HomeObituariesNorman Charles Van Arsdalen, 96

Norman Charles Van Arsdalen, 96

Norman C. Van Arsdalen: An Official and a Gentleman (and so much more)

Norman Charles Van Arsdalen, 96, of Princeton passed away on Friday March 29, 2024, at Brandywine Living in Haddonfield, NJ. Norman was born in Milltown, NJ to Isaac Voorhees Van Arsdalen and Marguerite Sohl, on August 19, 1927. He married the love of his life, Thelma Marie Svendsen (Teddie) on August 13, 1949, and they celebrated their 72’ wedding anniversary in August 2021 prior to her passing on January 7, 2022.

Norman is survived by two sons Keith N. Van Arsdalen and his wife Grace, and Scott C. Van Arsdalen and his wife Patricia. He is also survived by his brother-in-law Richard Pfaff and three nephews William Pfaff, Jeffrey Pfaff, and Robert Pfaff; and his nephew John W. Osborn III. He has eight grandchildren, Jennifer Van Arsdalen, Christine Van Arsdalen, Bryce Van Arsdalen, Leigh Manley, Jill Ferry, Kyle Van Arsdalen, Chase Van Arsdalen, and Mia Van Arsdalen, and many great-grandchildren. He was greatly loved and will be greatly missed.

Norman graduated from New Brunswick High School June 21, 1945. Too young for military service, he joined the United States Maritime Service July 6, 1945, sailing on a coal-carrying steam ship to North Africa. After returning and taking a semester of college classes, he was drafted and inducted into the US Army: C Battery, 13th Field Artillery Battalion, 24th Division, on September 10, 1946. He received the World War II Victory Medal, the Army of Occupation Medal-Japan, and an Honorable Discharge. While serving, his swimming prowess placed him on the Army All-Japan swim team.

After the Army, Norman returned to the Panzer College of Education and Hygiene receiving a Bachelor of Science in Education in August 1949. He married Teddie the next day. He was recognized later for Distinguished Professional Leadership with the Award of Honor from the Panzer Alumni Association of Montclair State College. He was hired by the Princeton Township School system as a Physical Education teacher for the 1949-1950 school year and retired from the Princeton Schools in 1989 after 40 years of continuous service and numerous roles. A Portrait feature in the Princeton Packet in 1965 suggested, “Ask for ‘Mr. Van”, They Know Who He Is,” noting that “the name not only refers to a teacher but is a mark of affection and respect.” He loved teaching Phys Ed; loved coaching soccer, basketball and baseball (and occasionally track, golf and softball); and he loved all the kids. During his tenure in the school system, he obtained a Master’s degree from Rutgers University and at times served not only as a teacher and coach but also as the Athletic Director and finally as a Vice-Principal in charge of discipline at Princeton High School. After his retirement, a Princeton Packet “Guest Column” authored by two former students, Richard C. Woodbridge and James

W. Firestone, wrote that, “There aren’t many people who make a profound impression on a person’s life—but Mr. Van did.” They further noted that, “The most remarkable thing about Mr. Van is that he not only taught basic values, he lived them.” He had a deep and lasting impact on hundreds of students, many of whom returned after graduation just to see him and express their gratitude.

Early in his teaching career, Norm had several interesting and fairly unique experiences. First, after establishing himself in Princeton; along with his father Ike, his father-in-law Louis Svendsen, his two brothers-in-law Richard Pfaff and Jack Osborn II, and many other family members and friends, he built the family home on Province Line Road behind the Ettl Farm. The home was a source of pride and an incredible place for a family to live and grow.

Second, quoting in part from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission book dated January 31, 1955:

Norman C. Van Arsdalen, aged twenty-seven, school physical education instructor, saved Joyce E. Humphrey and Ruth D. Walsh from drowning, Normandy Beach, N.J., September 2, 1954. While swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, Miss Humphrey and Miss Walsh were caught in a strong irregular undertow and swept into deep water at a steadily increasing speed…. Van Arsdalen entered the water…swimming three hundred and seventy-five feet from shore through rough whitecapped surf, he overtook Miss Humphrey…and towed her two hundred feet to wadable water. Although he was tiring rapidly, Van Arsdalen swam to the breaker- line and thence parallel to it for almost a thousand feet. He located…an opening in the breakers, continued thirteen hundred feet through waves ten feet high, and reached Miss Walsh. After resting for five minutes, Van Arsdalen began towing Miss Walsh toward shore. …Repeatedly they were buffeted and submerged by the waves, Van Arsdalen several times losing his hold on Miss Walsh. Crossing the breaker-line with difficulty, he swam towing Miss Walsh to wadable water and carried her to shore.

For these acts of heroism, he humbly was awarded the Carnegie Medal of Honor and received other recognition, little of which he ever spoke about.

Many the world over know that Norm had a passion for sports and particularly a passion for officiating or refereeing football and basketball. Locally he concentrated on high school football for 35 years and nationally and internationally on collegiate level basketball for 33 years. He was known for fairness, integrity and impartiality by coaches and players alike. He was recognized by his peers for these same traits, as well as for excellent judgement and a complete understanding of the game, rising to the upper echelon of officials on and off the field and/or court.

Norms refereeing experience included many memorable events and opportunities. While refereeing the Thanksgiving Day rivalry between New Brunswick High School (his alma mater) and South River High School (his wife’s alma mater), his unsportsmanlike conduct call against the South River Band for blowing their horns while set up in the end-zone, after being warned not to do so as the New Brunswick team worked their way down field to that same end-zone, got national recognition, not to mention making for an interesting Thanksgiving dinner. On the basketball court, Norman refereed in all the national tournaments and venues including the NCAA tournaments, the NIT and the Holiday Festival in Madison Square Garden, The Palestra, several conference finals and the Olympic Trials. In 1966, he accompanied the University of Kentucky under Adolph Rupp to Israel for the International University Basketball Championship. He had the honor of refereeing the Heidelberg, Germany team versus the Tel Aviv, Israel team, the first ever sporting event for a German team on Israeli soil. Other international opportunities included tournaments in Greece, Iran, El Salvador and Japan.

After putting away the striped shirts, he remained active in local and national sports associations including the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), the New Jersey Football Officials Association (NJFOA), the Collegiate Basketball Officials Association (CBOA), and the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials (IAABO). He served on many committees of these associations, as the rules interpreter, as a mechanics instructor, as an assigner and reviewer of officials and as President. He has received numerous awards and honors including induction into the Princeton High School Hall of Fame, the Mercer County Basketball Hall of Fame, the National High School Sports Hall of Fame and Life Membership in the Officials Club of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.

Norm was also “Hon,” Dad, Pop, Pop-pop—loving Husband, Father, Grandfather and Great-grandfather. Just as he had a broad and lasting positive effect on so many as described above, his love and impact were concentrated even more within the immediate and extended family. He was a tireless provider ensuring that his family, especially his children, had more than he had growing up; and the hardest worker, never missing a day at school after refereeing a basketball game 200 miles away, midweek in the dead of Winter, or working two jobs in the Summer. He made sure that the family could spend the entire Summer “at the beach.” As a kid growing up there, he had personal knowledge of the history of the Shore and of Camp Osborn and an encyclopedic knowledge of the sea, the bay, the tides, the birds and fish, seining, fishing, crabbing, and clamming. He knew old tricks of the trade from experience and the nuances of all these activities and was eager and patient in passing along these skills and knowledge. He taught every child and grandchild how to swim and body-surf, activities that were shared and enjoyed with him well into his eighties.

He enjoyed all aspects of fishing—reading about fishing, fishing off the dock, fishing in the surf, fishing off the boat, fishing alone or fishing with company, and, whether catching fish or not. He taught everyone to bait a hook, to keep the rod tip up when reeling in a fish and how to filet the days catch. His boat, the Reel Daze, spent more time off the mooring than moored, and most often, some type of fresh caught fish (fried with curled tails) made for a delicious meal.

At all times, he guided the family by example. He treated everyone with respect, fairness and kindness. He was soft spoken and rarely raised his voice, and even more rarely expressed or even showed any disappointment if one did his or her best and/or tried their hardest. He was a virtuous man who lived his life as anyone would ideally live. He simply did what was right. Most of all, he was the epitome of undying love for a spouse, of unconditional love for sons with equal love for their spouses, and a mixture of love and pride and hope for his grandchildren and great grandchildren. His respect for life and love of life touched so many over all his years, from family members to students long ago, to most recently the assisted-living staff who provided such good care to him. “Norm is quite a man,” they would say, even as his life became more difficult and limited. To the very end, he remained true to himself.

Above all else, remember that twinkle in his eye and that boyish grin!

A Visitation will be held from 9:00AM – 11:00AM on Friday, April 5, 2024, at Mather-Hodge Funeral Home 40 Vandeventer Avenue Princeton, NJ 08542. A Funeral Service will be held at 11:00AM on Friday, April 5, 2024, at Mather-Hodge Funeral Home 40 Vandeventer Avenue Princeton, NJ 08542. Burial will follow in Princeton Cemetery 29 Greenview Avenue Princeton, NJ 08542.

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