Racing Lost One of Its Biggest Fans and I Lost an Irreplaceable Friend

herbie-and-colonel-john

“Ok, Colonel [John], so you don’t like the Bears, but you sure like my JACKET!!!!” ~ Herbie, December 6, 2010

This past week, those within driving distance said goodbye to our friend Herbie Knecht. Those of us who couldn’t be there in body, were definitely there in spirit. Herbie’s son, daughter and sister, not only knew their father and brother well, but made sure his next gig would be well populated with others of his kind.  His final resting place is in southeast Louisville, inside the outer beltway, at Resthaven Memorial Park. They had heard a whole slew of horseracing fans from across the decades were there, and figured that would be just the place for horseracing-crazy Herbie. Knowing Herbie, I’m sure he teared up at their thoughtfulness.

Julie summed up Herbie and why we loved him with her brief description of the information about his viewing and service.  She posted on Facebook this simple little paragraph that speaks volumes about Herbie and why her brother was, and is, so special to so many of us.

“We are asking for people to wear UK attire, horse racing,
PRP attire or rock and roll if you would like to. He would be so proud.”

Herbie was one of the best Racing fans the sport could ever hope for.  He loved it and was devoted to it.  He made annual pilgrimages to special races, or at least made sure he was in front of a TV, somewhere.  He loved Racing history, Daily Racing Form photographer Barbara D. Livingston’s regularly stunning photos, jockey-turned-songstress Liza G. Fly’s kind nature and wonderful songs, Secretariat, and Zenyatta, to name a few.  He was passionate and opinionated about the Sport of Kings and the University of Kentucky Wildcats, and Baseball. One of the greatest days of his life was meeting Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, last year.  His family knew his passion and played to it.  In 1991, his sister Cindy even made sure his birthday cake had the right Churchill Downs and Kentucky Derby theme!

 

Herbie was a truly multi-faceted individual. He cared deeply about his family and friends. He wasn’t ashamed to admit he was scared, or show tears.  He had a musician’s soul and shared it often with posts of YouTube Classic Rock song videos that voiced his own thoughts and emotions.  He had insomnia a fair bit of the time, which was great for the rest of us sharing the night with him.  He made us laugh, think, reminisce. He was an amazing man in quiet ways.

herbie-and-a-p

“Me showing Pharoah love 3 days after the Triple Crown win!” ~ Herbie on Facebook

I never got to meet Herbie in the flesh, but I did get to talk to him on the phone a couple times.  We tried to meet up, but a doctor appointment and my traveling schedule conspired against us ever sharing that bear hug we always hoped we’d share.  Somehow, though, we still had a closeness that went beyond Facebook and interactions there.  I won’t pretend that we were super close and shared intimate details of our lives with each other, but it didn’t have any bearing to our connection.  I wasn’t alone in this special bond with Herbie. He had it with many of his friends on Facebook.  He was just one of those people.

Herbie loved at full-throttle.  He loved horses, dogs, music, sports, us, to name the big ones.  He had suffered a lot of loss in the past few years and his heart never completely got over it.  You could tell. He wore his beautiful, big heart on his sleeve.  Sometimes, you just knew he was waiting for his turn to leave, because missing those he loved was nearly overwhelming.  But he hung in there, because he loved his life, too.  He fought hard for it.

Herbie had spent 2016 in and out of the hospital many months, due to complications from Diabetes and Congestive Heart Failure (a bad Daily Double, to be sure).  We all knew how miserable he was, and tried to keep him cheered, while selfishly reminding him how much we loved him and needed him with us.  He was a fighter for those who loved him, but I think he finally decided it was time to put himself first (just this once) and to go.

Herbie walked out of this world on September 8th.  I wasn’t there to see it, but I’m pretty sure his dog Sable was there, as well as his parents and grandparents.  It wouldn’t surprise me if he shortly found himself surrounded by Racing greats, petting noses, rubbing foreheads, and sharing stories of a life well lived by a man deeply loved.

His obituary says, “he is survived by a daughter, Tara Beam (Tony); a son, Herbert “Buck” Knecht IV; two sisters, Cindy Cottrell (Mike) and Julie Portnoy; a niece, Amanda Cottrell; a nephew, Cameron Portnoy; his friend, Mike Gumble; as well as a host of friends.” Somehow, “a host of friends” just doesn’t give the scope of how many of us are missing Herbie with every passing day.  Now, there is the realization that there will be no more late night video postings, or spirited discussions about…anything…like there was when we had Herbie in our lives. There are now dozens of us with a hole in our lives.

Did I mention he was always thinking about others?  The last line of his obituary reads, “Expressions of sympathy may take the form of contributions to Old Friends Farm at http://www.oldfriendsequine.org .”

Miss you, Herbie. Just miss you.

herbie-and-brave-ruler

Herbie (red cap) with Brave Ruler at River Downs, the same day Kentucky Derby winner Spend A Buck won the Cradle Stakes.

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