Herbert Robert Sussman was born Feb. 9, 1913 in Brooklyn, the firstborn of three sons of Russian immigrants Solomon and Sadie Sussman. Solomon owned a successful fine-spun yarn business that made children’s sweaters.
After Herbert finished high school, his father sent him to learn about textiles and join the family business. The young man married 20 year-old Rosa Jacobson on March 8, 1936.
His urge to perform drew him away to Broadway and radio. In 1941 he changed his name professionally to Herb Sheldon and got a gig on WINS Radio. In 1946 he moved as a pioneer to the new medium of television with a kids’ show. He moved his family of two boys and two girls to a house at 173-34 Croydon Road in Jamaica Estates.
Sheldon was an early host of “Wonderama” on Channel 5, which moved to Channel 9 in 1959 — along with “Looney Tunes,” which was soon renamed “The Herb Sheldon Show.” He spoke to children as if they were his own telling them about the virtues of spinach and reading books.
He had to retire from TV in 1962 due to poor health. He then bought a steakhouse and two theater playhouses in Syosset and Montauk. He died of a massive heart attack on July 21, 1964 at age 51.
He often said his vocation in life was “to make people happy.”