Herbert "Hunky" Matz, a Baltimore lawyer known for his warmth and wit, died Wednesday in his sleep. He turned 100 years old in January.
Relatives say his upbeat demeanor won him friends and admirers and surely contributed to his longevity.
They say he was proud to be a Baltimore man, having been born and raised near Patterson Park along with nine siblings. He graduated from Baltimore City College, where he was captain of the basketball team and later inducted into the Hall of Fame and invited to be graduation speaker.
The father of WJZ-TV reporter Ron Matz, Hunky Matz was handsome, say relatives theorizing about the origins of his nickname. They recalled old photos of him and his wife of 60 years, Jeannette M. Matz, a homemaker who often played piano in clubs around town. She died in 2002.
"He was really larger than life and had this magnetic personality," said Ron Matz. "And everybody who met him fell in love with him. One reason was he was a great storyteller. He had a catalog of jokes. … He was old school."
And he was serious when he needed to be. During World War II, Mr. Matz served in the Army at Wendover Army Air Base in Utah, a testing and training site for the unit that dropped the atomic bomb. Ron Matz said his father helped draw up rules for pilots who dropped the weapons.
He returned to Baltimore after the war with his wife. He practiced law, and in his free time began jogging with some friends in his high-top tennis shoes around Lake Ashburton. It was the 1950s and running wasn't so common, but Ron Matz believes it sparked a commitment to health.
Mr. Matz lived on his own until he was 98, visiting his law office and the gym regularly. But his health eventually declined and he moved to Atrium Village in Owings Mills. Relatives said he did not diminish his optimism.
"He lived with so much zest, even so close to the end, that it was awe-inspiring," said Stan "The Fan" Charles, one of Hunky Matz's nephews, who is publisher of the sports publication Press Box. "So many elderly people take the approach that 'I'm old and going down this path,' but he was always optimistic he would get better."
Mr. Charles said Mr. Matz became like a father to him after his own father died when he was young.
He said so many people felt close to Hunky Matz and traveled to be at the funeral, including Josh Charles, actor on the CBS show "The Good Wife."
Hunky Matz was Josh Charles' great-uncle, "and one of my favorite people ever," he said. "He was an inspiring human being. He lived to be 100, and not everyone gets to live that long, but he lived well."
Josh Charles said, "He was always positive, curious, reading the paper, interested in learning, a fantastic dresser and a complete gentleman."
And don't forget the jokes. He was a master, said a longtime family friend, Richard Sher, a Baltimore TV news personality who also said Mr. Matz was like a second father to him and his wife, Annabelle.
"He was full of love, fun and Henny Youngman one-liners," Mr. Sher said. "He made every Jewish holiday where he was at our table more special. Everyone adored Hunky."
In addition to Ron Matz, Hunky Matz is survived by his daughter, Deborah Matz, and two siblings, Jack and Peggy, of Baltimore. Several siblings preceded him in death, including Lester, Charlie, Paul and Wilbur, who died five days before Hunky, and Rose Ginsburg and Lillian Charles.
A service at Sol Levinson & Bros. was held Friday and Mr. Matz was buried at Baltimore Hebrew Cemetery.