Hero memories

If you have visited Porto Bello Restaurant in Grand Haven, there’s a good chance you’ve seen Dudley Nedervelt sitting at the corner enjoying a glass of red wine and the company of the countless who call him friend.
Tribune Staff
Dec 7, 2013

You may know him as the spry, 90-year-old senior with the ever-present smile who, from time to time, opens for award-winning vocalist Tony Reynolds with his own interpretation of a vintage ballad.

It’s what you may not know about this slight, unassuming everyman, however, that makes his story remarkable.

When we hear the word “hero,” it tends to conjure visions of mythical crusaders in the time of Arthur riding their steeds into battle for the fate of the human race. It’s a term tossed around in video games, and nearly every comic book on the shelf is lined with tales of immortals.

The real-life heroes, however, tend to be those individuals who stand outside the spotlight, silently giving of themselves, with no need for statuesque depictions of their deeds or grandiose tributes.

Dudley Nedervelt is one such champion.

He has contributed to the freedoms we enjoy and has called Grand Haven home for more than a third of this nation’s history.

Nedervelt was born in Grand Haven on Nov. 17, 1923. At the age of 18, he shared the shock that resonated throughout every home as President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared Dec. 7, 1941, as “a date which will live in infamy” after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

It was the beginning of our second world war.

Nedervelt remembers the first days after the initial attack and his decision to join the surge of 5.4 million troops that chose to enlist.

“It was cold in January when I decided to head to Detroit to join up with the Marines,“ he said, “and I don’t just mean the weather. You felt a chill just knowing what was happening over there.”
Nedervelt recalls that some of the greatest enemies he faced never picked up a weapon.

“On the way to our first engagement, the six-story troop transport had to drop us off on an island so they could fumigate after an outbreak of meningitis,” he said.

While fighting on the front, he remembers opening letters from his then girlfriend, Bertha, who expressed concerns about his welfare. He thought of her often, too.

“I proposed to my wife by sending $25 in a letter so she could buy herself a ring. I didn’t know how long I would be gone, and I couldn’t wait,” Nedervelt says with a smile.

To read more of this story, see Saturday's print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

— By Ransom Grey, Special to the Tribune

Comments

rukidding

My parents, long deceased, were friends with the Dud and Bert, nice people. Thanks again for your service.

Real estate maven

Hooo Ahhh and Semper Fidelis Mr. Nedervelt. You are part of what truly is our Greatest Generation. Thank you for your service.

Tri-cities realist

Bravo Zulu

ransomgrey

I just wanted to take a moment to say that it was such a pleasure writing this story. I spent quite a bit of time shadowing Dudley, spending time with his family, phone calls with more than a dozen fellow church members and friends, and spent hours talking with Dudley and his daughter Colleen in his home about his experiences on the front. I can honestly say that Dudley is the real deal. As much time as I spent with him, I never saw him once without a smile on his face and something nice to say. When we spent time at Porto Bello over three different evenings, you could just tell he lit up the room and I can't tell you how many people would stop and say hello, shake his hand, and wish him well. Regardless of what he has done in war, we should all try to aspire to be more like Dudley.

He’s the true Michigan gentleman we see riding his bike along the harbor, the devoted father, the steadfast humanitarian, the hero that risked his life to defend ours, and the friend to so many. He, like the area he calls home, is a hidden treasure worthy of our sincerest admiration and our highest esteem.

ransomgrey

One more thing: while researching the war and talking to other veterans in the area, I realized how little credit they receive for their sacrifice. We all know they give up a lot to protect our way of life, but I had no idea the conditions under which they had to live, how difficult the psychological effects of war can be, and how heavy a burden they carry every single day. Unless you've done it (which I haven't), I don't think we can possibly imagine what these amazing men and women endure for every one of us.

So the next time you see Dudley, maybe at Porto Bello, or any brave soul that has given their life to serve and defend this great nation or has even just gone out of their way to make this world we share a little better, buy them a drink, pay for their coffee, or give them a silent approval with a nod and a smile. While we may not always agree with the motivations behind the battles they fight, none of us can deny they are risking everything to stand tall, never wavering, between us and the people that would see us harmed under circumstances we simply cannot possibly fathom and they do it with an honor and virtue that should make us all proud.

LifeLongRes

Thank you SO MUCH ransomgrey for both your article and your comments. I wholeheartedly agree! P.S. Love you Dudley and I look forward to sitting by you in church again soon!

Post a Comment

Log in to your account to post comments here and on other stories, galleries and polls. Share your thoughts and reply to comments posted by others. Don't have an account on GrandHavenTribune.com? Create a new account today to get started.