David Hertzig’s day started in typical fashion.
Homemade whole-grain bread, with the aroma wafting across his Coconut Grove home. A copy of the New York Times. And, of course, fresh coffee in a mug.
The 85-year-old professor had his morning routine. There also was the daily crossword puzzles and Sudoku, followed by packing lunch for his grandson, putting on a helmet, then biking to his 8 a.m. class at Miami Dade College.
“It was just like any other day. Little did we know minutes later he’d lose his life to a coward,” said his daughter, Amie Hertzig. “That was his last bike ride.”
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David Hertzig died Saturday after being struck by a hit-and-run driver on Sept. 24. His students at the college’s InterAmerican campus waited for their professor who would never show up.
Hertzig was riding his bicycle in the bike lane of his regular route — Southwest 37th Avenue and Charles Terrace — around 7:30 a.m. last Monday. That’s when a driver in a blue Jaguar heading north on Douglas hit him, Miami police said.
The driver — who investigators are still searching for— got out of the car, made a quick phone call and then fled, leaving Hertzig for dead, police say. Witnesses told police the driver was a white male “with gray hair and a receding hairline.” He’s believed to be in his 50s or 60s, around 5 feet 10 inches tall in business attire.
Hertzig was ultimately taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Trauma Center in critical condition. Six days later, he died of his injuries — several broken bones, including many ribs, his scapula and pelvis, as well as a torn artery and a detached lung, his family said.
“His father lived to be 95. My father would have lived that long if he wouldn’t have been killed,” Amie Hertzig said. “We are asking the community to come forward and help bring our family closure.”
After serving as former chairman of the mathematics department at the University of Miami in the 1970s, the mathematician retired as emeritus faculty. Hertzig took a sabbatical, but eventually went back to teach several math courses at MDC to help provide for his daughter — a single mom.
“He basically adopted my two children. He was their father,” Amie Hertzig said. “He went back to work to help me and my kids. That’s the kind of dedicated grandpa he was.”
A son of a shoemaker, Hertzig was born and raised in New York and graduated from James Madison High School in Brooklyn at 16.
His prom date? Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court appointed by President Bill Clinton.
Hertzig moved on to earn degrees — an undergraduate degree from Cornell University, a graduate degree from the University of Paris and a doctorate from the University of Chicago. He then graduated from the University of Miami’s law school in the late 1970s.
During his career, Hertzig also went on to teach at Cornell, Princeton and Purdue, and eventually opened up a law firm in Coral Gables — Hoffman & Hertzig.
“He was a quintessential renaissance man, a multi-talented genius,” Amie Hertzig said. “But despite his many talents and prestige, he was warm and humble. He even tutored people for free.”
Apart from academia, the scholar was an avid bicyclist in “great shape” who called his daily trek through the tree-lined streets of the Grove “invigorating.”
But it was his homemade bread and bagels that made the movie buff, artist and baker the talk of the town.
“He would teach people how to do them boiled, Brooklyn style,” Amie Hertzig said. “The best bagels in Miami were coming straight out of my house.”
Hertzig is survived by four children, 12 grandchildren and his dog, Baci.
Said his daughter: “He wasn’t ready to go. He was killed and we’re crying out for justice.”