Community & Public Service
The outward persona of Herb LaMont was that of a quiet man, preferring to go about his work in the background. Instead of being the center of attention, he would rather be in his den tying flies for his next fishing trip. More than 40 years after his death, however, his legacy of advocating for the developmentally disadvantaged is still visible in Huntington County.
Herbert Donald LaMont was born in 1897 to Jacob and Jennie LaMont. His maternal grandparents were among the early settlers of Huntington County. After attending the University of Michigan, LaMont served stateside in the military during World War I. He returned to Huntington to work in the accounting department for the Erie Railroad followed by a 15-year stint with Asbestos Manufacturing Company. LaMont briefly left Huntington as an executive with the Thermoid Company in Trenton, N.J., but returned to his hometown during World War II to oversee Majestic’s work of making aluminum aircraft castings for the military.
At the end of the war, LaMont and Kenneth Triggs and Don Purviance, Sr. separated the casting division from Majestic to launch the Maco Corporation. The trio opened their company in a former paper box factory at Henry and Joseph streets. Instead of making aircraft parts, the company produced an aluminum three-way cooker that could be used as a Dutch oven, casserole, or chicken fryer. LaMont would remain with the company as its president until his death in 1981, at which point he had built Maco into one of the most prominent companies in Huntington.
LaMont married Edith van Antwerp in 1921, and their daughter Barbara was born in 1925. Edith died in 1964, and a year later he married Kay Hartzell, who had also lost her spouse the previous year. Their partnership marked a new chapter in each of their lives, and in the lives of many others in Huntington County.
In 1966, several local leaders came together to create the Huntington County Association for Retarded Children (ARC), a local chapter of a statewide effort. LaMont was on the organizing committee, but as was his nature, he let others take the leadership positions. Local dentist John Regan, the president of the new organization, recalled that LaMont privately approached him at the end of the group’s first meeting to make a donation and offer other support. That initial cash contribution allowed the association to get off the ground, and Regan’s numerous, subsequent trips to Maco for donations were predicated by LaMont’s insistence that his gifts remain anonymous.
LaMont was also there when the Huntington group initiated the “Thousand and One” member march that successfully signed up more than 1,000 volunteers who worked to assist the developmentally disadvantaged in Huntington County. At one point, the Huntington ARC chapter was the largest in the state.
The original Huntington ARC organization eventually grew into Pathfinder Services, which now boasts a budget of more than $20 million and stands as a model for the enabling people with disabilities or economic challenges to achieve autonomy, inclusion, and stability. In 1986, LaMont’s widow Kay spearheaded the effort to create the Herbert D. LaMont Award, annually given to the Pathfinder volunteer of the year. It has become one of the highest honors presented in Huntington County.
Throughout their time together, Herb and Kay were involved in numerous local efforts, including a large presence at Huntington College. They also supported groups such as the YMCA, Red Cross, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts. While Kay took more visible positions on multiple boards of directors, Herb was never far away. Said Kay, “He wanted to leave this town better than it was when he came into it, and he did his part.”