Vernon Gordon Nystrom (1924 – 1970)

Photo courtesy of Kelly Nystrom.

I have no recollection of my Uncle Verne (pronounced VER-nee) since I wasn’t quite two years old when he died but I DO remember all his military medals hanging in my grandma’s dining room. It’s odd, then, that I can’t find any military records for him. Granted, I haven’t looked all that hard, but still.

The one thing I DID find was this photo of him from the Omaha World Herald, dated March 19, 1944, that gives us a few clues.


I don’t know when this photo was taken but four days after it was published, Pvt. Samuel P. Centretto was killed in action. Reports variously say he died on Manus Island or Los Negros Island. The two islands are next to each other in the Admiralty Islands, an archipelago in Papua New Guinea. Centretto was only 20 years old.

Unlike Verne, there ARE military records for Samuel Centretto. A headstone application for military veterans said he was part of the 5th Cavalry Regiment, a unit of the 1st Cavalry Division so I think it’s safe to say that Verne was as well. You can read more about the 5th Cavalry and the battles of Los Negros and Manus on Wikipedia. It’s quite fascinating. There are even whole books on the subject.

Verne Nystrom, standing in front of 3721 S. 28th Street. From the photo album of Rose Carlson Nystrom.

I believe that my uncle said that Verne, his brother, was the head of the plumbers’ union in Omaha. He’d also been engaged to be married and had even purchased a ring and fur coat for this unknown woman. As my cousin said, “no one knows what happened to the ring, coat or the girl.”

Verne died of a heart attack at the young age of 45. Verne provided for his parents, Rose and Swan, so when he died, my grandmother had some sort of panic attack and an ambulance was called to the house. She wasn’t sure how they’d survive without Verne. On the anniversary of his death, she would often place messages like the following in the paper:

Omaha World Herald January 19, 1974.
Omaha World Herald January 19, 1976.

The following photos are of Verne as a child so they must have been taken in or around Oakland, Nebraska. What sort of strange camera is this that takes double exposures?

Verne Nystrom, from the photo album of Rose Carlson Nystrom.
Verne Nystrom, from the photo album of Rose Carlson Nystrom.
The back says it’s Verne and Leonard Erickson.
Verne’s car, June 1970.
Another photo that must have been forever hanging in my grandmother’s house. Seems like I know it like the back of my hand. Taken the summer of 1969, before his death in January, 1970.


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