July 21, 1943 — December 31, 2014

On Kindness And Intelligence

Four Inspiring Aspects From The Life Of Edward Herrmann

By Maria for Ekko

There are many things in people’s lives that make them worthy of admiration. It doesn’t have to be an out of the ordinary discovery or a heroic act that makes an individual stay in our memory forever. Often people are remembered for their intelligence, sense of humor, kindness, compassion and even for the apparent small “things” like being good cooks or talented story tellers.

The American actor Edward Herrmann, best known for his portrayal of the serious, but kind Richard Gilmore in the TV series “Gilmore Girls” is an example of such a character, that is fondly remembered by others due to his numerous qualities. Herrmann is also well known for his portrayals of Franklin D. Roosevelt on television and for his narration for historical programs of The History Channel. The extent of his career is overall impressive: he acted on several Broadway musicals, had small and big roles in movies, did voice work for Dodge automobiles, recorded audio-books, dramatizations and narrated documentaries.

His work and dedication were rewarded with Emmy nominations for the portrayal of president Roosevelt, a nomination for a Tony Award for the play “Plenty” (1983), with an Emmy award for his guest appearance in “The Practice” (1999), but also with several Audie awards for his voice work.

However, the aspects of his life that make him an admirable person go beyond the awards he earned and the number of productions he was in. The following examples from his life nicely illustrate how he got to be such a well liked individual, who is deeply missed by his family and friends.

1. His voice was his trademark

Herrmann’s work as a narrator of documentaries for The History Channel was so prominent and special that it gave him the nickname “The History Channel Guy”. His colleagues from the “Gilmore Girls” referred to his voice in combination with his charisma as lighting up the places where he was present. Through his smooth sounding, clear, teacherly, but not domineering voice got his trademark as an artist.

This example of how a specific characteristic can be so influential points to the complexity of acting as a profession and diffuses the preconceived idea that acting and show business are trivial domains.

2. He developed an on screen persona.

Herrmann was often described as an actor with a noble air. This was due to his physical characteristics, such as his towering height and to his clothing style, often wearing suits and tuxedos. However, his nobility was more than a set of physical attributes. Those who knew him appreciated him for being a true gentleman, a scholar, who had not only wit, but also a wicked sense of humor. He often played wealthy men and political figures, but he could skillfully portray all sorts of characters, from pompous fools to authentic commanding figure.

This is the example of a man who so strongly identified with his job that he managed to create a personal style. It is an example of truly caring about your work and not seeing it as a mere money making activity.

3. He had a down-to-earth attitude towards death.

After finding out about his illness, Herrmann was discrete about his situation. Most of his friends and collaborators found out about it only shortly before his death. Interestingly, his last project was a narration of a documentary series on cancer, “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies” (2015). He considered fitting and meaningful to finish his professional career with this job while he was suffering from the same disease.

This points to an interesting way of coming to terms with our own mortality. Instead of being afraid and sad about leaving this world, we can reflect on our pasts and the meaning of life in general and think about the beautiful things we leave behind us.

4. He had interesting hobbies.

Besides acting and doing voice work, Herrmann was also interested in automobiles and military memorabilia. He owned and restored several classic automobiles, he was a master of ceremonies for the “Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance” and a host of the TV show “Automobiles” on The History Channel.

The following statement is an interesting and detailed illustration of his hobby: “Automobiles have always been part of my life, and I’m sure they always will be. What is it about them that moves me? The sound of a great engine, the unity and uniqueness of an automobile’s engineering and coachwork, the history of the company and the car, and, of course, the sheer beauty of the thing.”

Edward Herrmann’s journey in this world proves that being a kind, intelligent and humorous person is the best way of remaining in the memory of others.

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