HEROES: Half Staff

On an old battlefield of Flanders, long years before certain armies met there to settle modern differences, a Dutch soldier was commended by his king. "Sire," he replied modestly, "I break before I bend." The King pondered a moment to confer the correct name on this excellent, albeit proud and slightly stubborn servant. He called him "stiff-necked" which being translated into Dutch is "Goethals."

George William Goethals, son of a Dutch emigrant, attracted the roving notice of a Manhattan public school teacher. This percipient pedagogue besought a...

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