May 4, 1932 – June 21, 2018
When Herbert L. Zimmer was 7 years old, his father saved his family.
Julius Zimmer was a professor who spoke seven languages. So when the Nazis began their attacks against Jewish residents of Germany, he was targeted. From his home in Schmieheim, Germany, he was taken into custody. Family lore says that could have happened on Nov. 9, 1938, known as Kristallnacht, or the "Night of Broken Glass," when Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues were attacked and many young Jewish men were arrested.
Julius Zimmer was taken to a camp, possibly Dachau, and when he somehow got free, he returned home, gathered his wife, Lena Schwab, her stepmother and his son, Herbert, and left for Buffalo where other family members had come and settled. His three brothers and their large families stayed behind, and all were lost to the concentration camps, except for two little girls who were spirited to France and sheltered in a Catholic convent.
In Buffalo, the small Zimmer family were strangers. But they were safe.
Mr. Zimmer, known to his many friends as Herb, died on June 21 at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital after a short illness.
Due to his father's action, Herbert Zimmer led a long and productive life. He served in the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army, rose to be a vice president at Marine Midland Bank, and was a devoted husband, father and grandfather to eight.
After the family arrived in Buffalo, Herbert Zimmer attended local schools, graduating from Lafayette High School. In 1954, he graduated with honors from the University of Buffalo School of Business Administration with honors. He pursued advanced studies and taught at the university while holding a teaching fellowship.
In 1957 he joined the U.S. Army, and while stationed at Fort Benjamin Harrison, outside of Indianapolis, he met a woman named Gayle Landau. They married in 1960.
He was called back to active duty in 1961 during the Berlin Crisis and was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., with the 82nd Airborne.
In the early 1960s, Mr. Zimmer began an entry-level job in the Trust Department at what was then known as the Marine Trust Company of Western New York. In 1972, the year the bank moved into the new Marine Midland Tower, he was appointed vice president of Trust and Estate Administration for the Western New York region.
Mr. Zimmer handled federal and state estate and fiduciary income tax matters, and he lectured extensively to professional groups statewide. He was past president of the Financial Planning Counselors of Western New York, a member of the Rotary Club of Buffalo and the former Montefiore Club of Buffalo.
At home, both he and his wife, who taught ballet and especially enjoyed teaching young girls who had physical or emotional problems, emphasized education to their son, Gregg L., and their daughter, Wendy E. Both their children are now physicians.
"My parents made a big deal of education," said Dr. Wendy Zimmer. "My father worked at Marine Midland, but they weren't rich. Yet he insisted that we went to private schools, and my brother and I both went to private colleges."
The Zimmers began a new life when he retired on June 25, 1991. They traveled extensively, enjoying Caribbean cruises. He cultivated a vegetable garden, often sharing his overabundance of produce with his family and many friends and neighbors.
He also developed a keen interest in photography. His eight grandchildren were his favorite subjects, his family said.
One of his favorite photos was taken in 1989 at his daughter's graduation from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. In the photo, Wendy Zimmer holds her year-old daughter Ali while receiving her doctor of medicine degree.
Mr. Zimmer promised Ali that he would take a similar photograph of her at her graduation from the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. He was able to fulfill this promise on May 4, 2018, which was also his 86th birthday; the two are shown together at her graduation in the accompanying photo.
The Zimmers were married for 53 years before Gayle Zimmer's death in 2013.
Mr. Zimmer's parents, Julius and Lena, eventually visited Switzerland, which is close to their hometown in the southwest corner of Germany. Although they then began to visit Switzerland annually, "They refused to go to Germany," Wendy Zimmer said.
A few years ago, after Gayle Zimmer's death, Wendy Zimmer invited her father on a family trip to see his hometown, "which is a really beautiful place," she said. "He said, 'I really have no desire to ever go back to Germany.' "