William Donald "Bill" Harbert
Class of 1949
Obituary not available
Social Security Death Index
Name: William D. Harbert
Last Residence: 23518 Norfolk, Norfolk City, Virginia
Born: 4 Mar 1932
Died: 2 Nov 2005
State (Year) SSN issued: Virginia (Before 1951 )
P O S T S C RIP T
Living the good life meant a new experience at every turn
BY JIM WASHINGTON THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT
• Reach Jim Washington at (757) 446-2536 or jim.washington@pilot online.com.
NORFOLK — Was there anything Bill Harbert couldn’t do?
In his 73 years, Harbert learned or taught himself how to fly an airplane, ride a motorcycle, pilot a boat, snow ski, scuba dive, work on cars, fix computers, build an addition on a house, trace his family’s genealogy, catch a fish, camp and join a civic league.
That’s not to mention serving in the Air Force, being married for 53 years and raising three daughters with an appetite for knowledge and experience as voracious as his own.
“He was my hero,’’ said Donna James, his oldest.
Harbert died Nov. 2.
Mildred Rinderknecht, a New York City girl, met the blond, blue-eyed boy from the West Virginia mountains at a dance in 1950. Two years later they were married.
They came to Virginia to be close to Harbert’s mother and his grandfather, who had moved here to work in the shipyards.
After leaving the military, Harbert earned his pilot’s license, because he had always wanted to. “I got to see the world from an airplane,” Mildred said. Harbert worked as a computer programmer for the Naval Safety Center until he retired.
He taught his family how to ride motorcycles, then started a class to teach others. When he showed his daughters how to drive, or pilot a boat, or ski or anything else, he always stressed safety.
“I think it was a little hairraising for him,” Donna said of her motorcycle lessons.
“I think it made his heart spin.”
Donna remembers family camping trips to the mountains, and beach vacations during which her father and his friends would scuba dive around wrecks in the Outer Banks.
“If he didn’t know how to do something, he would start from scratch and just do it, and do it well,” she said. “And he passed that along to his children. He taught me not to be afraid to try something.”
When Harbert found he couldn’t get a boat in the water near his house on Pretty Lake, he joined the Roosevelt Area Civic League and spearheaded an effort to dredge the waterway.
Throughout his life, he never stopped digging for new things.
Mildred Harbert said, “He took me for quite a ride.”