Ronald Herman, 77, of Blackwood, a leader at Philadelphia recreation centers and a South Jersey school psychologist, died Thursday, June 7, of pneumonia at Samaritan Healthcare and Hospice in Voorhees.
Mr. Herman lived in Washington Square West before moving to Lions Gate, a senior facility, in 2016.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Rose and Joseph Herman, Mr. Herman moved with his family to Philadelphia as a teenager. He graduated in 1959 from Overbrook High School.
He served from 1963 to 1965 during the Vietnam War as an Army infantryman and machine gunner. He saw combat for five months, including from Nov. 14 to 18, 1965, at the Battle of Ia Drang in South Vietnam’s central highlands.
On the last day of fighting, Mr. Herman was struck in the head by shrapnel, which lodged beneath his helmet. As a result, Mr. Herman was honorably discharged on Dec. 13, 1965, with the rank of private first class. He was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, and the Vietnam Service Medal.
The battle was the first major engagement between the U.S and North Vietnamese forces. After ferocious fighting, both sides claimed victory.
After the war, Mr. Herman graduated from Temple University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1969 and two master’s degrees in 1972, one in education, the other in psychology.
Mr. Herman worked for the City of Philadelphia’s Recreation Department starting in 1970. He served as soccer and basketball organizer, leader and tennis coach at city recreation centers in Olney, Feltonville, Southwark, Washington Square West, and Chestnut Hill.
In 1974, he helped to organize the National Junior Tennis League at the Seger Recreation Center in Washington Square West. The league has grown to 350 community-based groups across the nation.
“Tennis was his major hobby, and a major driving force in his life was his work as a coach,” said his son, Noah.
In 1974, Mr. Herman was also operations supervisor for Billie Jean King’s Philadelphia Freedoms World Team Tennis. He scheduled events for the team, his son said.
He spent the last decade at the Water Tower Recreation Center in Chestnut Hill before retiring from the city in 1999. A city citation said he “worked tirelessly” on the center’s day camp and with its drama group.
Starting in the mid-1980s, he juggled his city recreation job with full-time employment as a school psychologist in the Pitman School District, where he served on the Child Study Team until about 2010. He made it work by doing the city tasks after school and on weekends, his son said.
For the last decade, his supervisor in Pitman was Frank Fragale, now the team’s interim supervisor of special services.
Mr. Herman’s prime responsibility was testing students to see if they needed special education classes. If so, he managed the cases and dealt with the students’ families.
“He was patient, intelligent and sincere,” Fragale said. “Kids do pick up on that. He handled some of the most difficult behavioral students. He had an easy way with them.”
When a difficult middle-school student showed good behavior, he was rewarded by a five-minute visit from Mr. Herman, Fragale said. The student later told Fragale: “Don’t ever get rid of Mr. Herman. He’s the only one I like.”
Mr. Herman was an avid sports fan. While growing up, he rooted for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Later, he followed the Philadelphia teams.
He traveled to the U.S. Open tennis tournament for 20 years ending in 2014 and served as a certified line umpire.
He supported many drama groups, including the Arden Theatre Company, 1812 Productions, the Walnut Street Theatre, and the Broadway Theatre of Pitman.
In 1982, he married Terry Graboyes. The two raised their son in Center City. They divorced in 1988.
In addition to his son and former wife, Mr. Herman is survived by two brothers.
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday, June 13, in Washington Crossing National Cemetery, Newtown. Shivah will follow from 1 to 8 p.m. at the home of Terry Graboyes.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Vietnam Veterans of America via https://vva.org/donate/.