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Decorated veteran revived wartime radio skills

| Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, 12:01 a.m.

When the doors of his B-24 bomber were sheared during a mission through the Zuiderzee, a narrow channel in the North Sea with anti-aircraft guns on each side that airmen dubbed “Flak Alley,” Bob Jordan took off his parachute to be able to reach out and kick the door loose as the gunner held him by his harness.

“They had an arrangement — if anything happened, they'd use the one chute,” said his son, William Jordan .

The plane and its crew made it back to the Royal Air Force's Old Buckenham airfield in southern England that served as home after the harrowing event.

Robert W. Jordan of Washington died Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015. He was 91.

Born March 3, 1924, in Cowansburg, a son of the late L. Quay and Sara (Campbell) Jordan, he flew 36 combat missions with the Army Air Forces' 454th Bomb Group in Europe during World War II, earning a Distinguished Flying Cross, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze stars, a Good Conduct medal and an Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters.

Their planes often had to be scrapped after missions because they were so full of holes, William Jordan said.

Returning from the war, Mr. Jordan married Betty Jean White, the girl he met as a kid when they were taking piano lessons. After 65 years of marriage, Mrs. Jordan died in 2012.

“Theirs was a love that was rare,” his son said.

A 1950 graduate of the University of Rhode Island with a bachelor's degree in business administration, he retired in 1980 as vice president of operation from Jessop Steel Co. in Washington after 30 years of service.

Later in life, he built on what he learned as an Air Force radio man and became an amateur radio operator.

“I always wanted to get into it, and one day we just decided to do it,” said Regis Stinely, 86, who knew Mr. Jordan for 50 years. “Before you knew it, we had antennas everywhere.”

Through their ham radios, Mr. Jordan was able to keep in touch with people in Great Britain whom he met during the war, and Stinely was able to relay messages from soldiers all over the world to their parents in the States.

They held Happy Hour religiously every day from 4 to 5 p.m. in their backyards, Stinely said. Mr. Jordan also enjoyed gardening, riding bikes, and taking walks with his wife.

A member of First Lutheran Church and the Shriners, both in Washington, he also was past Junior Chamber of Commerce Young Man of the Year in Washington.

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife, Betty Jean; a grandson, Thomas S. Jordan; and brothers, Donald and William Jordan.

Surviving are sons William W. Jordan of Grove City and Robert W. Jordan Jr. of Washington; four grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; a sister, Sally Shuglie of Cowansburg; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday in J. William McCauley Jr. Funeral Home, 901 Vine St., West Newton. Interment with military honors will follow in West Newton Cemetery.

Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or csmith@tribweb.com.

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