Norman Rossignol, a well-known and respected World War II and Korean War veteran who spent his last years serving as a Maine Troop Greeter and volunteer with the Cole Land Transportation Museum’s Veteran Interview Program, died Saturday at a Bangor hospital after a short battle with leukemia, according to his obituary. He was 91.
Rossignol was an Army veteran who served in the 94th Infantry Division in Europe during World War II, fighting campaigns in northern France, the Ardennes, Rhineland and the Battle of the Bulge, and with the 25th Infantry Division in the Korean War, according to his listing in the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.
Rossignol, who earned both a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with Valor for his bravery, grew up in Milford and graduated from Old Town High School before enlisting in the Army at age 18, embarking on what would become a 20-year military career.
He then returned to Maine, where he worked as an electrician for the University of Maine in Orono another 25 years before retiring.
“He was my hero — he was everybody else’s hero,” his daughter, Diane Rowell, said Sunday evening. “I had to share him with a lot of people. He was a second dad to many people.”
Rowell said that many people stopped by to thank Rossignol for his service during a recent outing to Applebee’s and that he had three Maine Troop Greeters challenge coins in the pocket of the last pair of pants that he wore.
“He loved giving them out. There was a special way he had to give them out through a handshake,” she said.
Rossignol, who was a member of American Legion Post 12 in Bangor, was at Bangor International Airport greeting returning troops as recently as last week, according to his fellow troop greeters.
“When he would start telling his stories to the troops, they would just sit around and listen. He was a wonderful storyteller,” Cathy Czarnecki, treasurer for the Bangor-based troop greeters group, said Sunday.
“He was a gentleman. He was one of the gentlest, the nicest men that anybody would have the pleasure of meeting. We loved that man. We just adored that man,” she said.
“He was very, very dedicated to the troops. He was just an all in all nice guy who just wanted to make sure that the troops — any of the troops — were not treated like they were during [the Vietnam War],” she said.
George Bridgham, a Vietnam-era veteran, said Sunday that Rossignol would turn up at Bangor International Airport to welcome troops home at all hours of the day and night and that he was first in line to shake their hands.
According to Bridgham, Rossignol was an avid sportsman who enjoyed hunting and fishing, and riding snowmobiles and four-wheelers.
“He had more energy than I ever had,” he said. “He was a nice guy. A lot of people knew him and he knew a lot of people and people just liked him, very much so.”
“He told me many stories and there was a couple that I really liked,” Bridgham said — including one about Rossignol having eaten three bananas so he could make the minimum weight at the time of his enlistment.
Bridgham said that he began sharing his experiences in the military with schoolchildren at the Cole museum at Rossignol’s invitation. He said that while he served during the Vietnam War, he didn’t go to Vietnam.
“I said, ‘I have no great war stories,’ and [Rossignol] said, ‘Just come down and listen.’ And within the first half-hour, I was hooked. I said, ‘Sign me up.’”
Rossignol is survived by Rowell and her husband, Ken; a son, Rob Rossignol, and his wife, Cindy; and a brother, sister, and many nieces and nephews, according to his obituary. He was predeceased by his wife, Connie, and a grandson, Lee Rowell.
A memorial service will be held 10 a.m. Monday, Sept. 25, at Brookings-Smith at 133 Center St. in Bangor. He will be buried with military honors at the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Augusta.
His family asks that those who wish to remember Rossignol in a special way make gifts in his memory to the Maine Troop Greeters Museum at mainetroopgreeters.org.