Richard John Nordby Sr., 97, died December 3 in his apartment at Lake Gibson Village in Lakeland, FL. Known as “Dick’’ to his friends and family, he was healthy and active until his final day, swimming and biking and still driving his Lincoln.
Dick was born Feb. 4, 1923, in Norton, Canada, the son of Norwegian immigrant Peter J. Nordby and Victoria Lee Nordby, the youngest of three children. His mother died in 1925 and Peter Nordby remarried after moving his family to Grand Rapids, MI, and then Sheboygan, WI, where Dick graduated from North High School in 1941.
Peter Nordby was a master woodworker, managing and owning several furniture plants, and taught his son the cabinet and furniture business. In 1957, Dick started his own company, R.J. Machinery Sales, selling new and used woodworking machinery. He worked until he was 80.
Growing up during the Great Depression, Dick learned the value of hard work and spent all his summers from the age of 10 to 17 working on his uncle’s farm. During high school, Dick got a job at a drug-store soda fountain, which resulted in a lifelong fondness of milkshakes.
With the outbreak of World War II, Dick had a deferment because he was employed at a defense plant, but he couldn’t sit on the sidelines and enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He served from 1943 until 1946 aboard the USS George W. Ingram, a Destroyer Escort, in the North Atlantic. He and his shipmates made 18 crossings and assisted in escorting more than 500 troop and supply-laden ships from the U.S. to the British Isles. Dick stayed on after the war to help decommission the ship and served in the Naval Reserves until 1951.
On Sept. 25, 1946, he married Mary Roeslein and they raised five children while living in Chicago, Rockford, and Mount Prospect, IL. Dick’s machinery sales business thrived and in 1971 he and a partner bought Palmer Machinery Co. in Jacksonville, FL. Moving to Jacksonville gave Dick more time for his favorite pastime: golf.
Dick and Mary enjoyed being members and residents of Baymeadows Golf and Country Club, and Dick was a volunteer for more than 40 years at the Tournament Players Championship. He worked for NBC Sports during the tournament, transporting camera operators around the Sawgrass course. He was a charter volunteer at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, FL, logging more than 1,000 hours of volunteer time, and would often give free IMAX theater tickets to his grandchildren.
His approach to life was to live each day to its fullest and he loved to travel, fish, play cards – especially pinochle – watch classic movies and listen to big-band music. He owned numerous boats and taught his children to water ski at the family’s cottage on Powers Lake, WI. He formed a lasting bond with his Navy shipmates and attended many reunions. And he had a network of other business owners with whom he founded the United Woodworking Machinery Exchange. He was a Shriner and member of the Norwegian Club in Chicago.
Dick is predeceased by his loving wife of 61 years, Mary; his daughter, Nancy J. Campbell; his father, mother, stepmother, Evelyn Nordby; a brother, Edwin Nordby; sister, Mary Clark; and two half-brothers, Robert P. Nordby and Peter J. Nordby.
He is survived by daughters, Jane Kunberger (Jim) of Marietta, Ga; Susan Diskin of St. Augustine; Cheryl Schmidt (Steve) of Lakeland; a son, Richard J. Nordby Jr. (Sela) of Mesa, AZ; eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
His companion of many years, Elizabeth Goldthwaite, predeceased him in April. Before moving to Lakeland in 2018, Dick lived in St. Augustine about 20 years.
Condolences may be sent to the family at Heath Funeral Chapel.