“A giant of a man” - B24 pilot who helped build the Norwich Memorial Library dies aged 95

Second World War bomber pilots Charles L. Walker and Bud Koorndyk at The Forum. Picture: Matthew Mar

Second World War bomber pilots Charles L. Walker and Bud Koorndyk at The Forum. Picture: Matthew Martin - Credit: Archant

Described as 'a giant of a man' - one of the few survivors of the 'friendly Invasion' of American forces has died at the age of 95 in Grand Rapids in the State of Michigan.

Barney Driscoll, left and Bud Koorndyk, centre, of the 389th Bomb Group, show Fred Squires the origi

Barney Driscoll, left and Bud Koorndyk, centre, of the 389th Bomb Group, show Fred Squires the original artwork of their bomb group insignia which has been presented to the Hethel Chapel Museum. Behind them are the restored murals of Christ on the cross, and the Virgin Mary. <copy - Martin Barsby> 1 of 2

Bud Koorndyk was a pilot flying B24s out of Hethel in the Second World War.

After the war and for a number of years he was a Governor of the Memorial Trust of the 2nd Air Division USAAF, representing the 2nd Air Division Association in the States. The Governors are responsible for the American Library at the Forum in conjunction with the Norfolk County Council.

In that capacity he flew over to Norwich a few days after the fire which destroyed the Central Library in 1994.

On August 1, 1994 at 7.20am what ended up being the worst British library fire in living memory began.

At the height of the £4m blaze, smoke could be seen 20 miles away with temperatures inside reaching 1,000 degrees centigrade.

A precious collection of books, manuscripts and archive material were destroyed by the blaze caused by an electrical fault.

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But Norwich's 800-year-old charter was saved, stored in a fire-proof basement.

Around 15 fire engines and 150 firefighters were at the scene – and in the aftermath the Norwich community rallied round.

Food companies donated refrigerated lorries to freeze-dry waterlogged manuscripts and thousands of people donated old books and pictures about Norfolk to replace the lost records.

Immediately Mr Koorndyk promised aid to help with its reconstruction, and was here when the Forum, together with the Memorial Library, was opened in November 2001.

Matthew Martin, a former Chairman of the Memorial Trust, said: 'Bud had a deep Christian faith which guided all he did in life. He and his late wife had a holiday home on the shores of Lake Michigan and hanging on the walls there were many photographs, letters and memorabilia relating to Norwich and the Memorial Library. Bud greatly valued his continuing links with Norfolk and his was the first Christmas card I received each year – sometimes arriving as early as November.'

Another former Chairman of the Memorial Trust Paul King said they had a 'special friendship'.

'He was a giant of a man'.

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