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June 30, 2007

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Martha Bell

The news that Norman had passed away came as a shock. We had not been in touch in the many years since we both left high school, but he certainly lives on in my memory as someone with a keen intelligence, a well-developed sense of mischief, and a zest for life. Exactly the sort of person who seems immortal.

The phone call delivering the news sent me to the Internet, to learn more about how Norman had spent his adult life. His accomplishments are impressive; his life truly was one that made a difference on the national stage. I found myself hoping that he carried his native love of fun throughout his successful career years -- that his sucess grew from a deep enjoyment of his work. I can imagine that it was like that. Had we met up again, I can imagine the familiar twinkle in his eye that I knew so well from algebra class.

To Norman's family, I offer my deep and sincere sympathy.

Martha Bell
Fairfield High School Class of '71

Harry Strong

Norman was one of those kids who could do about anything he set his mind to. In 1969 or 1970 when President Nixon visited SE Iowa for the dedication of Rathbun Dam near Centerville, Norm and I decided to get White House press passes to cover the event. Both of us work at KMCD in Fairfield at the time. While our news director laughed at us, we dutifully filled our paperwork and 4 days before Nixon's arrival found ourselves officially members of the White House Press Corp for a day.
We drove a KMCD van to the dam, set up for live coverage of the event and a tape backup both in the van and at the station just in case.
As the dedication boringly proceeded, the real White House Press Corp got bored and went down to the lake for a look. Nixon began his remarks exactly as per the printed advance release boring the media further.
All of a sudden, Nixon broke from the script and announced he would seek to establish diplomatic relations with Red China.
Within a minute, Norm and I had clipped the comment from the tape recorder and made a quick decision. We could send it to the Associated Press or we could provide it to our network, ABC News. 5 minutes after we called ABC news and fed them the audio sound bytes it was run as a radio news bulliten. Meanwhile the White House Press Corp was in full scramble mode. This was before cell phones and remote land lines were expensive. Norm and I reserved a phone line to feed our radio station the speech live. Oddly, the folks listening on KMCD missed about 3 minutes of Nixon's speech because the line when dead as we disconnected to call it to ABC.
Our news director would have never known we killed the line except ABC sent us $1500 in reward as stringers. Thats when our news director put two and two together. Norm went to MIT and I went to Drake with some extra cash in our pockets! Thats exactly how Norman got hooked up with UPI--he had broken a big story while in high school!
Harry Strong Fairfield High School Class of 1971
hstrong@stitzell.com

Paul Schindler

I had nearly forgotten the story that made Norman's career; in his then-hometown of Fairfield Iowa was Parsons College, aka Dropout U. It lost its accreditation in 1972, and shut down in June 1973. Norman, on the scene, "owned" the story, which received a great deal of play nationally.

You can find a pretty good summary of Parsons history here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parsons_College

As far as I can tell, none of Norm's Parsons articles are posted on the Internet, at least not where Google can reach them.

Paul Schindler

Two comments: Norm worked at Shakey's Pizza; he liked it so much that we would go to Shakey's while he was at MIT. The problem was, it was 90 minutes away, at exit 95 in Connecticut. Being college students, we went, of course, anyway. The pizza wasn't that good, but the cartoons being shown with a 16mm projector were fun.

Also, I noticed once that Norm "faced" the bills in his wallet--that is, placed them in order, all of them facing the same way. He said he learned to do it while working at the family movie theater, because that's the way the bank wanted it. It seemed like a great idea. I've been doing it ever since. I rarely face my currency without thinking of Norm.

Heidi Williams

I was vacationing with a friend from Fairfield this weekend from whom I just learned that Norm had died two years ago. I'm stunned, but very appreciative to find this lovely site in remembrance of a fine man and a dear friend.

Norm was two years ahead of me at Fairfield High, a senior while I was a sophomore. We appeared in a high school play together in the fall of 1971, from which experience we formed a lunchtime friendship. Several days of each week, Norm, his senior friends and this little sophomore girl (i.e. moi) ate lunch together at the Broadway Grill. Norm held forth on politics, the school administration and a host of other topics that left me laughing to the edge of tears or feeling dumbstruck at how naive and uninformed I was. Norm's friendship and his personality shaped my interest in politics during those lunches; I just was in awe of him and virtually drank down his humor and intelligence along with the milkshakes at the Broadway Grill.

Norm and a couple of his classmates started an underground newspaper during their senior year. I can't remember its name, just a sense that it was something wry, acerbic and apt, and that it poked fun at the school administration. We were all about busting the chops of the authority figures in our lives in those days.

I also remember attending an outdoor rock concert, ala Woodstock, in Coralville, Iowa, with him during the summer of 1971. He was writing a story on the event, I think, and we had driven up to Coralville in Norm's slant-6 Plymouth something or other, where we spent the day taking pictures of central Iowa's version of hippies. I can't remember anything else about the event other than watching half-naked folks dancing around to mediocre music, clouds of pot smoke wafting over the farm field, and the sense that I, a 16 year old Lutheran from a Republican family, was teetering on the brink of something big and new, although I was not sure then, nor am I now, what that something was.

I left Fairfield at the end of that summer due to my mother's relocation for work in Des Moines, and I don't remember seeing Norm again, although I continued to run into his mother in Des Moines - at an auto parts place (Rissman's?) in 1978, at the grocery store and in her apartment building in the 1990s when I was visiting my mom. She always kept me apprised of Norm's and Richard's comings and goings. She was so proud of them both.

Although I haven't seen Norm in all these years, I feel a weird, acute sense of loss in hearing of his death. He was just a wonderful character who meant much to me at a difficult time in my life. It seems too cliche to say that he was larger than life in my memory, but that he was - he was to me much like a much-admired older brother back in the day, and he was a great friend who didn't seem to mind a little, dewey-eyed, know-nothing sophomore girl tagging along with him and his friends, hanging on his every word all those years ago. In his kindness and tolerance of me - a rather odd thing, given his rather critical, firebrand nature in things political, he was truly his parents' kid, for they too were extraordinarily kind and wonderful to me the year my father died, giving me my first job at the CoEd Theater even though they had no need of another employee.

Norm was just like that. I wish I could tell him thanks.

Heidi Williams
FHS Class of '73 (aborted)

PS - Hi, Harry!

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