Gustav Albert Hindenlang III, a quiet, kind man known for his generosity, and who spent 40 years greeting movie-goers at the Hampton Arts Cinema in Westhampton Beach, died on February 2 at the Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead. He was 88.
Family members said his philosophy in life was embodied in the last line of a poem written by Sam Walter Foss and framed near the entrance to his East Moriches home: “Let me live in my house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.”
Mr. Hindenlang, known as “Gus,” was born to Clara Knispel and Gustav Hindenlang II on December 27, 1925, in Newark, New Jersey.
He and his wife, Elizabeth Titus Brush Hindenlang, known to most as “Betty,” were high school sweethearts, and had their first date on Valentine’s Day, a holiday they celebrated together for the rest of their lives.
The two were so inseparable, his daughter Karen Hindenlang Thoburn recalled this week, that their high school friends referred to them as “Bus ‘n Getty.”
When Mr. Hindenlang was 18, just after graduating high school, he was drafted into the U.S. Navy. Though he wanted to marry Ms. Brush before he left, she was only 17, and her father wouldn’t allow it.
But to show his devotion while overseas, he sent her roses on the 18th of every month, likely with the help of his younger sister, Joyce Hindenlang, and his stepmother.
“Mother was the envy of the dorms at Stephens College,” Ms. Thoburn said. “She saved the petals.”
Mr. Hindenlang served as a radio man in the Pacific, transcribing Morse code messages that came in as a random assortment of letters that needed to be decoded, making his job a bit more difficult. Ms. Thoburn said that as a child she was impressed by a story her father would tell of one of his most vital duties: If his ship was under attack, he was responsible for taking the hidden code book, placing it in a weighted bag and dropping it into the ocean, protecting it from enemy eyes.
He served on a ship that transported supplies to Sasebo Bay, near Nagasaki, Japan, shortly after the United States dropped the atomic bomb there.
In 1946, within a month returning from his service and just after the end of World War II, Mr. Hindenlang married Ms. Brush, though his mother had to sign the marriage license since he was still just 20 years old.
When Ms. Hindenlang fell ill during her later years, her husband stayed close by her side. “He took such good care of her,” Ms. Thoburn said of her mother, who died in 2002. They were married 56 years.
After the war, Mr. Hindenlang attended what was then Farmingdale Agricultural and Technical College. He and his wife later traveled a bit while he worked on various poultry and dairy farms. In 1957, Mr. Hindenlang began his career as a meat and poultry inspector with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the couple and their three children settled in East Moriches, which was then in the heart of the duck farming region.
“He was raised as a city kid, but he loved the country,” his daughter explained. “And my mother shared that.”
Ms. Thoburn said her father had, in some ways, a difficult childhood, having lost his mother when he was 12. He worked odd jobs, shoveling snow or carrying groceries home, to help support his family. That experience taught him not only the importance of hard work, but the value of kindness.
“He knew what it could mean to be just a friendly smiling face, because that’s what he was famous for,” Ms. Thoburn said, explaining that her father was always polite and pleasant.
After he retired, Mr. Hindenlang remained active in the community, volunteering as an AARP tax aide for nearly 30 years. As most recently as last year he assisted hundreds of seniors during the tax season, even making special trips to their homes as needed.
He was also a well-known face at the Hampton Arts Theater, where he enjoyed greeting guests as an usher for 40 years before retiring last year.
“He was very sharp, really right to the end,” she said. “He wanted to keep his pencil sharp, and keep his mind sharp.”
When he wasn’t working or volunteering, Mr. Hindenlang was gardening or bird watching. His daughter explained that he grew beautiful flowers and a wide variety of vegetables, which he shared with family, friends and neighbors—an act characteristic of his personality.
“He loved helping other people, and those who knew him will always remember him for this,” Ms. Thoburn wrote in a piece she put together about her father.
Mr. Hindenlang is survived by a sister, Joyce Klein, and her husband, Ray, of Washington, New Jersey; three children, Gus Hindenlang of East Moriches, David Hindenlang and his wife, Marilyn, of Randolph, New Jersey, and Karen Thoburn and her husband, Crawford, of Aurora, New York; and two grandchildren, Alison and Mark Hindenlang. He is also survived by several neighbors, including Mr. and Mrs. Richard Lewin, as well as several step-grandchildren and step-great-grandchildren.
A memorial service for Mr. Hindenlang is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, February 16, at the East Moriches United Methodist Church, 370 Montauk Highway.
Gifts in memory of Mr. Hindenlang may be sent to the Memorial Books Program of the Center Moriches Public Library at 235 Main Street, Center Moriches, NY, 11934, or to a charity of the giver’s choice.