Elderly Man Breaks Language Barrier at Police Station

Edward Van Nordheim
Edward Van Nordheim

WILMINGTON -- An elderly man is trying to break the language barrier betwen the Wilmington Police Department and the growing Hispanic population in the area.

On Mondays and Fridays, Edward Van Nordheim, 80, sits behind the help desk at the Wilmington Police Department, and answers citizens' questions. He serves as an English-Spanish interpretor almost every day he volunteers. Van Nordheim's ability to speak fluent Spanish sometimes surprises people.

"Being blue-eyed and fair-complected, they don't understand," said Van Nordheim. But that did not stop him from using his unusual talent.

Van Nordheim learned the language when he was serving as president at Johnson and Johnson in Mexico City, where he retired in 1974.

In June, Van Nordheim offered his service to the police station. He said it was a joy to volunteer.

"It's a wonderful feeling," said Van Nordheim. "It's always a wonderful feeling to help somebody, and think you have a little bit of ability to help solve some of their problems."

The employees at the police station said Mondays and Fridays had become the best day of the week. When Van Nordheim is not around, the language barrier becomes a hassle.

Reported by Kacey Gaumer