In Memoriam: Herbert H. Kellogg 1920-2016

Herbert H. Kellogg of Palisades passed away on January 16 at the age of 95. He was born in Brooklyn in 1920 where he grew up and where as a teenager at Erasmus High School he met his future wife Jeanette Halstead. They were married in their senior year of college. In 1947 they purchased the Nicholas Gesner house on Closter Road where they lived until 2014 when they moved to Sunrise Senior Living in Old Tappan, New Jersey.

Herbert received his Bachelor of Science from Columbia University in metallurgy in 1941 and his Masters in Science in mineral engineering in 1943. After a stint in the army at the end of WWII, he joined the faculty at Columbia. He was promoted to full professor in 1956. Throughout his forty-four year career, Herbert emphasized the environmental impact of metallurgical processes and the importance of optimizing the consumption of energy and mineral resources. In 1988, the H.H. Kellogg Fellowship was established to encourage future generations to follow his path.

His home and the property it sat on were his anchors. When Herbert bought the 18th century farmhouse, it had not been occupied for ten years and was in serious disrepair. In his words, “... to reach the front door we had to cut our way through dense growth of blackberry bushes ... there were broken windows, no plumbing, and only a pipeless wood/coal hot air furnace in the cellar with a single register in the living room.” Almost a decade of renovations ensued during which he and Jeanette turned the house into a charming home.

When he bought it, the house stood on 14 acres, its most notable landmark being the magnificent white oak tree in front, one of the oldest in Rockland County. According to local lore, it was planted by Gracie Post Gesner in 1772, a date verified by tree ring analysis. Herbert loved the trees on the property and many of them were ones he planted.

His home was a magnet for extended family, friends, and Herbert’s students. On it, he hosted picnics, parties, and weddings for his children and grandchildren. In the 1950s, Herbert began growing grapes. Wine-making became an annual event, picking and crushing the grapes and then fermenting them in large glass vats in the cellar. The resulting wine was quite drinkable and enjoyed by all.

Herbert led his family on hikes in Bear Mountain and camped at Lake George in the summers. By the 60s he and his son, Thomas, and friend, Bill Diver, “discovered” sailing. He purchased a small sloop and learned to sail on the Hudson River. When this became too limiting he acquired an old wooden yawl and took the family on sails between New York Harbor and Nova Scotia. He became a passionate seaman, visiting friends along the New England coast.

When his children were attending Palisades Elementary School, Herbert acted as President of the PTA and served on the Palisades Library Board. Much to the delight of his children he also participated in the annual Turkey Shoot that took place in the Schaeffer field on Closter Road. No turkeys were actually involved except as the prize for being the best shot with a shotgun aimed at a target. One year the family brought home a turkey!

Herbert was an avid reader of the Greek classics. Movies and theater were also great passions and the house was full of classical music and opera. On several occasions he wrote the program notes for concerts put on by the Suburban Symphony in which Jeanette played the violin. After he retired in 1990, Herbert and Jeanette traveled all over the globe visiting friends and colleagues. He liked to say a bit wistfully that he had been everywhere except Africa and Italy. The house was filled with artifacts from these trips.

Herbert said that the best relationship he ever entered into was the one with his wife, Jeanette, who survives him. Seventy-five years of marriage is a testament to that fact. A memorial service in celebration of his life will be held at the Palisades Presbyterian Church on July 12 at 2:00 pm.