GALION — Herb Krichbaum was good with his hands.
But he did so much more than play the piano.
Anyone who knew him knew he could play the piano and direct choirs.
“He could field strip a 50-caliber machine gun in no time,” said Brian Treisch, Galion’s auditor and a big fan of Krichbaum, who died Sunday. “When people think of him, that’s not what they think of.”
Treisch knew Krichbaum first as one of his students, then as a co-worker, but always he thought of him as a mentor.
“He had such an influence on my life,” Treisch said, thinking back to a lot of great years in the Galion High School marching band and alumni band. “He had such enthusiasm for everything he did.”
Krichbaum was a sergeant in the U.S. Army for 50 months during World War II, where he organized and instructed a drum and bugle corps. That fact is not surprising.
But he also was stationed at Camp Wheeler in Macon, Georgia, where he taught explosives and demolitions.
Treisch had known Krichbaum for years and saw Krichbaum do things he thought were impossible.
“I was a chaperone when the high school band played at the Indianapolis 500,” he said. “While there, it was decided to have a non-denominational Sunday service before the race for the other bands there. Herb, without a piano, managed to get several hundred people — in a short time — to perform together.”
At Galion High School he led choirs and ensembles and glee clubs and soloists.
His annual Christmas concerts at the old high school on Union Street were often standing room only. And the final piece of each of his holiday concerts was preceded with an invitation to any former choir members in the audience to come up on the stage and join the current choir for that finale.
Krichbaum retired from Galion City Schools after 25 years of service as the district’s vocal music director. He also was chairman of the Fine Arts Department at Galion High School. He had previously taught in Ontario, Whetstone and Leesville schools.
For 45 years, he was choir director at First United Church in Galion.
And he taught hundreds to play the piano over a 53-year period, finally giving up the private lessons in 1997, at age 76.
Kathy Kilburg Moneysmith knew Krichbaum for most of her life.
“From about age 7,” she said. “I can remember the first day I met him as a student.
“I took private piano lessons from him up through high school. I was also in his high school choir and girls glee club and girls ensemble. He was the choir director at my church, and I started singing in the choir as a junior in high school. That was the earliest he would allow students to join. I still sing in that same choir. One of my daughters also sang in that church choir for a few years.”
Moneysmith’s history with Krichbaum is mirrored by many.
They knew him and kept in touch through the years.
And Krichbaum returned that favor. He followed up with former students. He sang at weddings and other special events. And if he saw you in public, he was kind and had the ability to know about your family and your life.
Moneysmith remembers his gentle nature and his ability to get to know his students. He would talk to students and learn about them and then steer them in the direction of music styles and pieces he thought they would enjoy, thus enforcing their love of music.
“Thinking back, I realize now his ability to understand each student was such a special gift,” Moneysmith said.
Even those who never met Krichbaum knew his voice and experienced his never-ending enthusiasm.
For years, he was the voice of the Galion High School marching band at home football games. In that venue, his personality was infectious. If the drum beat of the band marching into the stadium and Krichbaum’s voice didn’t get you psyched up nothing would
Krichbaum played the piano, organ, trumpet, guitar and most any other instrument. He directed the Galion Community Chorus for 30 years and played a huge role in the annual production of Handel’s Messiah.
His funeral service was Friday morning at Ontario United Methodist Church, with burial in Crawford County Memory Gardens.
His obituary appeared on Wednesday’s Galion Inquirer and is available on the website legacy.com.
A personal tribute to Krichbaum also appeared in Wednesday’s Inquirer, and is available online at galioninquirer.com.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Ontario United Methodist Church for the music program in care of the funeral home.
Online condolences may be made to the family at masfh.com.