Herbert Klein, a decorated World War II veteran who fought Nazis in Europe and the Japanese in the Philippines, and who cherished his independence, driving his old Toyota Corolla until his final years, died Thursday. He was 96.
Klein, of Oceanside, was surrounded by family when he died of congestive heart failure at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream, his grandson-in-law Daren Lubin, of Malverne, said.
Klein served in the U.S. Army for more than two years, and was awarded several medals, including the World War II Victory Medal and the American Service Medal, his granddaughter Dana Molino, of Malverne, said.
One time, a Nazi came up to him and asked for a cigarette because Klein had some in his shirt pocket. Klein took the cigarettes, crushed them and threw them at the floor. The Nazi walked away, Molino said.
“He was basically tough, so tough that he didn’t care,” Dana Molino said.
Born Sept. 26, 1922, Klein was raised in the Bronx and attended high school in the area. He met Bernice Klein at a dance and they soon married.
Around the age of 20, he left to fight in the war. After his return, Klein and his wife settled in Flushing, Queens. He joined the trade business, working for import-export company Oxford Resources for nearly 50 years. He became vice president of the company, and retired in 1987.
About 12 years later, Klein and his wife moved to Orlando. In 2003, they moved back to New York, this time to Oceanside. Bernice, his wife of about 68 years, died in 2013.
Family members remembered Klein as selfless and giving. He took them on vacations, Lubin said, and called his daughter several times a day to make sure the great-grandchildren were okay.
“He treated me like a grandson,” Lubin said. “He would always speak to me on the phone after work. I work an intense job myself, and he would always calm me down.”
Klein also was independent-minded.
“He was 96 years old and still driving,” Molino said. “He drove everywhere; he went to the supermarket by himself. He wouldn't let anybody help him.”
His 26-year-old Toyota Corolla — a symbol of independence — was so important to him, she said, that he treated it like a Mercedes, inquiring about his car even from his hospital bed.
Klein also enjoyed hobbies such as gambling, traveling and consuming the news. His favorite newspaper was Newsday, a paper he read since his younger days in the Bronx, Lubin said.
Besides his granddaughter and grandson-in-law, Klein is survived by his daughter Roberta Molino, grandchildren Danielle Molino-Lubin and Richard Molino, and two great-grandchildren, all of Malverne.
A memorial service was held Sunday at Gutterman’s Rockville Centre Chapel.