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Henry Peter Van Gorder

Company E-1

31 Jan 1939 – 9 Oct 2002

Place of Death: Fort Lauderdale, FL

Internment: West Point, New York

A Memorial Service was held at the I.M. Ralph Funeral Home in Plantation, Florida on October 11th. A reception followed at his daughter Lisa's home. Al Wells, Frank Rauch and Ron Hannon were present to represent the Class of 1961.

Burial Service was at West Point at 1330 hours, Wednesday, October 23rd at the Old Cadet Chapel, followed by a Graveside Service in the West Point Cemetery.
Hank, Well Done, be thou at peace!

Hank was in the ICU at Plantation General Hospital in Ft. Lauderdale as a result of complications with shingles and pneumonia.  Our prayers, in fact, did help erase Hank's cancer, but his immune system was weakened.  Wendy and Hank's daughters, Lisa, Peggy, and Heather appreciated our prayers and support.

Cards and e-mails may be sent to: 2451 SW 27th Terrace; Ft Lauderdale, FL 33312 or

At the family's request. donations should be made to the University of Miami   Sylvester Cancer Center   PO Box 016960-M867   Miami, FL 3310


Class Memorial Pages\E-1 Hank Van Gorder.pdf

Frank Rauch, a long time friend of Hank and Wendy, they served their first ten years as artillery officers  together, including C&GSC; Al Wells, Hank’s Company E-1 room mate and friend for the past forty-five years; and I, Ron Hannon, gathered for Hank’s Memorial Service on Friday, October 11, 2002. Wendy had called Al last Sunday and said, “I need you.” Al was there on Monday to be with Hank and was with him at the end. He was also there to assist Wendy in preparing for the Memorial Service and the Internment which will be at West Point on October 23.

It was hot and humid day in Plantation, Florida but everything went as I am sure Hank would have wanted it to go. The minister gave an excellent summary of Hank’s life; Al Wells read "I am a Soldier"; Hank's daughter, Lisa, eulogized her father, letting us all know just what kind of a man he really was; and,  her young daughter stood before us and showed us how Hank said I LOVE YOU without speaking. The tears flowed as the sound of Taps filled the room.

After the Memorial Service Frank, Al and Ron, joined family and friends at Steve and Lisa’s home. I encourage all of you to get to know Wendy. What a wonderful woman is she.

I got to know Hank real well only in the end through an exchange of emails. He was witness to a miracle, as he was cured from incurable cancer. He had accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior and he smiled as he passed away.

Ron Hannon

Assembly/Taps Memorial Article:

Henry "Hank" Peter Van Gorder was born a soldier and died a soldier, called by God to help carry on His mission. He had been grooming Hank for a lifetime. We lost not only that soldier but also a son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, and friend. Hank epitomized the professional soldier's commitment to "Duty. Honor, Country" and was the essence of a loving patriarch and devoted friend.

Hank was born in Chicago, IL, to Charles and Marjorie Walsh Van Gorder. His exposure to the military began at Wyler Military Academy in fourth grade, with his remaining school years spent at Georgia Military Academy, College Park, GA, until graduation in 1957. It was believed by all his West Point E-1 classmates that Hank's prior military schooling accounted for his uncanny ability to anticipate the Tactical Department's next move, and upper and lower classmen alike marveled at his unshakeable resolve to sleep when ever he wished. Hank sparred, parried, and successfully worked within the Academy system, with a subtle sense of humor and a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

In 1956, working a summer job at Lake Huron, Hank met his beloved Wendy Dawson of Sudbury, Ontario. So began a love affair lasting over 46 years, through over 40 moves, while living and serving at more than 20 posts, stations, or job sites throughout the world. Wendy wrote, "My greatest God-given gift has always been Henry. The bookends of this love story hold countless beautiful volumes. Our most special editions, of course, are our daughters Lisa, Peggy, and Heather; our grandchildren, Gerri and Dawson; and another grandchild arriving in June 2003. The volumes are still being written."

Hank and Wendy married on 17 Jun 1961 in Sudbury. After honeymooning in the Bahamas, Hank attended the Field Artillery basic course at Ft. Sill, Jump School at Ft. Benning, and performed forward observer and battery executive officer duties with the 8th Artillery,25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, HI, which included a four-month deployment to Thailand. After the advanced course in 1965, Hank commanded a battery of the 1st Battalion, 321st Field Artillery, 101stAirborne Division, at Ft. Campbell, KY, and later deployed to Viet Nam in 1966 as the commander of a battery of the 2-11th Artillery. Hank's battery fought in III Corps and moved to I Corps in 1967aspart of Task Force Oregon, later to become the America1 Division.

Hank's penchant for coordination was exemplified as protocol officer for Headquarters, Sixth Army, Presidio of San Francisco, from 1969-70; Command and General Staff College; and back in Viet Nam as deputy G-3 advisor, III Corps, in 1971. Hank earned a master's degree from the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA, and his expertise in operations research and systems analysis was utilized at the Pentagon. There, he served as a management information systems staff officer in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff-Research, Development, and Acquisition, and in the Office of the Chief of Staff as Operations Research Analyst.  Then it was back to troop duty as training battalion commander at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO, followed in 1978 by a series of European "dream" assignments.

Hank served as Chief, Nuclear Surety Branch, Headquarters, European Command, Stuttgart, and returned to and graduated from the Naval War College in 1982. Then followed Hank's and Wendy's favorite assignment: Chief of Staff, Allied Staff, Berlin. Here, duty, family adventure, and storybook tales blossomed with the exciting interaction with the British and French forces; the seven-bedroom quarters complete with grand piano, driver, maid, and gardener; exotic family ski vacations and travel opportunities; and fairytale social events. The European adventure continued with Hank's next posting asG-3, Southern European Task Force, Vincenza, Italy, from 1985-88. Hank and Wendy enjoyed an historic 800-year-old villa once used by Napoleon.

In 1988, the Van Gorders returned to Ft. Jackson, where Hank served as senior advisor, 120th ARCOM, before his retirement and immediate embarkation on an exciting civilian endeavor with Sikorsky International Products. The period from 1988-97 found Hank and Wendy on the move, living in Washington; Connecticut; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  Wendy was renowned for her sense of humor, offering pink gas masks to wives when inviting them to visit Riyadh during the 1991 Gulf War.

In 1997, retirement officially began in Ft. Lauderdale, where home remodeling, travel, and boating adventures ensued. The "Ringknocker" sailed Florida waterways, and the boat's captain was once denounced for playing the Hellcats' rendition of "Reveille" full blast at 0600 in an upscale Miami marina. This joyous life style continued until Hank was diagnosed with throat cancer. True to form, Hank fought in soldierly fashion and became the "poster boy" for chemotherapy, according to his sizeable medical team. Hank's remarkable recovery allowed for attendance at the Class of'61 40th reunion, and a return to Europe in 2002 for a six-week journey of glorious remembrance and appreciation for life's blessings.

During the trying times of his illness, Hank often reflected, "No matter how much money or fame a man could gain, the only true thing of value a man could leave behind is his children.  "Lisa, Peggy, and Heather graduated high school in Stuttgart, Berlin, and Vincenza, respectively; and received their college educations at the University of Florida, Florida State, and University of Florida, respectively.  They are world travelers and now individually successful in their own right, truly a part of Hank's legacy.

A surprise bout with shingles and pneumonia felled this soldier, and Hank is now a servant of God. As for his time here with us, a fitting tribute can be found in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: "The reward for a job well done is having done it."  Well done, Hank!