Leader Blues

Monday, October 12, 2009

TOP STORY >> Navy veteran receives coat of arms

Norma Henry’s family joined her at Spring Creek Living Center on Tuesday to receive the coat of arms from Navy Lt. Cmdr. Tim Buller (right). They are her granddaughters, Ann Reichenbach (left) and Amy Mattison; daughter, Linda, with husband, retired Master Sgt. Jerry Reichenbach; and friends, retired Chief Petty Officer Jerry Hobson of the Fleet Reserve Association and Merle Wilson of Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services (WAVES).

Leader staff writer

Surrounded by family and neighbors, Norma Henry, 86, a resident of the Spring Creek Living Center in Cabot, was presented on Tuesday with the coat of arms for her service in the Navy during World War II by Lt. Cmdr. Tim Buller.

After graduating from high school, Henry volunteered to enlist in the Navy when she was 20. She was sent to Hunter College in New York City for basic training and was then stationed at Naval Air Station at Terminal Island, Calif.

“She was very involved in the political arena and service. The Navy was her No. 1 focus in life,” Henry’s daughter, Linda Reichenbach, said.

Henry served her country for three years, from July 1943 to August 1946, as a chief storekeeper. One of her duties included managing a soda fountain at the base.

After her enlistment, she learned she would be stationed in San Diego. Henry instead got out of the Navy and went back to her hometown in Minneapolis, Kan.

Henry was born on June 10, 1923 and raised in Minneapolis, Kan. Henry’s father was a wheat and cattle farmer. She lived in the same town for 80 years.

Poor health brought her to Arkansas, where she lived for two years with Linda and her husband Jerry in Jacksonville until she moved to the Spring Creek Living Center.

She was the youngest of six children; Henry had three brothers and three sisters. She was known as “Pete.”

“Pete is (my mother’s) nickname since she was 4,” Linda said, explaining the origins of the name.

“One day while wearing her brother’s overalls, she walked into the center of the room and announced to her family, ‘My name is Pete.’”

“Her grandparents and everyone called her Pete. Kids who went to school with her didn’t know her name was Norma Jean.”

Linda described her mom as a tomboy. Henry would climb trees and she was an avid softball player.

Henry played as a catcher through high school.

Shortly after returning from the Navy, she married Melvin Goure in 1946.

Henry was a homemaker. Reichenbach said later in life her mother went to school and became a licensed medical technician at age 60. She handled medicines at the Good Samaritan Nursing Home in her hometown.

Goure worked for Ottawa County maintaining roads. Henry was married to Goure for 11 years until his death in 1961. She has three children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Henry later remarried.

Henry’s son, Ron, went into the Navy in 1970 on the USS Gray during the Vietnam War. He was a fire-control technician on the destroyer where he was in charge of aiming and firing a gun on the ship. He spent four years in the service and received a medical discharge. Afterwards, he worked with computers.

Henry’s second son, Jerry, was disabled. He cut yards and did handyman work.

Both sons passed away in 1999.

Linda was a homemaker and part-time school bus driver. She and Jerry have five children, Sean, Rakale, Amy, Ann and Kurt.

For the past 14 years, she has been a seamstress at Price-Rite Cleaners in Jacksonville.

She said her mother always has had a strong belief in duty to her country. Henry was an active member and president of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary and the American Legion Auxiliary. She also donated blood at every chance she could.

Being involved in the election process was important to Henry when she lived in Kansas, as it continues to be today.

“She was on the election board and manned the polls,” Jerry Reichenbach said.
Linda recalled her mother saying, “One must always vote.”

“She was very angry because she didn’t get to vote in the last election,” Linda said. “I didn’t get her an absentee ballot. She never missed a chance to vote.”

There are things you don’t miss and that is it,” Linda Reichenbach said.

Jerry Reichenbach added, Henry would say, “If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain.”

Henry was active in her community in Kansas. She also enjoyed playing Canasta and dominoes with friends back home.