Colonel Herbert David Maddox, a man of many talents who excelled in three careers that included decorated service in the U.S. Air Force, as a celebrated engineer with Bell Laboratories, and as a lifelong concert trombonist and union member of Hollywood Local 47, and a life member of AFM Local 16-248 serving New York City, died on August 10, 2016. He was 88.
Herbert was born on August 28, 1918, in Brush, Colo. to Nellie and Chet Maddox. He was the eldest of three children, growing up with his sisters Dorothy DeJong and Shirley Harness in Englewood, just outside of Denver. The Maddox family were among the founders of the town of Englewood and the owners of Maddox Ice Co.
Herbert began playing trombone at the age of 7 in the Highlanders Youth Band in Englewood. By the age of 13 he was traveling to Los Angeles, visiting his beloved aunt Olive, to perform in concerts, and shortly thereafter became a member of Hollywood Local 47. He graduated in 1936 from Englewood High School, a member of the Senior Band (winners of the Award of Excellence at the Denver Music Week of that year).
He attended University of Denver for electrical engineering, paying his way through college by performing with bands, seven nights a week at times. Many of these performances were held regularly at Elitch Gardens in Denver and the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, among others. During this time he sat in with the Dorsey Brothers and Duke Ellington. He graduated from DU in 1940 with a degree in his field and pursued advanced engineering courses at MIT, Harvard, and Cleveland Institute of Radio Electronics.
Herbert was a slight man and underweight when he volunteered for military service in 1942. His recruiter for the Army Signal Corps suggested he spend a week eating only bananas and drinking beer to gain the pounds he needed. Herbert promptly spent the week in Golden, Colo., at the Coors Brewery. Not surprisingly, the only beer he drank for the rest of his life was Coors Banquet Beer.
After training in Monmouth, N.J., he was dispatched to Bury, England, to serve with the RAF. He was a member of the Electronic Training Group responsible for developing the Coastal Radar Defense System in collaboration with Sir Watson Watt, for which he received the European/African/Middle Eastern Service Medal. After a brief return to the U.S. on leave, several members of the ETG volunteered to go back to England, but they were rerouted to New Guinea. In the Pacific Theater he received the American Defense Service Medal with one Bronze Star, American Service Medal Asiatic Pacific Service, and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon for his defense of Clark Field. His trombone traveled with him throughout his service in these theaters, and he was a regular performer in the USO with Bob Hope.
He was on leave in August of 1943 to attend a staff communications school for two weeks in Orlando, Fla. During this time he met his wife Eloise Stephens, the atomic bomb was dropped, and the war ended. He and Eloise were married in Englewood on Oct. 21, 1945. Two weeks later he began work at Bell Laboratories in New York City.
In this position he worked on the Nike/Zeus, Sentinel, and Safeguard projects, which brought Herb and his family to Winston-Salem, Los Angeles, Kwajalein Island, and White Sands. He served a portion of this time as the supervisor for the flight-testing program for Douglas Aircraft. During this period, Herbert played trombone with the Winston-Salem Symphony, the Jimmy Meyers Orchestra, the Harry Snell Trio, Ice Capades, Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus, National Rodeo Association, and many other concerts through Hollywood Local 47. He was an active reservist, and retired as colonel in 1972 with 30 years of service to the Air Force.
The family moved to Mountain Lakes, N.J. in 1965, where Herb continued to work for Bell Laboratories in Whippany. He dedicated his time outside of work to regular performances with a variety of acts, including Bob Hope, Judy Garland, Arthur Godfrey, the Captain Kangaroo Show, American Steel and Weldry Band, the Fairleigh Dickinson University Symphonic Band, and the Silver Starlight Orchestra at venues such as Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, and the Bickford Theater. He also volunteered as a coach for local softball leagues in both Mountain Lakes and Boonton. He was an ardent supporter of local athletics, and actively supported his son and grandsons in their athletic endeavors in baseball, hockey, football, and luge.
He was predeceased by Eloise in June 2009. He is survived by his children Sandra Maddox, David Maddox and his partner Cindy Curran of Vineyard Haven, his grandson James Dolan and his partner Penny Allen, his grandson Lawrence Dolan and his wife Leslie Cosgrove, and his great-grandson Gabriel Dolan. The family wishes to thank CVPH R-6 and Plattsburgh Rehab and Nursing Center for their excellent service and care of Herbert during his last weeks. Donations in Herbert’s name may be made to the Honor Flight Network at honorflight.org.
Services are scheduled for Tuesday, August 23, at R.W. Walker Funeral Home in Plattsburgh from 5 to 7pm. Prayers and words of remembrance will be delivered by Father Timothy Canaan and family members at 6:30 pm. Interment will take place at a later date in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Arrangements have been trusted to the care of the R.W. Walker Funeral Home, 69 Court Street, Plattsburgh, NY. To share a photo, story, or online condolence, please visit rwwalkerfh.com.