Dad gave Bob Rhoads a letter in January 2005 that should be read at his funeral. Bob did not open the letter until he received news of Dad’s passing. No one in the family knew that Dad had composed this letter.

My Final Words January 2005

As someone who always wanted “The last word.” I’m not letting my last opportunity pass me by.
Bottom line – my life was a wonderful one. I died after a full life and have no regrets that it wasn’t longer.
Any regrets at all? Life would have been easier for me and especially for many of those close to me had their been less of a gap between my rational intelligence and my emo. tional intelligence. I took me 60 years to balance the two with modern medicine providing an important final impetus. I wish I had solved this problem early in life.
Even during my times of ups and downs, life was generally good. In later years it passed from pleasant to enchanting. I simply could not comprehend how much fun I was having every day. I was suffused with a feeling of constant, full, contentment. I did not say to myself “why could this have not started earlier?.” Instead I thought “be thankful for what you have; don’t lament the past.”
In my final years I understood and articulated my personal theory of wealth. My riches were in my family and friends – I was like a billionaire! I had sustained an extensive network of friends throughout of my life to which I constantly added. My return on this investment far exceeded anything from stocks, bonds, or real estate.
I know few people who laughed as much in their lives as I did. At times could I be a “pain in the ass”? Yes! But most of the time I was a lot of fun to be around.
I’ll miss you all. Take solace in the fact that until we meet again on the other side, you won’t have to hear me tell my favorite joke for the umteeth time. Also there was always a special place in my heart for those of you who forgot those jokes between tellings.
I wasn’t a particularly good husband or father. Fortunately my family seems to have forgiven me so that the shortcomings of our earlier years did not poison our last ones. Of course, they may have all wanted to stay on the right side of a wealthy relative so they could share in the big estate!
In your lives you have all met people kindler, gentler, less selfish, more considerate, etc. than I. But I doubt that you met many who loved life any more or sought to share that love more with others. So my advice for the rest of your lives – stop doing any of the dumb things that it took me so long to stop and SHARE THE LOVE. Thanks for all the wonderful things you did for me.


The following was read by Bob Rhoads at the memorial on Saturday February 22. Dad apparently requested that Bob read this prayer at his funeral.

An Irish Funeral Prayer

Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Everything remains at it was.
The old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no sorrow in your tone.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effort.
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was.
There is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting, when we meet again.

This is just a friendly reminder that if you will be traveling to Gettysburg, PA for the Celebration of Bob Nordvall’s Life on Saturday February 22, 2014 please let Edie Larson know via email( so that we can coordinate airport pick-ups and drop-offs.

The celebration will be at the Gettysburg College Chapel at 1100 with a reception to follow.

Please let Edie Larson know by close-of-business Thursday February 6th if you will be coming.


Below is an email from Max Hoffman who helps maintains the website. Follow the link provided to download a copy of the memorial service in Florence.

This version is the American NCST version. There will be separate email with a separate link for a European PAL version. Most computers can play either version.

The file will take some time to download since it is about 0.5 GB. The acoustics inside the church may make it difficult to understand what is being said so you may want to use a set of external speakers if you have them.

Hey Chris,

I was wrong about the password. I guess the link is pretty
non-guessable either. Here is a link to the NTSC version[1]. The time
to keep it there is not limited, except for the fact that I have only
2 GB in total of space. So I can’t use these 500 MB for other things.



Below is the message regarding the memorial service for Robert Nordvall in Gettysburg, PA on Saturday February 22nd at 1100. Contact numbers for hotels are listed.

Please contact Edie Larson at to coordinate airport pick-up if need be.

Please note that in addition to the airports mentioned one can also fly into Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington D.C.

The memorial service in Florence Italy went very well. We hope to post the video in the near future.

Visit for future updates in case I lose access to Dad’s email account.

Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2014 18:18:33 +0100
Subject: Fwd: Date is set….

On Sun, Jan 26, 2014 at 1:33 AM, edie larson wrote:

Hello, Dear Friends & Family….

The date for Bob’s service has been set:

Saturday, February 22, 2014; 11 AM; Gettysburg College Chapel, with reception at Weidensall Hall Lobby after the service (directly across the street from the chapel). Also, hopefully,there will be a dinner for the out-of-towners that evening.

We hope that you will be able to come. The most convienient airport near Gettysburg is Harrisburg (MDT) but its usually more expensive. The best airport is Baltimore (BWI) or Dulles (IAD) with BWI slightly more convienient. We have a number of volunteers for airport runs so let us know if you plan to fly. Sorry, no public transportation or cabs from the airport…car rental is the only other option…but we are very glad to arrange a pick up.

The Gettysburg Hotel, 1 Lincoln Square, is the most centrally located: 717-337-2000.

Other places in the central part of Gettysburg: James Gettys Hotel, 27 Chambersburg St., 717-337-1334; and Inn at Lincoln Square, 12 Lincoln Square, 717-334-1427. The Federal Pointe Inn is the newest and very nice in a rennovated old school, it is about 3 blocks from the center square, 75 Springs Avenue, 717-334-7800 This may be full….sister-in-law was told she got the last room…still there might be cancellations. There are a lot of motel choices since it’s a tourist town, in a wide range of prices so googling Gettysburg motels will give you a ton of choices.

We hope you are able to come.

Andy Nordvall, Chris Nordvall & Edie Larson

This Week in Italy 540

[The following was found on Bob's computer awaiting publication.]

Pricey Picture Frame

In a shop near my house in the window an item caught my eye – a picture frame where the frame around the photo was covered in cashmere. I thought this rather unique and stopped in to check the price. A frame for a regular 3” x 5” photo cost 98 Euro (about $135). Now I can buy a new cashmere sweater at the local market for let’s say 35 Euro. You might say that the quality of cashmere in a 35 Euro sweater is not high, but how high is the quality of the cashmere that someone would use on a picture frame? Even if somehow the picture frame has the world’s best cashmere (doubtful), very little is needed to cover the little frame.

Balancing the Budget

As the USA has been working toward a balanced budget and national debt repayment, the main tool so far has been to cut government expenses. (In the long run I think most unbiased economists believe this effort will also require tax increases.) In Italy it is the opposite. The government has raised taxes but is very slow to cut expenses although everyone knows that the key to the problem is lower expenses because Italy already is at the limit of feasible tax rates. Why the difference? In Italy the whole economy and political structure is more dependent upon government expenditures than in the USA so it is more politically more difficult to cut expenses.

Gambling in Italy

I’ve noted before that playing the lottery seems to be more typical in Italy than in the USA. It turns out Italy is the largest gambling market in Europe and the fourth largest in the world. The New York Times published an article on growing problems of omnipresent gambling and gambling addiction addiction in Italy “″&HYPERLINK “″emc=edit_th_20131229HYPERLINK “″&HYPERLINK “″_r=0

Of course gambling is a convenient way to increase government revenues as are other “sin taxes” such as those on alcohol and cigarettes without raising widespread taxpayer protest.

Comparative Postal Rates

It costs twice as much to mail a letter from Italy to the USA than to mail one from the USA to Italy. For packages, however, the postal rates to Italy from the USA are noticeably higher (seem to be close to double) than those from Italy to the USA. This is true even though Italy doubled these package rates about two years ago. I think the main difference is that package rates in Italy have wide ranges; any package between half kilogram to a full kilogram might pay same rate. In USA I think the cost goes up with each minor increment in weight.

Italian Fabric

The fabric in Italian clothes seems to be generally of very good quality, but Italians will tell you that the fabric of the “good old days” was even better. I saw a friend and complimented her on attractive coat. It turns out it was her mother’s and is about 40 years old. She told me her father had a suit from which her mother used the material for a skirt after the father’s death. After the mother’s death the skirt did not fit my friend, but she recycled the material to make a vest. Over 60 years the material has seen its original use and two incarnations.

The Airplane Type Black Box – in Your Car

You get a 9% reduction to you auto insurance in Italy if you agree to install a Black Box in the car. What is advantage to the insurance companies? If there is an accident there is objective information about your speed, the lane you were in, etc. It is easier to determine who was at fault. Actual miles driven are recorded in case rates are adjusted based upon amount of usage of the car. In Italy collision insurance is almost prohibitively expensive because of the fear that drivers will purposely damage their own car to get an insurance check. The Black Box can detect the difference between damage from an accident and that self inflicted.

Addendum by special guest columnist Christopher Nordvall

What is Italian for “Kafkaesque?”

Wednesday January 8th

I arrive and the first place I went was Dad’s apartment so the police could unseal the apartment. The seal was nothing fancy, It was just a computer printout attached to the door with packaging tape. I remember the police officer apologizing to the landlady for the marks the brown packaging tape may leave on the door.

I go in and look around and in typical Dad fashion I get on the computer first and send out emails. Thankfully his hotmail account opens up automatically. I find the addresses for his newsletter subscribers and I sent out an email from his account announcing Dad’s passing.

Paolo picks me up to get some boxes from the local supermarket. I told him it was a great way to honor Dad by getting the free boxes from the market before buying any from the store. On our way back to the apartment the police call back and inform us that we are not allowed back into the apartment.

The same two policemen who came to unseal the apartment are back and say that we have wait for other detectives and officers to come before proceeding. Oh, and by the way, can we see the form you signed that when we turned over the keys to you? We need to put the time that it happened even though we are now taking the keys back. Also we need you to confirm that nothing was out of order in the apartment even though you can’t go back in and you only got to spend and hour in it before having to leave.

Now begins the waiting. As we wait we find out the reason for the resealing of the apartment has to do with the autopsy that was requested by Dad’s doctor. The hospital found what turns out later to be low-dose aspirin. The hospital could not identify the substance. It was an American, over-the-counter medication. Because the hospital could not identify the substance they are required to call the police which starts an investigation. In talking with the hospital later Paolo finds out they did try to identify the “mystery” substance by talking to a pharmacist and various doctors but because it was an American OTC medication the police were called. The lab at the hospital which one might think be able to do analysis on said “mystery” substance was not equipped to do so. There was a lab in Florence that could do it.

Nobody was exactly rushing to get to the scene. The first to arrive was a crime scene photographer who started taking pictures of the apartment. Citing a “broad mandate” the photographer took pictures of the front of the apartment building and the stairs leading up to the apartment. The other officers came and all of Dad’s medication was taken, including I noted, the fiber laxative. It felt as if I were in a bad episode of “Pistoia CSI.” I told Paolo, “If that crime scene guy uses one of those blue CSI lights I am going to scream.”

Now it was off to the Pistoia police station where the officer writes up two documents that I have to sign, one stating that I was aware of my father’s general health condition and two, a request for the judge to release the keys to me so I can access the apartment. It was noted that none of the requests were any sort of pre-printed form, they had to be typed from scratch, which took forever because the prevailing method of input was “hunt and slowly peck” method of typing. While we were answering questions and waiting for documents to be typed, Paolo lets me know that Pistoia built a new police station but because of a change in local law, money from the European Union could not be used for local municipal projects. So the last part of the new police station could not be finished and the current station was crumbling and going to collapse at some point. We were taking chances of that happening with us in the building considering how often we had to go in this building.

Thursday January 9th

I go to an appointment at the US Consulate in Florence and then a meeting at the St. James, Dad’s church. Both went well. I had some time to kill after my meeting at the consulate so I decided to walk by St. James to make sure I could find it and I walk by at the exact time that Dotty, the wife of reverend Mark, was letting someone in to discuss Sunday school stuff. I was invited in for coffee and ended up spending the entire afternoon there until my meeting with Mark. We had a great time swapping Bob stories. It is not everyday that you hear from the wife of Episcopalian minister that your father was better at telling off-color jokes that she was.

Upon returning to Pistoia that evening we go by the police station again because I can get the keys back. We go by the apartment and get Dad’s computer and the cell phone charger.

Friday January 10th

We return Friday morning to the police station because the judge has signed the release so Dad’s body can be picked up by the Italian funeral home. But there is a catch. The release only specifies that the body can be released for burial, in case the police want to perform tests at some time in the future. As Paolo pointed out the judge just signed some standard form that does not take into account the possibility of cremation. “So now they start using forms,” I think.

So I have to sign a request for the judge to modify the order so the body can be release for cremation. The lieutenant, who had a lit cigar despite the ban on smoking in municipal buildings, said we should wait there while he faxes over the request. Within a half-hour we have the modified release order and he says that if we have any trouble at the hospital we should call him directly and he would take of it.

Now we are on to the new hospital is Pistoia. A very modern looking structure but apparently it too is sinking into the ground, just we hope not today. At the morgue we learn there is a catch. I cannot see Dad because the autopsy has not been completed. When the mysterious baby aspirin was discovered the autopsy was stopped. To resume it now would require a second doctor, only one is on duty today. Another doctor was sick and another was delayed because of the rain…his roof had a leak. Paolo, who is rapidly becoming the best consigliere one could hope for, engages the hospital staff in what I like to call “Italian discussion theater.” After much hand-wrangling by the hospital staff another doctor is on the way to help complete the autopsy.

Not so fast. As a nurse pointed out the autopsy probably cannot be completed today because Dad was in freezer storage for so long, he has not had time to thaw. When the second doctor arrives, they determine that, indeed, the autopsy cannot be completed that day, but possibly on Saturday or Sunday. They do prepare him so that I do get a chance to see him, but only his face.

Saturday January 11

I meet with Dad’s coffee group in the morning and hear more great Bob stories. We stop by the tourism office to see about getting a plaque or a bench named in Dad’s honor. We meet another Paolo at the tourism office, who course, knew Dad. He suggests that he could talk to the mayor, who of course knew Dad as well, about getting one of the recently completed bike paths around Pistoia named in Dad’s honor. We all agree it is a great idea.

I call the English language paper in Florence, “The Florentine” to place an obituary. The staff member who answered the phone said, “I knew your dad.” The editor he connects me with also knew him and said that the paper was already planning to write an article about Dad for their January 16th edition. I give them details about the memorial service.

We go back to the supermarket to get more boxes. We go home for lunch and after lunch we get a phone call, this time the morgue says the autopsy is complete and will be available for the funeral home to prepare for a viewing. The hospital says Dad’s body will be available for viewing around 1630 (4:30pm). We call the funeral home. I send out a quick email, post on Facebook, and post on the website that a viewing will be available that evening and part of the next day. Dad is put back into the tuxedo that his friends sent him with. He looks quite dapper, as if he is ready to go out for a nice time.

I finally get to see him. With tears in my eyes I say to him, “You must be laughing about what I have had to go though just to see you again.”

Moving Forward

The journey is far from over. Dad remains at the morgue until the funeral home has the appointment at a crematorium which to my surprise will be today Wednesday. The Italian death certificate has to get stamped by the Pistoia city council, at which point the funeral home can pick up and take it to the US Consulate so that I get the US Death certificates. There is also the memorial service on Saturday at St. James which can now include Dad.

There is the issue of mailing the ashes to the states. We asked the funeral home about using a courier. They ask what courier do we want to use. Paolo tells them in Italian that it is part of their job to find out which courier services can take to the ashes to the states. The funeral home says they will research it and get back to us.

All this is and more lies ahead and would certainly be material for more wry observations about life in Italy. When this journey is over what I will remember is not all these little inconveniences or frustrations, although there are plenty of those to go around.

What I will remember are the smiles and the stories. Every single person I meet who knew Dad has some funny story to tell. You can just see their face light up when they remember it. I will remember the kindness and generosity shown towards me because of Dad from staying at Paolo & Pamela’s house to the church for taking care of all the memorial details. As one of Dad’s many friends said to me, “Your Dad may have lived alone but he did not live a lonely life.” Is that not what we all hope for, not to live a lonely life?

So I hope that you will laugh more than you will cry. That is what I plan to do anyway.

Remember the stories. Remember the jokes. Remember the laughter. Remember the outlandish clothing to include, but not limited to, ties, pants (of every color and description), shoes (I just had to box 33 pairs!), and suspenders. Remember the market and thrift shop purchases. Remember the trips taken and the pictures shared. Remember the emails and blog posts. Just remember the joy and happiness Robert Carl Nordvall brought into your life. That is what he would want.

Ariverderci Dad, Italy and the world was a better, less lonely place because of you.


Christopher Nordvall

I’ve just found out for those of you in the local areas that my father will be available for viewing at the morgue’s chapel located at the new Ospedale San Jacopo Pistoia hospital, Via Ciliegiole, 97, 51100 Pistoia.

The website for those of you who can read Italian is

His body will be able for viewing from 1630 (4:30pm) today until about 2000 (8pm).  The body will available for viewing in the morning from about 0800 to 1200.

I will post a more details about the times available for viewing later this afternoon.

I apologize for the short notice.  I only just found out from the hospital that they were done and he was available for the funeral home to pick up.  Before he was picked up by the funeral home I wanted to give people an opportunity, however brief, to pay their respects.

Public transportation is available to the hospital.  Please check out the website for more details.

Please help me get the word out to those who might be interested.

The Florence based English language newspaper The Florentine will publish an article on Robert C. Nordvall in the issue available January 16.

Dear Friends of Bob,

It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of my father, Robert Nordvall.  Bob passed away on January 2, 2014 in Pistoia, Italy.  I am currently in Pistoia writing from his computer.

All indications are that he passed away in his sleep.

A memorial service will be held at the American Church St. James in Florence on Saturday January 18th at 1600.

The church is located at Via Rucellai 9, Florence, Italy.

A memorial service will also be held in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania at a date and time to be determined.

Christopher Nordvall

Dear Readers

this is Bob’s friend and maintainer of this website. I have to send you very sad news from Chris Nordvall, Bob’s son.

Max J Hoffmann

I am currently in Portland, OR about to head back to Germany. I just found out that my dad passed away in Pistoia.   I do not have many details yet it sounds like he passed away in his sleep.
As I understood it you helped host his website.  Is there anyway you can post a notice and have it go out to his thousand of subscribers?  Just something simple at this point about his passing stating that more details will follow.

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