But the barrel-chested frame maker from Rochester wasn’t there for a luau, the theater or reeling in a big lunker. He traveled the globe for decades to establish himself as one of the world’s most accomplished open-water distance swimmers.
One morning two weeks ago, Herring cut his usual training regimen short, complaining of sore arms from the previous day’s workout and indicating “that he just wasn’t having a good day” at the Rochester Athletic Club, said Dave Arlander, a longtime friend and swimming partner. He collapsed later and died at home. On his 70th birthday. Feb. 14. Valentine’s Day. Of an enlarged heart.
“Vince was a goal setter, and that was his driving motivation,” Arlander said.
Herring’s aquatic odysseys have come in waters pristine and somewhat not so. Sharks and jellyfish have lurked about as he stroked his way along — mile after mile, hour after hour in conquering many of the most daunting swimming challenges that America and Europe has to offer:
The Strait of Gibraltar (four hours, 10 miles), the English Channel (12-plus hours at age 65), swims around Manhattan and Key West, the “Escape from Alcatraz” (one-armed because of a shoulder injury), and the shark-infested Maui Channel.
Arlander said none of Herring’s faraway conquests compared to the 21-mile crossing of Lake Mille Lacs in 2003. Arlander said the big lake in central Minnesota was his friend’s “roughest swim, with five- to six-foot waves” during more than 14 hours in the water.
Mary Herring said her husband of 44 years “threw up the whole while and all through the night” after going from Isle on the southeastern edge of the lake and gliding northwest all the way to Garrison. “He lost 14 pounds.”
But the swim that had Mary Herring most worried for his safety was the Maui Channel. Quite simply: sharks.
Vince assured Mary that he would be fine. “ ‘The sharks aren’t going to be a problem,’ ” she recalled him saying. “ ‘I’ll write the word ‘lutefisk’ on each of my legs. Sharks don’t eat lutefisk.’ ”
His full-time career began when he bought a radial arm saw on clearance at Sears and began framing his wife’s needlework. Herring Art and Frame thrived in Rochester for 34 years until he retired seven years ago.
Herring was preceded in death by a daughter, Sarah Margaret. Along with his wife, he is survived by two daughters, Kristen Asleson of Fountain, Minn., and Kendra Marable of Lawrence, Kan.; a son, Kyle Herring, of Rochester; and a sister, Barbara Herring, of Arlington, Va. Services have been held.