Friends Remembered: Norman C. Van Arsdalen

Norman C. Van Arsdalen

Carnegie Hero Norman C. Van Arsdalen, 96, died on Friday March 29, 2024, at a senior living facility in Haddonfield, New Jersey. Seventy years earlier, Van Arsdalen saved teens from drowning off Normandy Beach in New Jersey.

On Sept. 2, 1954, Van Arsdalen saw the two girls being swept into deep water and ran to shore where he obtained a wooden buoy with a 5-foot line attached and entered the water. Swimming 375 feet through rough, white-capped surf, he reached one of the girls, held her against the buoy and towed her 200 feet to wadable water, where a man aided her to shore. By then the second girl had drifted beyond a line of breakers 500 feet from shore. Although he was tiring rapidly, Van Arsdalen swam almost 1,500 feet, lunging through an opening in the breakers. He reached the girl and placed her against the buoy. After resting for five minutes, Van Arsdalen towed her toward shore. Repeatedly they were submerged, Van Arsdalen several times losing his hold on the girl. Crossing the breaker line with difficulty, he towed the girl to wadable water and carried her to shore.

He was born Aug. 19, 1927 in Milltown, New Jersey, to Isaac Voorhees Van Arsdalen and Marguerite Sohl.

Van Arsdalen graduated from New Brunswick High School in 1945. He joined the U.S. Maritime Service, sailing on a coal-carrying steamship to North Africa. After returning and taking a semester of college classes, he was drafted into the U.S. Army. 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.

Van Arsdalen married Thelma Marie Svendsen on Aug. 13, 1949.

After the army, Van Arsdalen returned to school and received a Bachelor of Science in education and went on to work at the Princeton Township School system as a P.E. teacher. He worked for Princeton schools for 40 years in numerous roles. Van Arsdalen had a passion for sports including 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.

Van Arsdalen is survived by two sons, Keith and Scott; brother-in-law, Richard Pfaff; eight grandchildren, Jennifer, Christine, Bryce, Leigh, Jill, Kyle, Chase, and Mia; four nephews, William, Jeffrey, Robert, and John; and many great grandchildren.