Coping with Grief
We would like to offer our sincere support to anyone coping with grief. Enter your email below for our complimentary daily grief messages. Messages run for up to one year and you can stop at any time. Your email will not be used for any other purpose.
ATHOL- James (Jim) Herbert passed away peacefully on January 1, 2024 at the age of 76 in his home in Canton, MI, after a rapid decline with frontotemporal dementia. Born to Gordon and Judith Herbert on July 16, 1947 in Manchester, NH, Jim spent most of his life living in Athol, MA.
Jim graduated from Athol High School in 1965 where he was a beloved classmate and friend, and he went on to Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA. There he met the love of his life, Barbara, on the first day of classes Freshman year. They were friends for years before Jim agreed to be the date for Barbara’s sister, who was visiting her, and it was then that Barbara realized she loved Jim after being jealous of her sister all night. Later, after they were engaged to be married, Jim was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War, and they rushed to have their wedding before he left for training.
Jim served as a records clerk while in Vietnam in 1971. He was well liked and respected in his unit, and was affectionately known as The Herb amongst his Army brothers. He became mildly famous in Athol in 1992 when word got out that he had spent one night on lookout duty with Al Gore during his time in Vietnam.
When Jim returned from the war he was stationed at Fort Meade, MD, for the last year of his Army service. He and Barbara lived in Maryland for the next 9 years, where he earned a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Development, and held various jobs working for the U.S. Government. In 1981 they moved back to Athol, MA, and Jim took over his father’s business, Thompson Insurance Agency. In 1988 Thompson and Cetto Insurance merged to form Cornerstone Insurance Agency, where Jim was co-owner until his retirement in 2016.
Jim was deeply involved in his community. He was a proud member of the Athol Orange Rotary Club for 38 years, serving in multiple roles including president from 1989-91. Jim was involved in implementing the club's Lifeline Project, which provides local elderly and homebound participants with a sense of safety when home alone. He also organized the Adopt a Highway program for the club for many years. Jim and Barbara participated in numerous vocational and fellowship exchanges with Rotary's Group Study Exchange and the Bandy-Hefler British exchange, hosting many visitors from other countries. Jim epitomized a dedicated Rotarian, living the Rotary motto of "Service Above Self,” while serving his community with grace and dignity. Jim served on the board of directors for the Athol Credit Union for 27 years, and served on the board of the Athol Area United Way. He was also a member of the Athol Congregational Church since childhood.
Jim and Barbara spent over 53 years lovingly married, and they had one daughter, Bonnie. Jim was a devoted husband, father, grandfather, brother, cousin, uncle, and friend. He was wonderfully kind and charismatic, and he had a magical way of gathering friends about him. Jim was a master at maintaining lifelong friendships in a way that very few can do. While he was kind and genteel, he was also a self-proclaimed curmudgeon, a term that ultimately led to his grandfatherly moniker, “Mudgie.” He wore the term proudly, though only his closet friends ever saw this side of him. Jim had a wonderful sense of humor, lovingly picked on those he was closest to, and considered it an affront if he was not picked on in return.
Jim enjoyed traveling with Barbara, and among their many memorable vacations was a special trip to Australia to visit long lost family members from Jim’s family. He took a particular interest in genealogy and spent years doing extensive genealogical research of both his and Barbara’s families. His love of ancestry is what reconnected the families across the world.
Jim’s love for, and knowledge of music was unrivaled by most, and music was in every part of his life. This love of music connected him with so many others and was the beginning of many a friendship. He enjoyed attending concerts big or small, and collected thousands of records over his lifetime. For years Jim participated in the Athol Theater Guild, and acted and sang in the plays Annie, Oliver, Fiddler on the Roof, and The Wizard of Oz. He had a wonderful voice, and Bonnie has fond memories of him singing lullabies to her as a child.
Jim enjoyed bird watching since childhood, and was one of the founding members of the Athol Bird and Nature Club. He religiously put out food for the birds in rain, shine, or snow, and spent a good deal of time and money trying to thwart the local squirrels’ theft of his birdseed. One can imagine his joy when his granddaughter’s first word was “bird.” He was a lover of the history of the Quabbin and enjoyed spending time walking there, binoculars in hand. Jim loved playing bridge, trivia games, reading fiction, good jokes, spoonerisms, a good beer, and gathering with friends at home and at the local pubs.
Jim is survived by his wife, Barbara; their daughter, Bonnie (Aakash) Puntambekar; grandchildren Asha and Rohen; brothers Kirk (Pat) and Jeffrey; first cousins Jann, Cindy, Pamela, and Robert Jr; and many more beloved cousins, nieces, and nephews. He was predeceased by his father Gordon, mother Judith (Fradd), brother Gordon Jr, and cousin Rick.
We will love you forever Jim/Dad/Mudgie, although we know if you could say it again you would reply, “I love you more. The end. I win.”
Burial will be at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his name to: the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration, via TheAFTD.org; Athol Orange Area Rotary Club, memo Foundation, P.O. Box 181, Athol, MA 01331; or Athol Congregational Church Endowment Fund, 1225 Chestnut St, Athol, MA 01331.
Witty’s Funeral Home, 158 South Main Street, Orange, is assisting the family.
Guest book online at WWW.WITTYFUNERALHOME.COM