This is a salute to two brothers, who in the flesh walked alike, talked alike and looked enough alike to be twins, yet were born two years apart. We got a look at what you’d get if the two brothers were molded together.
The late Herbert W. Appel Jr. and his younger brother Gary had their photo taken Wednesday, sitting on a park bench. A bronzed Herb was decked out in his favorite fishing gear, and Gary was replete in a business suit after joining others in saluting his brother.
Friends and admirers of Herb, the longtime Fort Bend Economic Development Council president, contributed funds for a life-size bronze of their buddy, who died at 76 in July 2018, while on a family vacation.
An unveiling of the sculpture was held as family, friends, colleagues and admirers gathered to honor his legacy.
The goal is to preserve Appel’s historic role in the quality growth and quality of life that jumped Fort Bend County into 10th place population-wise among Texas counties and probably in the Top 3 of desirable places to live.
Adjacent to the bronze of Herb sitting on a bench looking out over a lake is a marker that tracks many of Herb’s accomplishments over his 26 years as EDC president.
“After all the years of people telling us how much we looked alike, we finally did notice it,” Gary said. “I just hope I have the depth of character Herb had.”
The two-in-one concept came when sponsors of the statue reached out to Gary, who along with his wife Gail, lives in Galena, Ill. Gary put on Herb’s fishing togs and sat on a similar bench to be photographed for proportion. Then scores of facial photos of Herb were given to project strategist Sandy Levine, who had the intermediate and final steps coordinated to complete the bronze.
The Fort Bend Legacy Foundation quarterbacked the project through approvals of governing bodies.
The statue is one of the more realistic sculptures you’ll ever see. It sits off a sidewalk on Lake Pointe Parkway near U.S. 59. It’s a couple of blocks south of St. Luke’s Sugar Land Hospital and adjacent to restaurant row.
Appel was the perfect guy for the EDC job.
He had no ego and took pride in subjugating his role to others when a county victory was made. Herb and I were close friends for 41 years, and I’ve never known anyone who gave so much of himself while asking for nothing in return.
It was almost a mantra for Herb, and I must have heard him say 1,000 times, “We’ve got to attend to those who are unable to help themselves.”
He was a champion for the clients at Richmond State School, where he served as chairman of the volunteer council for a decade.
Through the EDC, he helped create the Fort Bend CORPS and its Hearts & Hammers program that repairs and remodels homes of underprivileged families throughout the county. Even in retirement, he served another decade as vice chairman and then chairman of Medical Missionaries of Divine Mercy through the auspices of St. Laurence Catholic Church.
This team of medical volunteers travels once a year to Texas-Mexico border towns and into the jungles of Costa Rico to treat people who have no other means of health care.
He can best be described as a friend’s best friend. And he had hundreds of close ones.
Herb was a doting husband to wife Emelia, loving father to five children and equally loving grandfather to 17 grandchildren, and had a personal bond with each.
That’s the best answer I could come up with this week when asked the question, “Tell me about Herb Appel and what all he did to earn the respect of so many that they built a statue in his memory?”
Simply put, Herbert put everyone else ahead of himself. There’s no doubt he’s getting his reward now.
Reach BH at firstname.lastname@example.org.