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Harry Nord, a decorated World War II pilot, self-made millionaire and generous local philanthropist, died in his sleep yesterday at the Philadelphia Veteran's Administration Hospital. He was 83 years old and had been ill for some time.
A true Horatio Alger story, Mr. Nord, born in Camden, New Jersey, came from a humble background, having been orphaned at the age of twelve when his parents died in the infamous B&O train crash of December 1934. An investigation of the incident revealed that the conductor had reported to work inebriated after celebrating at the company Christmas party. Charges were leveled, though later dropped, against the railroad's management. Mr. Nord liked to tell employees of Nord Notions and Trimmings Company, of which he was founder and president, that it was his constant lack of proper winter clothing growing up in greater Philadelphia that led him to the garment industry.
Before making his mark in the industry, Mr. Nord had a distinguished military career in World War II, rising to the rank of captain. A pilot, his plane was shot down on a mission over northern Italy. Although dazed and injured, Mr. Nord dragged his wounded navigator from the burning plane. Local villagers of San - LAUREN JEFFRIES tapped on the space bar and rubbed her lips. "San what?" she asked out loud to no one in particular. The rest of the Metro Desk at the Philadelphia Sentinel, eastern Pennsylvania's second-largest newspaper - a claim that never failed to generate a snide "Hah!" from Lauren - had long since filed their stories for the night's deadline and were drinking cheap beer and complaining about their piddly salaries at Gino's, the bar around the corner from the office.
She glanced at her notes, knowing already that they wouldn't offer any assistance. A conspirator-ial smile formed on her lips, and she hunched over her terminal and tapped furiously.
Local villagers from San Margherita discovered the two men and hid the crew until they were well enough to travel. Then, with the aid of a shepherd, they hiked to safety across the Alps to Switzerland.
Mr. Nord was later awarded a Bronze Star for heroism.
Upon conclusion of the war, Mr. Nord returned to Philadelphia, where he secured various entry-level jobs in the garment industry. While working as a buttonholer at a shirt factory, he realized that the finishing process would proceed much more quickly if there were a single machine that could sew and slit the buttonholes at the same time. He developed an automatic buttonhole device, which he patented. The Nordomatic, as the device came to be known, revolutionized shirtmaking. Later inventions, including the zigzag zipper-foot, further established Mr. Nord as an innovative leader in the industry, and laid the groundwork for Nord Notions and Trimming Company, a manufacturing business whose headquarters were once located next to Thirtieth Street Station. In 1991, the Singer Corporation bought out Nord Notions; operations were subsequently moved to Mexico.
Mr. Nord was a generous benefactor, as well as an industrial leader. Locally, he established the "Winter Coat Drive" to aid the Salvation Army. Perhaps his most generous act of charity -
Lauren backspaced and deleted the last word.
- of largesse was the rebuilding of the tiny town of San Margherita. Grateful for the protection the villagers had offered despite the risk to their own safety, Mr. Nord donated funds to build a new school, retirement home and library, restore the community's small but noteworthy Romanesque church and establish a scholarship program to send promising students to universities in Italy and abroad. A plaque in his honor, affixed to the north wall of the town hall, proclaims in Italian, "Here he came to earth in a blaze of fire, and with God's help, raised San Margherita from the ashes."
Lauren leaned back. The quote was outrageous, and she could just see Dan Jankowski, the copy editor on duty that night, chuckling to himself before he hit the delete button and sent her a terse e-mail: "Try to keep your flights of fancy to under three inches. This is Metro, not Page One."
It was bad to fabricate the story, even an obit. Really bad. Lauren, who wore professional integrity on her sleeve the way a lot of professional athletes had endorsement patches, knew it more than most. But she couldn't help it. And it wasn't like this one was ever going to see the light of day. Call it a revenge piece. A catharsis. A way to vent her reporter's spleen. She'd just found out that her managing editor, Ray Kirkel, the douche bag, had passed her over for the State House reporter job in favor of Huey Neumeyer. Huey! An editorial assistant who couldn't even photocopy straight. Maybe the fact that he was Ray's wife's cousin had something to do with the appointment.
"Everything to do with it!" Lauren snorted. One did not grow up in South Philly without acquiring a certain sense of cynicism. It was like cheesesteaks, the local culinary specialty - it went with the territory.
After three years pounding the Metro beat, generating more than the usual school board and two-alarm fire stories - and garnering an award from the Pennsylvania Press Association for her piece on teenage runaways - what did she get? A fax tossed on her desk and an order from Ray: "Two inches by deadline. An ad was pulled from the obit page, and I need to fill the space."
Lauren had looked down at the bare-bones release from the mortuary. Harry Nord, the real Harry Nord, wouldn't guarantee more than half a column inch, and that was with a free plug for the funeral parlor.
"So, this is my reward for all my hard work and effort?" Lauren wailed silently after Ray had waddled off in the direction of the men's room. "The man wouldn't know a crack reporter, let alone a crack story, if he fell over one," she muttered under her breath. And to prove her point, she'd taken Harry Nord's death notice and embellished it beyond recognition, turning it into the human interest story of the year, knowing full well it wouldn't run, but getting a genuine sense of satisfaction nonetheless.
Tomorrow, she'd do the real obit on the real Harry Nord, and it would appear in a late edition. Ray would never know. As far as she could tell, he hardly ever looked at the paper except to scan the six-column photos of buxom, bikini-clad babes.
Without a second thought, Lauren hit Send and forwarded the text to the Copy Desk. End of story.
Excerpted from The Truth About Harry by Tracy Kelleher Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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