ROGERS, Ark. — Chester "Chet" Nordling jokes that he grew up in jail. In reality, the soon-to-be centenarian patriot lived in the back of a jailhouse with his mother and five siblings for four years while his father was elected Sheriff in McPherson, Kansas.
Nordling was born in Nekoma, Kansas on May 30, 1923, and the rest of his life was lived far from a jailhouse and in service of his country.
After graduating high school, Nordling worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Kansas City. After World War II started, he was drafted and served with the Navy Armed Guard in the Pacific theater of the war. He was first deployed to Alaska. Here, he manned the stern gun on the SS John P. Gains defending the Aleutian Islands from the Japanese.
On his second deployment, Nordling's ship broke in half and sank during a violent storm. The veteran still has vivid memories of the event, remembering "giant five-story waves" that pulled the prop of the ship out of the water. After this, he was assigned to the Uriah M. Rose.
After the war, and thanks to the G.I. Bill which provided veterans of war with benefits like education, he attended McPherson College, graduating in 1949, and then went to Washburn University for his Law Degree in 1951. Nordling went on to become instrumental in helping change the Kansas law to benefit the disabled.
He moved to Bentonville when he was 82 and he married his second wife and long-time friend Marjorie Montgomery.
Nordling has outlived all five of his siblings, two wives, and two children. He now lives in a retirement community in Rogers where he meets twice a week with a group of friends who call themselves "The Intellectual Group."
Friends and family of Nordling had a birthday celebration for him on Memorial Day weekend at First Christian Church in Bentonville on Sunday, May 28.
Nordling shared what he says makes his 100-year adventure worth it.
"Life is all about family and it starts from your birth to your death and I think that's the most important thing that I think about is the family get-together," said Nordling. "There are so many things I was pleased with in my life and I've had a full life."
Nordling said this birthday was the best one yet. All his family was in one room, some even visiting him from Kansas, and he says you can't beat that.
During the party, Nordling was given three medals of honor, some included medals that he had lost that were returned to him.
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