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Hershel Bloom: A Country Fair Remembrance

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Each year, Oregon County Fair honors loved ones who have passed on. This is the remembrance of one fair family member: Hershel Bloom. Hershel came to Eugene in the mid 70’s and was drawn to volunteer at Whitebird Clinic, then a fledgling crisis support network. Bobbie Dritz volunteered for Whitebird too and he became fast friends with Hersh.

Dritz: “Hershel brought one energy, talent and an attitude that just wouldn’t stop. Whitebird is involved with a lot of things which are very unpleasant in response to many things in the community. There’s no reward for doing it. It’s hard to keep your spirits up. And Hershel was born with high spirits.”

Norma adjectives: “Funny, sweet, lyrical.”

Norma Sax describes her friend Hershel Bloom.

Sax: “Always smiling. Never had a bad word to say about anybody. And he was incredibly creative. He was an artist in many forms. Drawing, cartoons. A musician.” (Hershel Bloom thanks people from stage at Willamette Valley Folk Festival.)

Sax also volunteered at Whitebird with Hershel. She recalls the first time she saw him help someone in serious crisis.

Sax: “Almost instantly, Hershel was bonded with this person and knew exactly what they were about and how to relate to them. How to be in their space so that he could totally understand what they were going through. Mostly I sat back and watched what I thought was an artist. And I learned so much that day.”

Sax says Hershel taught her about having respect for a person in crisis.

Sax:“Be calm so that they’re calm. And how to be quiet so that they could hear their voice. Hershel just had this soothing, musical voice that people could just fall into.”

During the Country Fair, Whitebird provides crisis support and medical care to fairgoers and crewmembers. Just across from Jill’s Crossing is a booth serving up grilled chicken and all the fixin’s. Cleveland Chicken booth raises money for Whitebird Clinic. Norma Sax remembers painting the colorful booth sign with Hershel back in 1978.

Sax:“It was so much fun. We painted every letter differently. Each of us took a different letter. We even spelled chicken wrong and just cracked up over that and then fixed it.”

Hershel and Bobbie Dritz experienced nearly 30 fairs together. The two even created an annual tee shirt design that Whitebird crew members eagerly anticipated.

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Credit Bobbie Dritz
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Hershel Bloom (left) and Bobbie Dritz in the kitchen. They were fast friends in 1980 when they met through Whitebird.

Dritz:“We created an artist by the name of Herbert Blitz from Hershel Bloom and Robert Dritz—our two names blended together. And each year, we would throw back and forth ideas for months on what might be a good idea for a shirt.”

Hershel Bloom had Parkinson’s disease. When that began taking a physical toll, he went east to be closer to his family. For a while, he stayed in a convalescence center (“imprisoned,” according to Hersh). He would sketch the staff. Bobby Dritz talking on the phone.

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Credit Tiffany Eckert
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The sign painted by Hersh, Norma and Robin for Whitebird's fundraising booth at fair. Still there after all these years.

Dritz: “And he said, ‘Well I’ve been drawing them and I put the pictures all over the walls and the walls are now covered with pictures of everybody on the staff including the head of the nursing home.’ And I said, ‘Well, they should be pleased. Why aren’t they ok with that?’ And he said, ‘I’m not sure. It could be because they’re all naked.”

Bobby Dertz says until the end of his life, his buddy Hersh kept his sly sense of humor.

Even after learning of his passing in January, Norma Sax says she still talks to Hershel Bloom.

Sax: “Hershel you are missed. You will always be missed. And I think that you live on in all of us who strive to be creative. You left us that gift to be OK with our uniqueness.”
 

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked in a variety of media including television and daily print news. For KLCC, Tiffany reports on health care, social justice and local/regional news. She has won awards from Oregon Associated Press, PRNDI, and Education Writers Association.