The Associated Press


Walter Ordelheide and Henry Smith grew up a few blocks from each other in Denver but traveled the world after graduating from South High School in 1943.

Ordelheide served in the Navy medical corps during World War II, in California and Panama. He later practiced in mission hospitals in Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam before teaching family medicine in California. Smith joined the Navy and was stationed with Patrol Bombing Squadron 147 in Curacao during the war.

Pearl Harbor was bombed while both were in high school. “Right away, things started changing,” said Smith, who signed up for war training before graduating high school. “We lost touch after that. The next thing you know, you’re in the service.”

Nearly 70 years later, Ordelheide and Smith, both 86, learned they will be neighbors again.

They learned last year at a lunch organized by the Clermont Park retirement community in Denver that they both have signed up to live in new apartments under construction at Clermont Park, not far from their high school.

They learned through mutual connections that classmate Elaine Zook Westblade, 86, also had reserved an apartment at Clermont Park.

Smith said he remembered seeing Ordelheide’s uncommon name on the list of lunch attendees last year and recognized him right away. Ordelheide said Smith hadn’t changed much either.

“Henry looked the same. He had a big smile on his face,” Ordelheide said. “Even as a kid. In fact more so.”

Westblade was in the high school pep club and choir and was part of the yearbook staff. The 1943 yearbook was half the size of the one the year before because of a paper shortage during the war, she said.

“It was a hard year because so many of the fellas went into the service,” Westblade said. “Some of them didn’t come back.”

Since 1943, some Denver dairies have disappeared. The Porter Adventist Hospital cow herd that Ordelheide once shooed away from cornfields for 4 cents an hour is no longer there. Westblade is a grandmother of six, and Smith and Ordelheide are both great-grandfathers.

All are happy to be back in Denver.

“This is always home,” Ordelheide said.

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