Award-winning artist Norman C. Rosfeld Jr., a B-29 radio operator during WWII, dies

By JANICE CROMPTON | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | Published: March 13, 2020

PITTSBURGH (Tribune News Service) — Unlike a lot of boys his age, the teenage Norman Rosfeld Jr. dreamed not of girls or cars — instead it was the prospect of joining the World War II effort that captured his imagination.

Just days after he graduated from South Hills High School in 1943, the 17-year-old enlisted in the Army Air Corps and headed to the Pacific theater, where he served as a radio operator for B-29 heavy bombers.

“He couldn’t wait to get to the war,” said his daughter Alison Strome of Hampton. “It was such a different time — it was pure patriotism.”

An award-winning commercial artist and painter, Mr. Rosfeld, 94, of Green Tree, died Tuesday of pulmonary disease.

Growing up in Brookline as the oldest of three boys, Mr. Rosfeld showed promise as a sketch artist, his daughter said.

“My grandmother saved some of his sketches as a boy and they were magnificent,” she said. “He just aspired to be an artist.”

In middle school, he attended the Tam O’Shanter classes for young artists at the Carnegie Museum of Art.

Mr. Rosfeld later served as art editor of his high school yearbook and showed his patriotic spirit by helping to draw a United Nations mural for display at the school.

During the last days of the war with Japan, Mr. Rosfeld was stationed on Tinian Island and was able to connect with his brother in the Navy, who had recently landed in nearby Saipan.

As an unexpected treat, the brothers were able to spend Mr. Rosfeld’s 20th birthday together.

On August 14, 1945, Mr. Rosfeld was part of the last air raid of the war in Nagoya, Japan.

On the way back to the base, a radio transmission announced that the war was over.

“He got the report over the radio and told his fellow crewman,” his daughter said. “It must have been thrilling.”

For the rest of his life, her father wore his patriotism on his sleeve, Mrs. Strome said.

“He was really into being a veteran and loved his fellow veterans,” she said. “He was very proud of his service. He was humble in a lot of ways but he loved talking about his wartime experience.”

After the war, Mr. Rosfeld used the GI Bill to attend Carnegie Technical Institute, where he met fellow classmates like Andy Warhol and Jean McGough, who would turn out to be the love of his life.

“Andy Warhol and my dad and mother were all in the school of painting and design together,” his daughter said.

A good-looking, sharp dresser, Mr. Rosfeld also worked as a student adviser in the men’s campus shop at Hornes, where he advised new students about the latest fashions and trends.

“He was always stylish,” his daughter said.

Shortly after graduating with a Fine Art degree in May of 1950, Mr. Rosfeld married Ms. McGough. Mrs. Rosfeld died in 2018.

He spent most of his career as a graphic designer and commercial artist with a number of public relations firms in Pittsburgh, and served as art director for Ketchum, McCloud and Grove.

“He called it his ‘Mad Men’ period, with his two-martini lunches and big black glasses,” his daughter said. “He did a lot of ad campaigns and shareholder communications and he designed billboards and logos.”

At the same time, Mr. Rosfeld painted watercolors for sale and for his own enjoyment.

A member of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, his works were exhibited at juried shows and often won recognition, including paintings that were selected to be installed in Pittsburgh Public Schools.

“He won awards for both his artwork and his commercial art,” his daughter said.

After he retired in the mid 1980s, Mr. Rosfeld used his corporate connections to work as a freelance designer.

“He so enjoyed it and knew so many people,” Mrs. Strome said.

In his twilight years, Mr. Rosfeld became the chief caregiver for his late wife, who had dementia. When she eventually needed to go to a care home, he visited daily and often played piano for her and the other residents.

“He learned to play at a very young age,” said his daughter, who loved hearing her father play on the family’s piano. “Everywhere we would go, if he saw a piano, he would play.

I think it gave my mother a lot of joy. He used to play her favorite songs.”

Her father rarely left home without his favorite hat, which almost always drew comments from strangers, his daughter said.

“He always loved to wear his World War 2 veteran hat — it was his trademark. We called it his magic hat,” she said. “When people thanked him for his service, he would immediately say, ‘Thank you for thanking me.’ That’s the kind of guy he was. They broke the mold with him.”

Along with his daughter, Mr. Rosfeld is survived by his other daughter Arden Vernacchio, of Green Tree, and five grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his brothers Robert and Arthur.

A memorial service with military honors will be held Friday at William Slater II Funeral Service, 1650 Greentree Rd., in Scott, at 11 a.m. with a brief visitation beforehand at 10:30 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations are suggested to the Veterans Breakfast Club: http://vbcpgh.org/donate/ or 200 Magnolia Place, Pittsburgh, PA 15228.


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