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Garfield J. Jordan, World War II veteran who served at Normandy, dies at 102

A folded flag sits on a casket during ceremonial funeral training at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Feb. 22, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Sadie Colbert/Released)

Garfield J. Jordan, 102, who took part in the D-Day invasion in Normandy, France, during World War II, died Friday, Sept. 4, of cancer at the Visiting Nurse Association Hospice in Philadelphia.

Mr. Jordan was born in Dawson County, Ga., in July 1918, the eldest of seven children born to Rebecca and Elder Jordan.

At 17, he left Georgia because of segregation and racism in the South to join his father in Philadelphia.

He was drafted into the Army, where he served in the European theater. A City of Philadelphia citation in honor of his 100th birthday in 2018 noted he had served at Normandy and received an honorable discharge as a staff sergeant.

In 1943, he married Leona Brooks, and the couple had two daughters. Mr. Jordan also had an older daughter from a previous relationship.

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“He was generous, kind, and soft-spoken,” said Minister Dienay Williams, a granddaughter. “He was a gentleman, a Southern gentleman.”

Williams said her grandfather was a storyteller who loved to talk about his life in the South.

“We sat around and listened to the stories,” she said. “He talked about walking two miles past the white school to get to the Black school, sometimes having no shoes, and the dirt farming, all of that.”

He also talked about the discrimination he faced in the Army and after he was discharged.

“He was Black and during that time in World War II, he wasn’t holding the guns, but he was bringing the ammunition to the guns in the middle of the battle,” Williams said.

“He talked about the discrimination in the Army, and how the people overseas treated him better than the [American] soldiers he was fighting with. Then he talked about coming home and being a veteran and not being able to vote.”

After the Army, Mr. Jordan worked as a truck driver for the World Press Printing company in Philadelphia for 40 years. While working as a truck driver, he also operated his own business, Jordan Cleaning Services, for about 20 years.

He had lived independently in his West Philadelphia home until failing health caused him to move to a nursing home in January.

Mr. Jordan was a longtime member of Allen AME Church in West Philadelphia. In his spare time, he collected books and loved reading about the history of African Americans.

He was also a 33rd Degree Mason, and grand potentate in Pennsylvania.

In addition to his granddaughter, Mr. Jordan is survived by two daughters, Leona Jordan and Arnelle Phyllis Holland; seven grandchildren; 37 great-grandchildren; 10 great-great-grandchildren; and one sister. His wife and oldest daughter, Norma Jean Wilburn, predeceased him.

A funeral was held Sept 9.

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© 2020 The Philadelphia Inquirer