Life-long Ridgeite Howard Nygaard was born on September 6, 1920 to Norwegian parents Ruth Anderson and Selma Nygaard. After losing his mother at the young age of 12, Nygaard and his two brothers – Stanley and Arnold – spent the next five years together at the Norwegian Children’s Home.
The middle child of a tug-boat engineer, Nygaard always had a hankering to sail the sea. In need of a job, and seeking adventure, Nygaard became a Seaman in the Norwegian Merchant Fleet and, in December of 1938 – at age 17 – joined the crew of the tramp steamer Segundo. For two years, Nygaard traveled the world transporting cargo to and from ports in the United States, Russia, Holland, Hong Kong, Japan, India, the Philippines and South America, beginning as a mess boy but quickly moving up the ranks to mechanic.
In November of 1940, Nygaard departed the crew of the Segundo to return home to Brooklyn. He travelled across the country by bus, eager to see America – a decision he is happy to have made as, nine months later, the Segundo was torpedoed and sunk after leaving Liverpool.
Less than three years later, in March of 1943, Nygaard was drafted in the U.S. Navy. On his last night stateside, he and his buddies raised a pint (or a few) at Kelly’s Tavern in Bay Ridge, their last stop before shipping out from Lido Beach, Long Island for England.
“It was never about the glory,” Nygaard, now 94, told this paper. “I just wanted to do my duty, and serve my country.”
Nygaard went onto serve on the USS LST-508, which transported the Fourth Infantry Division to the Battle of Normandy. As Coxswain, the Ridgeite piloted a landing craft to Utah Beach — one of the five beaches designated for the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944.
Howard fulfilled his service in 1945 — just four years after meeting the love of his life, Gertrud Stelljes, whom he would marry in 1946 at Saint Jacobi Evangelical Lutheran Church — and returned home, for good.
After the war, Nygaard’s passions fell within the food and catering business, working first with his father-in-law in their family-owned deli on Third Avenue between 55th and 56th Streets and later, for the Petzingers, who had delicatessens in both Flatbush and Bay Ridge. For 20 years Nygaard worked at Heindricksens Delicatessen on Fifth Avenue (present-day Mejlander and Mulgannon), until he retired.
Nygaard and his wife, Trudi, were married for 59 years until the time of her death in 2005 at the age of 79. Together they had two daughters, Joanne Camuto (married to Vince Camuto), a retired District 20 elementary school teacher, and Ellen Nygaard (married to Joe Ford), an art director and graphic designer. His two grandsons live in New Jersey with their wives.
Today, Nygaard lives at home in Bay Ridge with his family and Miniature Schnauzer Lilybel.
For several decades, Nygaard has supported Disabled American Veterans.