Francis M. Lordan, 93, formerly of Cheltenham, a retired newspaperman and veteran of World War II, died Wednesday, Dec. 5, of congestive heart failure at Phoebe Meadow Glen in Richlandtown, Bucks County, where he had lived for the last three years.
Known as “Frank,” he spent more than four decades as a journalist in South Jersey and Philadelphia before retiring in 1988. He was a reporter and rewrite man at the Camden Courier-Post and then at the Inquirer.
“He was a newsman who was known for his word and tireless effort to seek and report the truth,” said his nephew Michael Lordan. “He was proud of the stories he wrote, and the people he was able to help through his reporting.”
Mr. Lordan was born in the Swampoodle section of North Philadelphia. Neither he nor his sister, Mary, ever married, and the siblings lived together in the family home for his first 35 years. He graduated from a city trade school.
As soon as he turned 18 in 1944, he was drafted into the Army for service in World War II. His uniform was too big for him, he told retirees in a 2017 talk at Phoebe Meadow Glen that was chronicled in a retirement facility newsletter. His captain joked, “When everyone else is at attention, Lordan is at ease,” he told the seniors.
He was assigned to the 317th Field Artillery Battalion as an ammunition corporal operating a device called a proximity fuse. “An artillery officer in a church steeple would identify what they wanted to hit and radio back the coordinates,” he told the seniors. “I would put the shell in the proximity fuse and it would spray the whole area.”
As the war ended, Mr. Lordan was assigned as a mail clerk in Koblenz, near the Polish border. He stepped out of his lodgings one day and was hit and seriously injured by a truck driven by a German. After three months of hospitalization, he recovered. He told the seniors that he was spared to become a journalist.
Jimmy Riggio, now a businessman in Montana, worked with Mr. Lordan at the Courier-Post in the mid-1960s and at the Inquirer in the early 1970s.
“I’d be out in the field, covering a small story, having a blast,” Riggio said. “I’d find a pay phone, call the office, and ask for the city desk. After I gave the city editor, or one of his assistants, the basics of what I learned on the scene, he would turn me over to Lordan on rewrite.
“All the joy would vanish. Frank would inevitably want some information that wasn’t in ‘my story.’ I swore the man was trying to get me fired. It took me years to realize that Frank was just trying to help turn me into a real reporter.”
Bob Fowler, a retired Inquirer reporter, said, “Frank was a star reporter in an era when clusters of print reporters filled smoky City Hall rooms jockeying for scoops. For a time in the 1970s, he was the Inquirer’s City Hall bureau chief.
“If absent from the press room, he was likely to be found in chambers gossiping with a judge about the latest political intrigue sweeping City Hall. His wonderful sense of irony and humor made him a natural at getting people to spill the beans.”
Mr. Lordan’s reporting was already making a difference in 1954 while he was a reporter for the Long Branch (N.J.) Daily Record. Sen. Joseph McCarthy had targeted the Army’s Signal Corps Laboratories at nearby Fort Monmouth, and the senator had had 35 scientists suspended due to alleged Communist ties.
After Mr. Lordan and his colleagues investigated the charges and published their findings, all 35 were reinstated.
“I was able to spend my working life doing what I knew was my purpose for living,” Mr. Lordan said in his lecture. “Not everyone can say that.”
Mr. Lordan was preceded in death by his brother, John, and sister. In addition to his nephew, he is survived by two nieces.
A viewing will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11, at the Naugle Funeral Home, 135 W. Pumping Station Rd., Quakertown. A Funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12, at St. Helena Roman Catholic Church, 6161 N. Fifth St., where friends may call starting at 9 a.m. Burial will be in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.
Contributions may be made to the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation, 1901 Vine St., Suite 111, Philadelphia, Pa. 19103.