The Brooklyn Center man developed and trained thousands in Minnesota's emergency services certification program.
Richard W. Nordby, a leader in developing emergency medical services training in Minnesota, died June 10 at age 87.
"He was like the guru. ... He was one of the real leaders in medical training for the fire service," said State Fire Marshal Gerald Rosendahl. "He was in the early days, developing a lot of this stuff that now we take for granted."
After graduating from Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis in 1943, Nordby joined the U.S. Navy. As a bosun's mate, he piloted landing craft in the South Pacific where the Navy freed POWs from Japanese prison camps.
"He told me some of those guys were not strong enough to climb [aboard by] the cargo nets. Some of them weighed only 80 or 90 pounds," said his son, Kevin Nordby. Nordby and another sailor built a platform to lift those POWs onto the ship.
Returning home, Nordby married his high school sweetheart, Carol Hallberg, in 1947. He acquired a gas station in north Minneapolis with Carol's brother, added auto repair, and ran Midwest Automatic Transmission for about 25 years. Meanwhile, he took Red Cross classes and volunteered to teach civil defense and first aid for Brooklyn Center, where he and Carol raised four children.
When he heard the state Health Department was hiring an emergency medical services coordinator he applied and got the job in 1971. "His first big task was to develop the 81-hour emergency medical technician course for firefighters, police and ambulance attendants," Kevin Nordby said.
After he developed the course materials used to certify medical technicians and other first responders, Nordby drove about 800,000 miles around Minnesota and taught 140,000 first responders over his 21 years with the state, Kevin Nordby said.
The training centered on fast, effective treatment and transport of trauma victims and greatly increased survival rates over the years, Kevin Nordby said. He said his father's unit eventually began inspecting ambulances and rescue vehicles. Later, Nordby helped pioneer the use of helicopter air ambulances in Minnesota. He worked with Dr. Patrick Lilja at North Memorial Medical Center, which built one of the first helipads.
"His first challenge was outfitting helicopters the same way they did rescue trucks," Kevin Nordby said. "He spent a lot of time in helicopters."
Nordby said his father received commendation letters from Govs. Rudy Perpich and Arne Carlson. He was even hired as a technical consultant for the popular 1970s TV show "Emergency!" based on the work of paramedics in the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
"He was proud of his job. He felt he helped a lot of people," said his wife, Carol. "I will miss his sense of humor and his honesty. He had integrity."
In addition to his wife and son Kevin, of Shorewood, Nordby is survived by another son, the Rev. Kurt Nordby of Bettendorf, Iowa; daughters Kathi Hollihan of Lino Lakes and Kristi Pavek of North Hudson, Wis., and six grandchildren. Services have been held.
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