One hundred-forty friends of Walter and Ingrid Herrmann gathered in Centerport, New York for a celebration of their lives on Saturday, July 21, 2012.
Ingrid passed away in December 2009 and Walter died in May 2012 in Stuart, Florida. Both had lived on Shelter Island for about 40 years and were well known to many Islanders.
Ingrid was born in 1938 in Wuerzburg, Bavaria. She was known to many Shelter Islanders as an excellent cook of German cuisine and a gracious hostess at their Shelter Island home, the “Herrmann Castle” overlooking Crescent Beach.
Walter, born in 1918, grew up in Hamburg, Germany, in modest circumstances. He was a child when he lost both his parents and he lived with an uncle who owned a pastry shop and a café. Although an excellent student at school, it was impossible for him to receive a high school education for economic reasons.
Walter completed an apprenticeship as a pastry baker and was able to obtain employment as a kitchen mate on a luxury passenger steamer of the German Hapag Shipping Line.
In 1936, when the ship had anchored in New York, a typhoid epidemic broke out and Walter was forced to stay behind under quarantine on what today is known as Roosevelt Island. Upon his recovery, Walter was able to find a job in a bakery in downtown Manhattan.
Two years later, in 1938, he moved to Florida, where he also worked as a baker. But immigration authorities discovered his illegal status and he was deported.
In 1939, Walter took work on a Panamanian tanker heading for South America. While on that voyage, World War II erupted and the tanker’s German crew was discharged in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In 1941, Brazil declared war on Germany and all German seamen were interned for the duration of the war. In 1947, he gained legal immigration status for a return to the U.S. Initially, Walter again worked a baker and on the side in construction. Because of his diverse skills as a craftsman, he became a contractor with his own business. After a few years, he obtained a license for lending money in order to finance real estate acquisitions for his customers.
Walter started the construction of his dream house, “Herrmann’s Castle,” and carried out almost all of the exterior and interior work himself with the help of some handymen — the reason why it took seven years to complete the building.
Situated on a bluff with expansive panoramic views over Crescent Beach, the house has a roof terrace and brick-walled courtyard where Walter and Ingrid enjoyed entertaining and inviting large numbers of guests to join them in watching the fireworks.
All his life, Walter had been athletic. He enjoyed playing tennis on his court and, for many years, he spent parts of the winters skiing competitively in Vermont or in Colorado, often achieving high rankings in his age category.
For the last decade, Walter and Ingrid had spent summers on Shelter Island and winters in Florida where they had established their final home.
Ingrid Herrmann is survived by her daughter, Ingrid Mass of Colorado, and grandaughter, Sarah Mass. Walter Herrmann is survived by his daughters Marlene Danilovitz of Pennsylvania and Hilda Herrmann of Virginia and grandchildren Jon Danilovitz, Emily Scholl, Laura Herrmann, Erik Herrmann and William Herrmann; and five great-grandchildren. His son Walter Herrmann of New Hyde Park predeceased him.