For a Port Orange man Veterans Day is a reminder the people care

Jim Abbott
| The Daytona Beach News-Journal


PORT ORANGE — There’s a 34-gallon plastic tub in what used to be the bedroom of Jim Northcote’s home and on rainy weeks, like this one, it used to come in handy.

“When it rains, it used to fill up,” said Northcote, 90, a Marine Corps. veteran who once ran reconnaissance missions along enemy lines in the Korean War. For the past three years, he has been battling the elements as he awaits adequate state and federal assistance to repair roof damage done by Hurricane Irma in 2017.

On the eve of Veterans Day 2020, help has finally arrived, as local companies step forward to donate services to improve his living conditions and also offer help in communicating with disaster relief agencies that can help with needed major repairs.

On Tuesday, Northcote watched with gratitude as workers arrived with tarps, sand bags and air-scrubbers. A fund-raising drive with a $30,000 goal has been established in Northcote’s name at

“It’s fantastic,” said Northcote, whose tall, lean figure and piercing gaze belie his age. “It’s not snowballing, it’s avalanching. I can’t believe how many people want to help.”

Inside his home, the storm damage to drywall has left the exposed wood frame, carpets have been soaked and pink insulation droops sadly from the ceiling. Northcote has moved his bed to the living room, where additional adjustments are often required.

“When it rains, I used to have to push the bed over by the window,” he said, the better to avoid yet another leak.

When representatives of United Water Restoration Group heard about Northcote’s plight, the Ormond Beach company offered to donate its services to help repair water damage to the home. The company also spread the word to other area businesses.

“With our world divided as much as it is, I believe that we need to give back to people as much as we can,” said Mark Burger, a United Water sales and marketing representative. “We need to serve the people who served us.”

On Tuesday, Burger was joined at Northcote’s home, a 90-by-24-foot trailer, by representatives from Cabinet Wholesale Outlet and SB Tree Service, both based in Holly Hill. Also on hand was Bill Schwab, an officer at AmVets Post #911 in Port Orange, where Northcote is a fixture.

Schwab, who has worked as an informal liaison for Northcote as he seeks disaster-relief assistance, said that his situation isn’t unique among aging veterans.

“He’s not looking for any charity,” Schwab said. “What we’re really hoping is that if we get something going here, it might be something that will help other veterans do the same thing.”

Born in Rochester, N.Y., Northcote served just under a year in Korea.

“We were a recon company,” he said. “Our job was to gather information and try to capture a prisoner if we could.”

Most of that work was done in “no man’s land” next to the enemy’s fence line, a position known as the MLR, or Main Line of Resistance.

“There was the enemy here and we were here,” Northcote said, spreading his hands shoulder-width apart. “Then, there was 300 or 400 yards of rice patties that was called no man’s land. We used to walk around in no man’s land.”

Does he remember being frightened?

Northcote cuts a sideways glance, appropriate for a dumb question.

“Yes, it was scary,” he said.

After the war, Northcote spent a little over a decade working for the U.S. government, helping establish immunization programs in Puerto Rico and Maine. He then worked in the private construction business before retiring to Volusia County about 20 years ago.

In the wake of Irma, Northcote has become increasingly frustrated with what he calls a slow, inadequate bureaucratic approach to disaster relief.

“I know they have a lot of people to help,” he said. “I know I’m not the only one. I feel like they are waiting for me to kick the bucket.”

The outpouring of help from local folks is a welcome reminder that people care, he said.

Veterans Day will offer yet another reminder, he said.

“It’s nice to be reminded that people care,” said Northcote, who plans to celebrate the occasion with his friends at the AmVets Post. “We’re old now, but we were young once. It’s good to get together and have a few beers.”

Veterans Day events

Although the coronavirus pandemic has forced cancellation of many events, there are still Veterans Day activities in Volusia and Flagler counties to honor those who served:

Annual Veterans Day Tribute, sponsored by Ormond Memorial Art Museum & Gardens: A “drive-in” style ceremony at 11 a.m. Wednesday in the parking lot of Grace Lutheran Church, 338 Ocean Shore Boulevard (State Road A1A and Neptune Avenue.) Guests will remain in their cars and listen to a live simulcast of the ceremony on WSBB AM 1230/106.9 FM. The program will also be streaming on

Flag dedication ceremony, sponsored by Ormond Strong: 11 a.m. Wednesday at the entrance of Barracks of Hope, a veterans’ shelter at 605 N. Seagrave St., Daytona Beach. Afterward, the group will provide a pizza party for the veterans.

VFW Post #4250 in New Smyrna Beach will present an honor guard at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Glencoe-Geiger Cemetery, 435 Sugar Mill Drive. It will be followed by an 11 a.m. ceremony at the Post, 2350 Sunset Drive in New Smyrna Beach.

A Veterans Day Celebration at 11 a.m. Wednesday at VFW Post #8093, 351 S. U.S. Highway 17-92 in DeBary;

A Veterans Celebration from noon-5 p.m. Wednesday at VFW Post #3282, 5810 S. Williamson Blvd. in Port Orange; The Post also will sponsor a Veterans Day Ceremony at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Port Orange City Center Veterans Park;

A Veterans Day ceremony at 2 p.m. Wednesday at VFW Post #1590, 1013 Veterans Court, Daytona Beach.

 In Ponce Inlet, the pandemic has resulted in the cancellation of the annual Veterans Day celebration at Davies Lighthouse Park. Instead, a wreath will be placed at the park to allow residents an opportunity to pay respects to veterans and fallen family members at any time between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Wednesday.

In Flagler County, the city of Palm Coast will join the county to honor veterans with a 10 a.m. ceremony on Wednesday at the Flagler Auditorium. Veterans and guests are then welcome to attend a barbecue luncheon at Central Park.

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