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Within days of returning from a business trip to Rhode Island, Rich Herman came down with a fever, lost his energy and struggled to breathe.

He went to a respiratory clinic and then the emergency room, where he tested positive for COVID-19. Herman was put on oxygen for several days and his condition improved. But soon after returning to his Rosemount home on April 8, Herman sat down and repeatedly said, "I can't get my breath," prompting his wife, Cathy, to call 911.

Paramedics worked for about an hour to save Herman's life on the back deck, but he died of complications of the virus. He was 66.

Cathy Herman described her husband as thoughtful, highly intelligent and calm in a crisis. He was a big man with a gentle demeanor. But what she'll miss most is his laughter.

"I married him because he had a sense of humor," she said.

Born in Plentywood, Mont., in 1954, Rich Herman grew up on a farm outside town. He studied computer science at Montana State University and there met Cathy, whom he married in 1981. The couple eventually settled in Minnesota and raised two children. Herman took jobs at Sperry Corp. and later Lockheed Martin Corp. — where he worked on the F-35 program — until 2016.

He was a lifelong learner. In his mid-40s, Herman found a passion for blacksmithing and became president of the Guild of Metalsmiths. He enjoyed conducting blacksmithing demonstrations at the Minnesota Zoo, mentoring people new to the craft and traveling to conferences. He made steak turners for everyone in the family who got married and filled the house with his creations, from fireplace pokers to candlesticks.

Herman also loved to travel, taking trips to the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Mexico, St. Vincent and across America. The Hermans were next planning to go to Belize. In five years, they had an even bigger dream — to sell their Rosemount property, buy a motor home and divide their time between southwest Washington and Seeley Lake, Mont. But first, the Hermans wanted to wrap up their careers.

Herman's part-time job testing military products sent him to Rhode Island on March 9 for nearly two weeks — though he, like Cathy, was nervous about the trip as the pandemic grew.

Other survivors include his children, Bryan and Anna of Rosemount, his brother Martin Herman of Cedar Falls, Iowa, and many other relatives.

His family is delaying the funeral until next year.

"I don't want to risk another death because of this," Cathy Herman said.