On December 13, we will celebrate the life of Albert F. (Al) Norman of Edmond, Oklahoma, who left us on December 9, 2012, at the age of 95, following a brief illness.
Al was born in Alton, Missouri, to Otis and Nellie Sisk Norman. He was the second of four children, two of whom have preceded him in death: Jasper (Jack) Norman and Mary Lou Norman Osborne. His surviving brother, Jim Norman, lives near San Diego.
As children, Al’s family moved from Missouri to Guthrie, Oklahoma. They all graduated from Guthrie Schools. He attended Oklahoma Baptist University as a young man, and it was there that he met Darlene Putnam from McAlester, OK. They were soon married and eventually settled for a while in McAlester and started their family. In 1954, Al accepted a position at an abstract and title company in Oklahoma City. Now with three young children, the Norman family moved to Oklahoma City and ultimately settled in Edmond.
Al was a retired banker, having been Senior Vice-President and General Manager for the Oklahoma City area offices of Frontier Federal Savings and Loan company (formerly Ponca City Savings and Loan). In that capacity, Al earned a reputation for his honesty and his fairness in his business dealings. Many of his former home loan customers remembered him as being especially helpful and flexible in accommodating them with their particular needs.
He served in the Army as a First Lieutenant and a bomber pilot in World War II, having earned a Bronze Star for heroism – something that Al almost never talked about – and as a Captain in the Artillery in the Korean War, serving in the 45th Infantry Division. In World War II he piloted a B-26 Marauder for the 17th Bomb Group, 432nd Bomb Squadron (http://www.b26.com/marauderman/albert_norman.htm). At age 26, he was respectfully referred to by his younger crew members as “The Old Man.”
Al strove to make sure his family was well cared-for and well protected. In that, he also taught them the importance of responsibility and honesty. His children experienced many of the conveniences and joys of growing up that he was denied himself, but also many of the same character-building experiences and challenges that he did have. In 1959, he moved his family from The Village to a small acreage south of Edmond where they learned to care for horses and even, for a short but very memorable time, pigs. They bought a “fixer-upper” which was small and drafty, and he did exactly that – fixed ‘er up, adding a wing with two bedrooms and a big screened-in back porch, and later a sun deck. Then he went to work building a three-stall stable for the horses. As a father, Al was firm but fair. But he clearly loved and worked hard for his kids. Undoubtedly, there are many things he did for them that they were not even aware of, and that he would not boast about.
Following his retirement from the Savings and Loan, Al busied himself with many construction projects. He loved using tools, especially for building or assembling. He has added rooms to houses, remodeled houses, and even built a couple of houses himself. He and Darlene bought a small acreage in Logan County north of Edmond where they started and completed one of his most ambitious projects: a new home for themselves, in which they lived for many years. He has built wooden decks, screened-in back porches, formed and poured concrete for patios, laid a gazillion bricks, built fences, hammered sheet rock into uncountable walls and ceilings – there was hardly ever a time when he didn’t have some kind of tool in his hands, either being used on their own home or for the homes of his children’s families. Even in his 90’s he worked to help one of his grandsons’ family screen-in their patio. Throughout his 60s, 70s and 80s he could be seen digging trenches for gas lines, pounding nails into shingles, and repairing the odd hole in the wall. Al was irrepressible.
His children remember him as, among so many other things, being so willing to help them with their own home needs, not only as relates to construction or to remodeling, but also drawing on his experience and understanding of home finance and the ins-and-outs of the legal, civil and community requirements. He always knew the steps to take to navigate the most daunting lines of red tape. For his kids and their families, he was the “go-to guy.” And they went to him many times.
Al and Darlene both left a legacy of active Christian stewardship and service. Many times Al would be seen at his church with a hammer or saw in his hand, Darlene with a dish towel or a paint brush. Their church was important to them because it was the place where they would come for respite from the busyness of the week, and where their children would learn the Christian principles that they themselves were brought up on. They enjoyed the fellowship of their Christian brothers and sisters in the church, whether it was a church construction project or a celebration of their faith. Al served as chairman of the building committee when they were members of Lone Star Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. He provided his skills and his experience required to start and finish the project, and never hesitated to get his own hands dirty in the process. Even in his later years he volunteered to help process the offering contributions at their church.
Al’s role model was his father-in-law Jake Putnam. Jake got him interested in construction and remodeling, and taught him much of what he knew. After Jake’s death, Al thought of him as his Guardian Angel. If that’s true, Jake did a good job protecting his protégée.
Al lost Darlene to cancer in 1999, and spent the time since then missing her every day. She was his companion, his helpmeet. He was her foundation, her strength. She called him “Mr. Wonderful.” She often conceded that he was always right, but that sometimes she was really right, but that “God changed it.”
He leaves a sad but proud family: Daughter Jan Underwood and her husband Steve of Edmond; son Jim Norman and his wife Connie of Payson, Arizona; son Bill Norman of Edmond and his wife Mary; six grandchildren: Bert Hughlett and his wife Tammy of Oklahoma City; Bud Norman and his wife Lily of Gilbert, Arizona, Jason Norman and his wife JoAnn of Meridian, Idaho; Jake Underwood and his wife Kendra of Edmond; Jennifer Norman Shelton and her husband Jayme of Edmond; and Andrew Norman of Edmond. Five great-grandchildren: Brady and Gideon Underwood, and Pierce, Paige and Parker Norman.
Al was a member of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. He had a great deal of respect and admiration for his Pastor, Dr. Hance Dilbeck. He enjoyed his Sunday School class, but in later times was unable to attend due to his declining health. The class would often meet in someone’s home to celebrate their birthday. Al hosted them several times over the years.
Memorial services on Thursday, December 13, 2012, at 10:00 a.m. at Matthews Funeral Home, 601 S. Kelley Ave., Edmond, OK. “In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Quail Springs Baptist Church, 14613 N. May Ave., Oklahoma City, OK 73134”
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