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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Nick Gordon just one of the reasons they call it the "Greatest Generation"

Nick and JoAnn at their 50th anniversary
Elsy and Franklyn Bless

Lonnie “Nick” Gordon one of the reasons they call it the “Greatest Generation”
Jo Ann and the family asked me to tell you my story about Nick. A few months ago when I realized how sick Nick was I wanted to write this story about how three days during WWII changed two peoples lives forever. With the help of the internet I was able to locate Elsy Bless and with the help of both Nick and Elsy I was able to write this story… that to Elsy is one of the most important parts of her life. I spoke to Elsy on Monday after I learned of Nick’s passing. Through our tears I was able to tell Elsy that Nick was gone. Due to her own health problems Elsy is not able to be here today. But I am here to tell her story and how a chance meeting with Nick will never be forgotten by anyone that hears it. The following story was printed in The Minute Magazine and also printed in the Maastricht, Holland newspaper.
Lomey “Nick” Gordon was one of the reasons they call it the “Greatest Generation”
Lomey Gordon was born in Castor, Louisiana March 7, 1921 to Otha J. Gordon and Annie Leticia Gordon. Nick as he is known now was one of 6 brothers and 2 sisters. Nick learned early, that life was not an easy road. He grew up with a strong work ethic and knew how hard a dollar was to come by. This story is not so much about what Nick has done over the last 80 some odd years. This story is about a chance encounter that would change two people’s lives thousands of miles from a small town in North Louisiana.
Elsy Bless is a Texan but not by birth. She is from a small town by the name of Maastricht, Holland. I had the privilege of talking to Elsy by phone, recently. Elsy and her younger brother, Marcel Boessen, slept in the basement of their bomb damaged home for four years during WWII. Elsy said the sirens would sound and the town was under strict curfew because of the air raids by the Germans. All windows were blacked out and no lights would be turned on during these night air raids. Elsy’s mother thought it would be better that the family stayed in the basement for their safety, and for four years that was their home. Many families were hiding in the woods and on the outskirts of these small towns during the invasion of Holland by Hitler’s troops. The Dutch towns were in ruin and many families had been lost or killed. They waited with hopes of one day being saved by the Americans. Living on very little food many families were near starvation. Elsy’s father and grandmother were artists and Elsy’s mother, Mrs. Boessen would go everyday to area farmers and try to trade their art work or other valuable antiques for the much needed food for the family. Many would not make it through alive but Elsy and her brother did. She gives the American soldier Nick Gordon much of that credit for her first impression of Americans. She said, to her, these men were bigger than General Patton.
Five of the Gordon boys were drafted in WWII. Albert Gordon (Better known to his buddies as “Flash”) served 3 years and 2 months in the Pacific Theater. He was in the 169th Infantry, 43rd Division. He received numerous medals for his service. Clifton Gordon served in the European Theater of Operations, Leonard Gordon served in the Army (stateside), Mack Gordon, served in the Navy. Nick Gordon was 21 years old and had never been far from home. Nick was put in the 30th Infantry Division. Nick’s name of Lomey also seemed to have changed in the Army to Lonnie. Nick never told his officers any different… he just answered to whatever they called him. Army historian S.L.A. Marshall called the Thirtieth the “Finest Infantry Division in the European Theater of Operations”. There are many monuments that have been dedicated to this brave group of men. On a hill in Mortain, France a monument reads, “Valor-Sacrifice-Courage-. They gave their lives for Freedom.” August 6-14, 1944. Nick would tell you that, “War was pure Hell!”
Nick remembers taking the town very early in the morning. They were sent in to secure a bridge and clear the town of the Germans. Artillery fire was all around him and glass rained down without cutting him as he entered a church. Always on guard was the only way to survive and Nick and his brothers must have used some of there country boy survival skills because all the Gordon boys made it back from the war in one piece! This in itself is an amazing feat when you think about how many lost their lives on foreign soil during WWII.
September 14, 1944 Elsy remembers first seeing Gordon lying on the bank of the river by the railroad station in her hometown, covered with dirt. All the children crowded around the Americans on that day that would stick in her mind forever. “I thought he was Santa Claus,” Elsy said. Nick gave Elsy and her brother his K-rations, candy, and his name and address on a match cover. None of the children including Elsy spoke English at the time. For three days the children returned and for three days Nick gave Elsy and her brother candy bars, gum and his K-Rations. One small act of kindness from a man that many may think of as a “tough old bird” would be forever seared into a young girl’s life.
Elsy became an entertainer after the war. This job would carry her all over Europe, and in every town that had American cemeteries she searched for the name on the match cover for years feeling sure that this American soldier had been killed. Her search never stopped. She said she carried this match cover with a name and address for years and one day it was gone but the name and address would be imprinted in her mind for ever. She tried to write to Gordon in America but the letters were always returned address unknown. She was sure that the reason the letters came back was because Gordon had been killed. The real reason the letters came back was the fact that the address was that of his grandparents that were now deceased.
Marcel stayed in Maastricht in the family home, where he lives to this day. Elsy married an American GI and later would end up in Texas. She and her husband Frank have lived in the San Antonio area for many years. In 1963 Elsy was in a terrible car wreck that left her in much pain. Many years later a doctor in Shreveport was in the news for a new procedure for nerve damage. A visit to Shreveport-Bossier City for a medical procedure in 1994 brought the Bless couple unexpectedly close to Minden. She knew that she would continue her search for the GI to Minden. Elsy told her husband Frank that she was too close to Minden to not look for Lonnie Gordon. As soon as she was released from the hospital the search was on again. Elsy was determined to find him or at least where he was buried. She was a woman with a mission. She hoped to find maybe a family member of Gordon that could tell her about the soldier she searched for. She stopped at the Minden City Hall and told her story to some of the light and water department workers. They told her of a Nick Gordon and the street that he lived on. The first door she knocked on was the right door! Nick’s wife Jo Ann answered and was surprised to say the least. Nick wasn’t home but after Elsy told Jo Ann her story Jo Ann called around town and found him. Within ten minutes Nick and Elsy were face to face and it was miraculously 50 years to that exact September 14th day that she had first seen Lonnie Gordon thousands of miles from where they now stood in his living room in Minden, La. Elsy was finally able to tell Nick how much what he had done for her and her little brother that day in a burned out town had meant to her! Her fifty year search had ended and she had her chance to say in person and in English “thank you”. A local television station got wind of the story and was in Minden to film the reunion and also make a special story about the two on the “Home Town Hero” segment. The families were able to spend a little time together and finally get aquatinted over a nice dinner.
Nick’s story, I’m sure is not unique when it came to the other young men fighting for freedom. They were just young men trying to do what was right and help those that were suffering. They had a job to do and they did it to the best of their know-how and ability. Nick just happens to be the GI that I knew best. He was the one that didn’t enjoy talking about war. He is the one that didn’t want to remember the horrible things that he had to go through.
When you watch shows like “Saving Private Ryan” you see some of the horrors and atrocities of WWII. When you have known someone like Lomey “Nick” Gordon you know why with so many obstacles we were able to wipe out the German and Japanese forces and have victory over an ominous evil. Most of WWII veterans don’t talk about their war. It is too painful and to horrible to relive. That is why this story is not about the fact that Nick landed in Normandy, France on Omaha Beach and walked across Europe until 1945 to face incredible obstacles and horror. It is about what a country boy did to help someone that he had never seen and never thought he would see again. It is a story of survival thousands of miles from home, family and everything that he knew and loved. Nick would laugh and say “Hell they even gave me a medal for good conduct!”
After his discharge from the Army and then his discharge in 1945 as an Air Force currier Nick went to work for Gifford-Hill. Many hard hours were spent with this company 42 years worth to be exact. August 23, 1952 was another great day for Nick Gordon. He married his sweetheart Jo Ann Boland. Even after being injured the day of his wedding he still managed to make it. He just was a little beat and battered from an accident with some heavy equipment. “He looked a little rough” Jo Ann said, “but he made it”! The Gordon’s have two children Otha Lamar Gordon and Charlotte Ann Mandino. The home has been blessed with regular visits from three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Nick and Jo Ann have been married over 50 years and even though health has not always been good, life has been good for this family for many years.
Nick made a confession of his faith a few years ago on Mother’s Day. He wanted to go ahead and “get it done” he said. The preacher told him that the water was going to be cold because they had recently filled the baptistery up and the water had not warmed yet. Nick said, “Cold was fine with him, he had bathed in many a cold creek!” So in he went, to the joy and happiness of his family and many friends at North Acres Baptist Church. He may have seemed a little rough on the outside but he was solid gold on the inside! I am proud to have known Nick and to be able to call him a good friend. Lonnie “Nick” Gordon is definitely a home-town hero and one of the last members of the greatest generation!
The following statement is from Elsy Bless. She wanted me to be sure to say these words for her to Nick. Dear Friend,
Thank you for liberating me September 14, 1944 WWII in Maastricht, Holland. In 1994 I found you again. I want to also thank you for sharing your KRations with me and my brother. You will be marching on with the Saints and the rest of you military buddies. Rest in Peace my friend. Forever grateful, Elsy Bless and Family
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Lomey “Nick” GordonFuneral services for Lomey "Nick" Gordon, 84, of Minden will be held at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2006, at Rose-Neath Chapel with the Revs. Jerry Key and Roy Strother officiating.
Interment will follow at Gardens of Memory Cemetery under the direction of Rose-Neath Funeral Home.Visitation will be held from 4 until 9 p.m. today, Wednesday, January 11.Gordon was born in Castor and died Jan. 9, 2006 in Minden. Gordon was a decorated veteran of the 30th Infantry Division Campaign at Normandy. He was a member of the VFW Horseshoe Loop Post in Doyline and the American Legion in Minden. He was a heavy equipment operator for Gifford Hill for 42-years and was a member of North Acres Baptist Church in Minden.He was preceded in death by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Otha Gordon and by his brothers, Albert, Leonard and Mac Gordon.He is survived by his wife, Jo Ann Gordon of Minden; one son, Otha L. Gordon and wife Toni of Benton; one daughter, Charlotte Mandino and husband Guy of Minden; two sisters, Ruth Shelley and husband Jack and Maxine Hollis and husband Warner, all of Doyline; two brothers, Fred Gordon and wife Lois of Dubberly and Clifton Gordon of Altus, Ok.; three grandchildren, Wesley Mandino and wife Amber, Trace Mandino and wife Kimberly and Tyler Mandino; two great-grandchildren, Haynes and Maddix Mandino; and numerous nieces and nephews.Pallbearers will be Bobby Mourad, Eddie Moore, Mike Moore, Joe Moore, Ronnie Hollis, J.P. McBride, Mike Harper and Pat Harper.Honorary pallbearers will be the employees of Harper Motors.