A visual history of the Polish Home Association, other Polish-American organizations and events in the greater Seattle region.
Category: 2017 Funeral mass and ceremonies honoring the passing of Captain Witold A. Herbst
Captain Witold “Alex” Herbst, a WWII hero and a longtime member of the Polish community in Seattle died in Everett on May 25, 2017. He was 97.
Witold Aleksander Herbst was born in Warsaw in 1919 in a polonized family of a German origin. He entered the Polish Air Force Academy in Dęblin in 1938. After the WWII started in September 1939, he managed to evade capture and with several fellow cadets joined the Polish forces in France. After training in France and England he flew 141 missions over Great Britain and Europe with the Polish RAF fighter squadrons 303 & 308 from 1942 to 1944, including on D-Day. Shot over France in 1943 he again escaped through Spain to rejoin his squadron. He ended the war as a captain and was decorated with the Polish Cross of Valor three times and a number of British medals.
After the war, Mr. Herbst stayed in England where he met his wife Doreen and graduated from the London School of Economics in 1947. From 1949 to 1961 he worked as an Assistant to the Air Attaché in the Pakistani High Commissioner Office in London helping with the creation of a professional Pakistani Air Force. From 1961 to 1968 he worked for international aviation trade companies in London. After over twenty years in England he moved to the United States continuing his career in New York in aviation industry and later as a trade manager for business machines. He retired in 1991 and settled in Seattle to be close to his son Michael and his family.
Mr. Herbst published two war memoirs in Polish, Pod angielskim niebem in 1997 and Podniebna kawaleria in 2013, and is featured in the book The Question of Honor by Lynn Olson and Stanley Cloud. He was also the subject of the documentary movie The Spitfire Liberator: the Alex Herbst Story directed by Sławomir Ciok and produced by Krzysztof Poraj-Kuczewski. The movie had its premiere at the Museum of Flight in Seattle in October 2015.
Mr. Herbst is survived by his wife Doreen, his son Michael with wife Tracy, granddaughter Stephanie Cooper with husband Ian Cooper and granddaughter Sophia.
Funeral Mass was on Sat, June 3, at St. Margaret Church in Seattle, in the presence of – Consul General Mariusz Brymora, the Consulate General of Poland in LA – Brig. Gen. Cezary Wiśniewski, Defense, Military, Naval and Air Attaché, the Embassy of Poland in Washington, DC – Lt. Col. Karol Sobczyk, Defense and Military Assistant Attaché, the Embassy of Poland – Honorary Consul in Seattle Teresa Indelak Davis Remembrance was at 4 pm on Sat, June 3rd, at the Polish Cultural Center “Dom Polski” in Seattle In the presence of Mr. Herbst’s family . Eulogies by the esteemed guests and members of the Polish community Piano performance by Ms. Marzena Szlaga who played Chopin’s Funeral March and a composition by Mr. Herbst’s favorite composer, Jean Sibelius. A performance by the Polish Choir Vivat Musica and remembrances by members of the Polish-American community, Short movie clips from the documentary movie about Mr. Herbst was also shown.