Joseph Martin Hergert, age 79, passed away on January 16, 2016. He was born in Wilkes-Barre PA in 1936, and moved to Holly Hill when he was 11 years old. Joe graduated from Mainland High School in 1955, where he was an outstanding athlete, lettering in football, basketball, baseball and track. He was selected as Mainland's Outstanding Athlete by the Florida Sports Writers Assn. He was awarded a scholarship to the University of Florida and played four years for the Florida Gators football team and was co-captain of the 1958 Gator Bowl team. He was a versatile player and at different times played fullback, center, linebacker and kicker for the Gators. He was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the NFL and played an exhibition season under the legendary coach Vince Lombardi. He then joined the new Buffalo Bills football team in the AFL, where he played for two years as a starting linebacker and place kicker. Joe returned to Florida and joined the Semi-Pro Daytona Beach and Orlando Thunderbirds football team in the Southern Professional league as an assistant head coach and linebacker. He was selected as All-League Linebacker for four years. After that, he took a job as assistant football coach at Father Lopez High School and taught math and physical education. Then he became head football coach at Mainland Junior High School and taught physical education, general science and biology. After moving to Salida, Colorado, Joe secured the position as head football coach at Salida High School. He took a mediocre program, and under his guidance, led them to winning records for seven straight years including two state championiships. During that time, he became well known in the Salida community and received many honors such as Class AA Coach of the year two times, Salida Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year and Pikes Peak League Coach of the Year four times. During this period, he also obtained a MA degree at Adams State College in Alamosa, Colorado and served as activities director and assistant principal at Salida High School. Joe returned to Florida in 1990 to teach and worked as offensive coordinator for the Mainland High School football team and had a record that year of 10-1, which was the best record since 1949. He was offered a job as head football coach at Spruce Creek High School and worked at that position for 3 years, before transferring to Pine Ridge High School, where he taught physical education, before retiring in 1998. Joe made a significant impact on many young men over the years and he was rewarded by receiving moving letters of appreciation and recognition from many of his former players. One man wrote, "He taught us discipline, respect and a winning attitude, not just about football, he worked with everyone individually and didn't believe in a one size fits everyone approach." One of Joe's greatest passions was pigeon racing. He was taught the sport by his father when he was a teenager and practiced it for most of his life. He became very proficient in breeding, raising and the training of his birds, having produced many champion birds and had numerous trophies to show for it. His accomplishments gained national recognition in the pigeon racing world, including many awards from the Racing Pigeon Digest magazine and was voted into the Hall of Fame by the American Pigeon Racing Union. He was a past president of the Holly Hill Pigeon racing club and was a past president and long time member of the Deland Racing Pigeon club. He continued the sport until his health problems caused him to give it up. Joe enjoyed golf, fishing and hunting with his family and friends. He also enjoyed playing cards with his friends. Joe served his country in the Army National Guard for eight years. Joe was a proud member of the Ormond Beach First Christian Church, where he served as a deacon. He was one of those people who you enjoyed being around. You were drawn to his positive attitude, motivation, and acute sense of humor. He is survived by his loving wife of 22 years, Donna Hergert, Ormond Beach; his brother, James Hergert, Holly Hill. He is also survived by his son, John Hergert, Leadville, CO; his daughter, Anna Lea Hergert, Denver, CO; a stepson, Darin Peckham, Jacksonville; a stepdaughter, Deanna Peckham, Port Orange; and two step-daughters from a previous marriage, Elizabeth Bettridge, Denver, CO and Laura Thomas, Littleton, CO. He was a beloved Grampy Joe to ten grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. A Celebration of Life Service will be held at the Ormond Beach First Christian Church, located at 50 Seville St. at 2 pm on Saturday January, 23rd. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made in Joe Hergert's name to Ormond Beach First Christian Church.
Published by Daytona Beach News-Journal on Jan. 19, 2016.