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The Back Story
For those who are new here the theme of this blog is to record the many anecdotal back stories I encountered while researching the book about Norvel Lee.  If you will scroll down to the last page of the blog and work your way up you can catch up to what preceded this most recent post.

The Pinochle Gang


I sent Mike Mehalic a copy of NORVEL today.  You will find him mentioned as a source in the acknowledgements section of the book. 


During the initial meetings and conversations with the family I learned that Norvel Lee played the card game pinochle with a group of men on alternate Friday nights.  They called themselves the "pinochle gang."    


In early January of 2017 Norvel's granddaughter Daryn contacted me saying she had found one of the pinochle players and that he would enjoy talking with me about Norvel.  On January 23, 2017, Daryn and I met Mike Mehalic at his Washington D.C. home.  The ensuing conversation, which I recorded, was packed with anecdotal colorful stories that helped inform the latter chapters of the book.


We learned (and this was news to Daryn also) that Mehalic and another member of the pinochle gang, Al Maltz, met Norvel at the National Training School (NTS) for Boys in Washington D.C. in 1953.  All three men were instructors at this institution for juvenile delinquents.  (The cover of NORVEL is a photo of Norvel Lee in his classroom at NTS.)  They began playing pinochle together during their lunch breaks before establishing the Friday night games.  The pinochle gang held together for nearly forty years.  Both men, introduced at the beginning of Chapter 24, went on to play important roles in Norvel Lee's life.  The image above circa 1990 includes members of the pinochle gang.  Mike Mehalic is second from the right of the top row and Al Maltz is next to him on the end.  Norvel is seated at the front left.


And, remarkably, it was me that told Mehalic about Norvel's act of civil disobedience described in the Prologue of the book.  During all those many years they knew one another Norvel never mentioned the incident.  That said so much about Norvel Lee's character.  At one point during our talk Mehalic told us that Norvel was "the nicest person he had ever met."


I had always wanted to follow-up with Mehalic after the book came out, but couldn't find him.  He was 85 at the time of the interview and moved from his home shortly afterward.  Just recently I learned that he was residing at a senior living facility in Maryland.  He will have his copy of NORVEL in a few days.  I hope the book brings back fond memories of his friend Norvel Lee and of the "pinochle gang."

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