Armstrong volunteer earns tribute

Armstrong Mayor Chris Pieper (left) shares a laugh with Tom Nordstrom and his wife, Karel, after presenting Nordstrom with the city’s Recognition of Excellence Award before a packed crowd at Armstrong council chambers. - roger knox/morning star
Armstrong Mayor Chris Pieper (left) shares a laugh with Tom Nordstrom and his wife, Karel, after presenting Nordstrom with the city’s Recognition of Excellence Award before a packed crowd at Armstrong council chambers.
— image credit: roger knox/morning star

The Melon Man is excellent in Armstrong.

More than 60 family, friends and supporters crammed into Armstrong council chambers Monday night to see Tom Nordstrom – aka the Melon Man for his penchant for once growing 10 kinds of melons and four kinds of watermelons at his Corkscrew Road home – receive the City of Armstrong’s first Recognition of Excellence Award to be presented during this the city’s Centennial year.

“We’re going to focus on the program this year and recognize residents and clubs that have made significant contributions to our community,” said Mayor Chris Pieper before reading off two pages of Nordstrom’s accomplishments, besides growing melons and selling them at the Armstrong Farmers’ Market.

Born and raised in Armstrong, Nordstrom left at 16 (he skipped a grade in school) and enrolled in engineering at UBC, focusing on electrical engineering. Nordstrom, 76, won the Governor General’s Gold Medal Award for the student with the highest marks at graduation, which included 100 per cent in mathematics.

At UBC, he met the woman who would become his wife, Karel, and the pair headed to England after Nordstrom was offered a fellowship to study there. Tom and Karel stayed in England for three years, working for General Electric and obtaining his masters degree.

Upon returning to Canada, Nordstrom was offered a job by B.C. Hydro head Dr. Gordon Schrum, who had taught Nordstrom at UBC.

He worked in various capacities at Hydro, ending his career as the utilitie’s vice-president.

Nordstrom retired at 55 and he and Karel returned to Armstrong, where Nordstrom’s parents reside and where his daughter, Julie, had recently moved. That’s when they bought the property on Corkscrew Road and began growing melons and other fruits and vegetables.

Nordstrom was also heavily involved with the Lions Clubs.

He was a charter member of North Vancouver’s Edgemont Lions Club, and, upon his retirement in Armstrong, began his push to have a Lions Vision Centre created at the Pleasant Valley Health Centre.

Nordstrom lobbied with politicians, the heads of Interior Health and went to Lions International to have the local project recognized for funding from the international organization.

He twice walked blindfolded to Vernon to bring attention to the importance of sight.

Nordstrom was instrumental in the formation of a separate Interior Eye Care society to continue fundraising to make sure state-of-the-art equipment and furnishings were installed. He also helped create a permanent endowment fund with the North Okanagan Foundation for the centre.

A treatment room at the Vision Care Centre is named the Tom Nordstrom Room in recognition of his efforts.

Nordstrom has won many Lions Club awards and, in 2001, was named Armstrong Spallumcheen Good Citizen of the Year.

“I want to thank everyone for this honour, I am amazed,” said Nordstrom, who was accompanied to the ceremony by Karel, Juli, son Cameron and grandson Dawson. “I don’t see why I’m being recognized. I just wanted to give something back to the community.”’


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