay elected officials I had met in NC, and that was really inspiring and motivating, as I was just then starting out a career with the City of Charlotte. To think that I could one day have leaders here that might be as sensitive and thoughtful as Joe kept me going. And Joe kept us all going at Equality NC, through sometimes rough times when his reasoned perspective would carry the day. A great man, missed by many, including me.

Joe was one of the people who helped define the best of Chapel Hill to me.

Whenever I would bump into Joe, or when he would come to local events put on by People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, where I work, he always had something nice to say, always a word of encouragement. When our office was located on downtown Franklin St. he once told me that he was proud that it was located in his neighborhood.

Joe's gentleness, his kindness, his sincerity, and his wisdom and support meant a lot.

When I think of Joe, I feel inspired to try to do more. He empowered by his example.

Everlasting peace to you, Joe.

Erik Ose has an extensive post on Joe worth reading,
including photos and political history (including that Joe was my campaign manager in 1973)

I've added a bunch more links to my blog entry on Joe:

As a Chapel Hill native, it's impossible for me to think about my childhood without thinking about Joe Herzenberg.

I grew up in Chapel Hill near Cobb Terrace, and Joe, Lightning and my parents became friends over historic preservation concerns, as well as progressive politics. We often ran into each other walking in downtown Chapel Hill, and my mom and Joe and Lightning would vent about the latest Reagan-era outrage. I don't know when I first asked Mama about Joe and Lightning's relationship, but even as a young girl it was clear to me how much they adored each other. They were the first out gay couple I ever knew, and looking back I realize how much they touched my life with their honesty and passion for justice.

To Joe--thanks for being yourself. You were a role model for a lot of queer kids (and grown-ups) around here. I know my queer family lives better in this town because of you.

Elizabeth Waugh-Stewart

Hello Folks

If you'd like to send in any thoughts or stories on Joe to The Citizen, we'd like to print them.

I'm at editor at carrborocitizen dot com



I just spoke with Audrey Krakovitz, at the CH Kehillah, and she confirmed that the service for Joe is at 10:30 a.m. on November 15. It was incorrectly reported in one of our local papers as being at 10 a.m.

She also urged people to carpool or take the bus and walk as there is very little parking at the Kehillah.

At the annual meeting of the CH Downtown Partnership last night, Mayor Foy spoke about Joe and his love and concern for downtown; it was a very nice tribute to Joe.
Linda C.

In last Tuesday's election, according to my source, Joe Herzenberg received 1 vote for Chapel Hill Mayor and 2 votes for Chapel Hill Town Council.

What a grand tribute to Joe! More than anything that was said on this blog, more than any eulogy, more than any memorial, Joe would have l-o-v-e-d knowing that folks cared about him enough to write in his name last Tuesday. So, whoever you all were...thanks!

One of those was me. I have a long-standing tradition of writing Joe in when I don't feel strongly enough to cast a vote for or against the other options. http://www.flickr.com/photos/rubyji/1919976802

reminder: Joe's memorial service is 10:30 am today, Thursday, November 15, Chapel Hill Kehillah, corner of Mason Farm and Purefoy Rds. Parking is limited, those driving are encouraged to park at UNC Hospital's Dogwood Deck two blocks away

I knew Lightning better than Joe until we moved to Carrboro in 1992. My office was on Rosemary around the corner from his house, and we met on the street frequently. When Wendy and I filed our domestic partnership agreement in 1994, Joe took great interest in us. He would greet us so enthusiastically, although he seemed to enjoy needling me a little (he was always sympathetic to Wendy for being seen in public with me).

Most recently, I have known him as a customer. He was always happy to see his dinner arriving, and tipped quite generously. We will all miss him.

I was so sad to have to miss the service for Joe today as I was out of town. Joe was a near constant presence in our house on Cobb Terrace when Scott and I and our children were there in the late '60s to late 80s. Much has rightly been said about Joe. I want to add his more or less recent love of penquins. In recent years be became enchanted with them. As many have mentioned he was famous for his postcards. I took the opportunity to send him a few of penquins. He did so much for so many when he was able. Rest in peace, Joe. I will miss you. Marcia

I thought you all might like to know that last night Joe Herzenberg received a Goodman Award for his leadership in the Triangle. This is the first time the award has been awarded posthumously. It was a very nice ceremony at which Joe's role in history as NC's first openly gay elected official was acknowledged. Emcee Deborah Morgan read a wonderful tribute to Joe and how his election changed the Triangle and the State of North Carolina.

For more, check out the post on my blog "Leading from the Left" at www.electmikenelson.blogspot.com.

This afternoon the CHPL had a "mini book sale" in the lobby. When I arrived, I immediately spied a copy of the late Harvard Historian Frank Freidel's "Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Rendezvous with Destiny." There were several other presidential biographies and at $1 each, they were a really good deal.

When I got them home, I opened the Freidel book and on the front piece, it read, "Joseph Herzenberg, 6 Cobb Terrace, Chapel Hill, January 1, 1991."

What makes this even more significant was that in 1996 or 1997, Joe and I had a long conversation at the library one day about FDR. Joe had studied his position on civil rights and believed that they were great examples of the politics of expediency.

I knew from being on the Library Board how much he cared about our library. He supported the Friends and the Foundation when it was established. He also supported the bond to build the addition.

His grasp of American history and his generous support of our library made him a very special citizen.

Facebook just suggested I add Joe Herzernberg as a friend. Quite ghoulish.

That is a front for Erik Ose, I am pretty sure.  No ghoulishness intened, I am sure.

Mark is basically right, in that I set up a FB page for Joe a year and a half or so ago.  First, because I thought it would be cool to have him as a FB friend, and secondly, to let people know about the blog remembering Joe’s life and times:




Ruby pointed out to me after the fact that technically it should be a fan page, but by that point, lots of people who knew Joe had signed on as friends, so I kept the page up and still update it occasionally when Kathie Young asks me to post something.


By the way, Ruby, is it possible to add JoeHerzenberg.org to OP's local blogroll?


- Erik :)

My Facebook friend request to "Joe Herzenberg" was approved this morning


One of thousands who literally put their lives on the line.

Joe Herzenberg, Mississippi Freedom Summer, 1964.

Thanks, Mark

great pic.  I wish I could have known this man, sounds like he had a very admirable strength of character.

Joe and 8 other activists are being honored Sunday (Sept 20) with the dedication of a plaque by the Town of Chapel Hill at the Peace & Justice Plaza (in front of the CH downtown post office). 3pm.Come out and honor Joe and the others!  



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