Morris Herman, a French Quarter antiques dealer until his retirement last year, died Tuesday at his home in New Orleans. He was 85.
The son of Jewish immigrants who left Russia to avoid persecution, Herman graduated from Fortier High School and attended Tulane University.
He worked as a real estate broker before reopening an antiques store bearing the name of his father, Jacob. His father closed his own antiques shop during the Depression and moved his cabinet shop to the 2000 block of Magazine Street, “where the entire family ended up living above the store,” a nephew, Fred Herman, said.
In 1958, two years after his father’s death, Morris Herman opened J. Herman Son Antiques, 321 Royal St.
Fred Herman said Morris Herman’s two brothers, both successful lawyers, couldn’t quite understand why their brother got into the antiques business.
“They were going to work every morning at 7 a.m., sometimes got home at 8 or 9 o’clock, and Morris was just leaving to go out,” he said.
Morris wouldn’t get home until the early morning hours, and relatives ran the store until he showed up at work in the afternoon, he said.
His uncle showed special kindness to his relatives, Fred Herman said.
“He would pick up all of the elderly in the family. Not only his mother, but my mother’s mother, and then he’d pick up his aunt. He’d have those three elderly women in his beautiful convertible; then he’d pull up in front of each of our homes and he’d pick up all the kids and we’d all go riding off for the afternoon.”
If it was a Saturday, the trips would take place in the evening and might include driving down Bourbon Street, Herman said. On Sundays, they might go to the Borden’s ice cream parlor on Airline Highway.
“He instinctively knew what each of us needed, including those trips to Bourbon Street for those nephews,” Fred Herman said.
“Morris never waited in line anywhere,” he said. “He was magical. If you were with Uncle Morris, you were front-row center, ringside.”
Herman had a number of famous customers who also became his friends, among them actor Joel Grey, singer Luther Vandross and television newsman David Brinkley.
“He was a very unique individual, very playful but very devoted,” Fred Herman said.
“We all live for knowing characters like that in New Orleans, and this is one that was part of my family. So that was pretty special.”
Herman sold his store and retired in 2013.
He was a member of the Royal Street Merchants Association and participated in a number of social, civic and charitable organizations. He was a veteran of the Louisiana National Guard.
He is survived by a number of nieces and nephews.
Graveside services will be held at 2 p.m. today in Chevra Thilim Memorial Park Cemetery, 5000 Iberville St. Tharp-Sontheimer-Tharp Funeral Home in Metairie is in charge of arrangements.