Joseph Herberger “Joe”, age 89, died Monday May 9th at Swedish Medical Center in Englewood Colorado after complications from a recent fall. He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Geraldine “Gerry” Herberger, his son Paul Herberger and daughter Mary Herberger. He is preceded in death by his father Joseph Herberger, his mother Mary Herberger and his brothers John and Robert Herberger. Funeral Services will take place at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Denver on Thursday, May 19th at 10:00 AM. Food and refreshments will follow from 12:00 to 1:30 PM at the Horan & McConaty Funeral Home 3101 S. Wadsworth Blvd, Lakewood CO. Burial services will take place at Fort Logan Cemetery Wednesday, May 25th at 10:15 AM. For those who would like to attend the shelter service, please be at Fort Logan Staging Area C no later than 10:00am. Donations in Joe’s memory can be made to the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.
Joe was born in Denver amidst the Great Depression; the son of an ornamental iron worker and a busy mother already taking care of two sons. He attended St. Francis de Sales grade and high school where he made many life-long friends. After graduating, Joe attended Colorado State University pursuing a degree in Zoology. His college studies were postponed when he volunteered to serve in Korea as a member of the US Army Artillery from 1951 through 1953. Upon returning from Korea, he continued his college studies and met his future wife Gerry, a professor at CSU. He graduated from CSU with a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology in June of 1956.
Joe married Geraldine on August 21st 1956 in Madison Wisconsin, not far from her birthplace. With zoology job prospects poor, Joe and Gerry moved to Wisconsin so that he could pursue a degree in dentistry from the University of Marquette in Milwaukee. In July of 1958 his son Paul was born and despite the demands of a young family, Joe graduated with honors from Marquette in June of 1960. Although Gerry hoped to stay in Wisconsin, Joe, Gerry and Paul returned to Denver to start Joe’s dentistry career. He opened his dental office on south Logan Street with no patients and a hungry family to feed. His love of Dentistry, attention to detail, a commitment to perfection and the God-given ability to show compassion to his patients resulted in many new patients hearing about him from word-of-mouth.
In June of 1961 his daughter Mary was born to complete the family. With his business slowly growing, Joe and Gerry bought their first home in the Bonnie Brae neighborhood. Joe’s widowed mother Mary also moved in with them and it was a two-Mary household for many years. Gerry’s widowed father William moved in shortly thereafter and stayed there until his death not long afterwards. Naturally, Paul and Mary attended the nearby St. Vincent de Paul School and completed all 8 grades.
In 1968, at Gerry’s urging, Joe and Gerry purchased a small cabin in Jefferson County. Gerry thought it would be a good place for Joe to relax. However, “relax” was not a word in Joe’s vocabulary and he undertook many improvements to the property. As a result, the family entertained many friends and family who partook in hiking, fishing, horse-shoes and cook-outs. The kids enjoyed inner-tubing down Elk Creek in the summer and ice-skating on it in the winter.
As he continued to practice dentistry, many nuns from St. Francis de Sales heard of his practice and before long he was providing free dentistry for many nuns and also some priests. The nuns also brought in recent immigrants who could not afford dentistry. Probably, thanks to the recommendation of the nuns, former Archbishop Chaput also became his patient. The nuns would often show their appreciation by making gifts for Joe. One nun gave him a large modernistic sail boat painting that followed Joe and Gerry to every place they lived. (This very painting was hanging on the wall above them at the assisted living facility where Joe had his fall that ultimately resulted in his death). Although always busy with his dental practice, even repairing a patient’s painful broken tooth on Christmas day, Joe always made time to attend and support family and school events. As a steadfast parishioner of St. Vincent De Paul Church he rarely, if ever, missed Sunday Mass until his health no longer permitted him to do so. Always wanting to support his church and school he joined the St. Vincent De Paul Church building committee in the 1960s and was a church usher for many years.
Joe had a love of gardening and the planting and nurturing of trees. Unfortunately, a tiny yard made it difficult for him to realize his full agricultural dream. In 1979, Joe moved his family to a very large corner lot near Denver University with a much older home where he could plant and nurture to his heart’s content. Joe continued to practice dentistry and after 43 years of providing much appreciated dental care, he retired in 2003. After retiring, he volunteered for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless providing badly needed dental care for those most in need. He also volunteered for Denver Digs Trees; helping plant trees throughout the Denver area including a few trees on the St. Vincent de Paul property. To keep on top of his computer skills, he entered daily temperature data for the Community Collaborative -Rain, Hail and Snow Network - a local volunteer weather reporting program.
Joe stayed busy with his outdoor activities and volunteering for many years until his wife’s dementia and frequent falls started taking more and more of his time. In 2018, Joe and Gerry moved to the retirement community Porter Place. Although the staff there took over some of Geraldine’s support needs, Joe always insisted on being her primary caregiver. In March of this year, Porter Place indicated they could no longer provide the care Gerry needed, and requested Joe and Gerry move to a higher care facility. Joe took this news very badly as he saw no reason to leave Porter Place as he had grown to really enjoy the community. After much searching, his children found Joe and Gerry a memory care facility that would take them both. Again, at this new, higher care facility, Joe insisted on being the primary caregiver against the wishes of the memory care staff and his children. On April 26th he fell and broke his hip while attempting to put Gerry into her wheel chair. Even when he was suffering terribly at the hospital, he wanted the hospital staff to do what was necessary to get him back to his beloved Gerry. Joe took the wedding vow “until death do us part” literally and lived it all the way to the end.
Please leave memories and condolences for Joe by signing his tribute wall.
Colorado Coalition for the Homeless
2111 Champa Street, Denver CO 80205