HERBERT CLAIBORNE LIGHTFOOT
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August 3, 1916 October 7, 2012
But what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads? - Albert Camus
Herbert Lightfoot died peacefully at home on October 7, 2012, surrounded by the deep love and care of family and hospice.
The youngest of four siblings, Herb was born in 1916 in Cumberland, Maryland. His family later returned to his father's ancestral area of Virginia, living in Petersburg and Richmond during most of his childhood. Following high school, Herb moved to Washington D.C. to work as an assistant treasurer in a bank and an editor of a bank periodical. While working, he attended night school at George Washington University, where he became a member of the Kappa Alpha fraternity. Herb later said that the strong foundation in math he got in college influenced his ultimate decision to become a real estate broker.
Immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, Herb enlisted in the Navy and was stationed in many areas of the world (including routes between Brazil and Africa) as a navigator. Because he was colorblind to blues and greens, he was assigned to spot enemy submarines from the air. Along with his crew, he received a Presidential Citation for sinking seven German Raiders (U-Boats) in the South Atlantic.
Retiring as a lieutenant after more than four years in the service, Herb was recruited by the home office of 20th Century Fox Films in New York City to be trained as managing director for film distribution in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. There he met Elizabeth Jessie Haddleton, Assistant Transportation Manager and "Miss 20th Century Fox 1946." Ten days later Herb was assigned to Fox's Argentina office; the pair corresponded for months, and finally Liz flew to Montevideo, Uruguay, where she and Herb married in1947, honeymooning at Punta del Este.
After an extended stay in Buenos Aires, the couple was forced by the dictatorship of Juan Domingo Peron to return to New York City. Herb worked for Paramount Pictures for a short period before he and Liz decided to head West in a "covered wagon" (a Ford woodie) to seek new horizons. After seeing much of the country, they settled in a new tract house in Van Nuys, where Herb established several real estate offices in the San Fernando Valley and devoted himself to his family and community work. Over the next twelve years, he and Liz had six children: Leighton, Allyn, Leslie, Philip, Louann, and Herbert Jr. ("Chip").
In time Herb would receive commendations for community service from Mayor Sam Yorty of Los Angeles, the California State Senate, and United States Congressmen James Corman and Barry Goldwater, Jr. In 1970 he received the Fernando Award recognizing his many social, cultural, and educational contributions to the progress of the San Fernando Valley. Herb served variously on the board of directors of Mid-Valley YMCA, Valley Presbyterian Hospital, California State University Northridge, and California Real Estate Association, and was on the advisory board to Memorial Hospital in Panorama City. He was also chairman of the Heart Fund, co-founder, charter president, and lieutenant governor of the Kiwanis Club, and president of the March of Dimes campaigns, American Cancer Society, Chamber of Commerce in Panorama City, San Fernando Valley Board of Realtors (and founder of its credit union), and Westlake Island Home Owners Association. As the oldest living broker in California, he was officially designated "Broker Emeritus" by Century 21. With his donation of his body to UCLA, his contributions extend to scientific research for Parkinson's disease.
In 1977, Herb and Liz moved to Westlake Village, where they lived happily for 35 years. Their extended family has grown to number over 30, including spouses, 11 grandchildren, and five great grandchildren. Dearly beloved by all, Herb treasured his family, friends, work, and
golf. (The son of a golf-course designer, in the course of his life he made three holes in onethe first at age seventeen.) Until recently, he was still golfing, walking five miles a day throughout Westlake Island, and doing twice-daily sessions of Canadian Air Force Calisthenics.
On April 17, 2012, Herb and Liz observed their 65th wedding anniversary. At his 90th birthday party, Herb ended his address to friends with a quote by John Lennon: "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." He invited everyone at that event to his 100th birthday party. Living to the age of 96 is every bit as great and joyous an achievement, which his family and friends now celebrate.
Published in Los Angeles Daily News on Oct. 14, 2012