A tribute: Herb Citrin – ‘A Class Act All the Way’
Editor’s note: Herb Citrin, Founder of Valet Parking Service (VPS) in Los Angeles, passed away June 15. Herb founded the valet parking industry, grew his company, and was known nationwide. A businessman, a parking pro and a true gentleman, “Mr. Valet” was 91. The following tribute to Herb was written by Tony Policella, Co-Managing Partner of VPS. – JVH
It is finally starting to “sink in,” as they say, that Herb is no longer with us. There won’t be his phone calls anymore or his being our guest of honor at our annual Thanksgiving lunch at the office, but there is no doubt that Herb will always be with us and a part of what we do.
While it has been more than 10 years since Herb sold a portion of VPS to Ampco System Parking (now ABM Parking) and the remainder to [Co-Managing Partner] Victor Morad and me – by the way, Victor and Herb were together for over 40 years – we always did and always will consider Herb the owner.
I believe the legions of our fellow employees – Shawn, Jolene, Pepe, Mario, Luigi, Steve, Edgar, Anna, Maurice, Adel, Tamir, Barbara, Yvonne, to name but a few – both past and present, will always feel that way too, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
There has been much written about this incredible man over the past few weeks and his many accomplishments, so there is no need to rehash all of that herein: My mission, on behalf of the thousands of us who were touched by this man, is to provide a glimpse of what it was like to know him.
A class act all the way, he always dressed impeccably, which served as an example to his staff and uniformed personnel that the impression we make the first time and every time is as important as the service we deliver.
While he took his and our jobs very seriously, Herb also loved a good joke (even better, he loved to tell them). And he never forgot someone who was in need.
Years ago, a former valet residing in Phoenix called Herb to let him know that he wasn’t well and wanted to just say hello. That wasn’t good enough for Herb – the next day, Herb caught a flight to Phoenix so that he could say hello and, ultimately, goodbye to someone who had worked with him 30 years before.
And a young Marvin Saul, who went on to found Junior’s Deli, applied for a valet position when he first arrived in LA and later delighted in telling how Herb, seeing that Marvin could use a meal, fed him before he would let him fill out an application.
Herb never forgot a birthday or a special occasion, delighting in the happy and surprised look on the unsuspecting person’s face when the “surprise” occurred.
My “big surprise” occurred on my 50th birthday, when Herb and his wife Ione showed up at my party with a surprise for me – Tony Curtis. Herb knew that Tony was a favorite actor of mine, and they had been friends from their days in the Navy during World War II, so Herb did it again, bringing a surprise and unexpected smile to someone’s face. That time it was mine.
Herb’s reach went beyond those of us who worked for him and with him, which was demonstrated by the large attendance at his memorial service June 19, at Hillside Memorial park. Along with employees past and present were clients, friends and colleagues from the parking industry, and many people who had known Herb through the years.
Listening to the eloquent remembrances of his grandchildren provided a glimpse of the family man who found time for everyone, and the stories told at the reception afterward proved once again that this man “had left a fingerprint” on all who knew him.
And his tireless efforts on behalf of The Guardians, the major supporter of the Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging, where, fittingly, Herb spent his final days.
I know there is great solace in that Herb lived a long and meaningful life, but for those of us who were close to him – his family and his company family, clients, friends and clients alike – it just doesn’t seem long enough.
I want to end this with a smile, because Herb was all about bringing smiles to people’s faces, and this epitaph from a gravestone in a cemetery in Ireland kind of sums it up.
In memory of Herb, each and every day bring a smile to someone's face.
…Tony Policella (and the entire VPS family past, present
Article Abstract from August, 2013