James M. Nold

NO. 17846  •  12 February 1928 – 23 August 1999

Died in Littleton, CO
Interred in Ft. Logan Cemetery, Denver, CO

JAMES MILLER NOLD was a great guy, and we miss him dearly. It seems like it was only yesterday, but it was “way back” in 1946 when those of us in Company H-2 first encountered Jim’s friendliness, enormous enthusiasm, generosity, ready smile, and his relentness  determination to succeed in the face of all obstacles – characteristics we admitted then, as we do now.

Jim was an “Army Brat,” as his father was a distinguished Army Engineer. He was born at Fort Leavenworth while his father was PMS&T at the University of Kansas – Lawrence. In the course of his dad’s assignments, Jim attended various secondary schools, including Ketchikan High School in Alaska and Culver Military Academy and Nappanee High School in Indiana, from whence he received his congressional appointment to USMA.

While a cadet, Jim engaged himself impetuously in a wide variety of activities. He had a particular passion for “inter-murder” football, and as luck would have it, in the first game during Plebe year, he broke his jaw and was constrained to eating his meals with a straw. That hardly slowed Jim down, however, and certainly did not dampen his enthusiasm. He continued to strive, and he continued to experience more injuries. As one acquaintance put it, “It wasn’t that he wasn’t athletic, but ‘things’ just happened.” The following year, he ended up with a broken collar bone, but neither incident dampened his enthusiasm for football.

Jim and Mary married just after graduation, and together they headed for Jump School at Fort Benning, followed by an assignment to the 82d Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., where son Bobby was born. While Jim was an avid paratrooper, the Korean War was taking place and Jim “chomped at the bit” to ride to the sound of the guns. He was impatient at the unavoidable attendance at the Company Officers’ Course at the Infantry School before deploying to Korea, where all those in the course had orders to report to the Port of Embarcation with a delay en route during Christmas.

In his eagerness, Jim reported ahead of the others and was already proceeding by ship when they checked in. He was assigned to the 35th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division. Shortly after his arrival, while conducting a reconnaissance in the Punchbowl, Jim was seriously wounded in the head.

For a while, the prognosis of his recovery was discouraging. The injury to his brain left him paralyzed on his right side, strongly affecting his ability to speak. Miraculously, though, he began to mend. After a lot of hard work and a brace on his leg, he gradually regained his ability to walk. While he was recuperating at Walter Reed Army Hospital and still unable to talk, one of his doctors predicted, in his presence, that Jim would never recover his math ability. Jim strongly disagreed, but since he was unable to speak, he grabbed something to write with and began scribbling math equations.

Speech, however, was tougher, and Jim struggled to be able to talk. He clearly had his heart set on returning to active duty, for one of his first spoken words – expressing his determination to get back on parachute status – was “Geronimo!” Despite Jim’s heroic efforts, his injury ultimately limited his progress. Nontheless, resourceful and determined to be able to communicate, Jim developed a sort of shorthand way of speaking, using stock phrases that enabled him to be understood. “Fine as frog hairs” was one many recall, because it illustrates his unfailing good humor and sunny outlook on life.

Mary’s splendid support and encouragement helped enormously with Jim’s recovery. She was a tower of strength. She once told us in good humor, “He and (his son) Bobby are learning to walk and talk at the same time!”

Jim was medically retired from the Army he loved, but he continued to fight hard to recover his physical abilities. He enrolled in college, worked hard physically and academically, and became a successful electrical engineer.

He was first employed by Martin-Marietta in Denver and then by the Bureau of Reclamation in the Department of the Interior. Jim’s department was later transferred to the Department of Energy and became the Western Area Power Administration. He was very much admired there, in 1987, retired. Jim, Mary, son Robert, and daughter Emily settled in Littleton, CO, just outside Denver, where he formed a coterie of close and admiring friendships.

Despite some lingering effects of his injury, classmates visiting Jim were amazed at his almost miraculous recovery from his catastrophic wound. He was “sharp as a tack,” and he played good bridge. Associates in the Department of Energy attest to his excellence in chess and to his love for fine classical music.

Jim died in August 1999 and is interred at Fort Logan National Cemetery outside Denver. As one classmate put it, “He was certainly the stuff from which good soldiers are made.”