A special woman and grandmother

Grandma!Brance’s Grandmother passed away on Sunday.

In honor of this amazing woman, here is an interview I did with her last spring.


Brance’s grandma Norma just celebrated her 90th Birthday. She is one of the most upbeat and resilient people I know. Her life has not always been easy. Norma grew up in poverty during the Great Depression, worked very hard her entire life, has lost many loved ones during her lifetime—including her husband and a son—but her joy and trust, even in life’s difficult circumstances, is something we could all use.

Norma’s positive attitude has allowed her to create a beautiful life for herself and her family. The love that they all share, the fun they have, and the financial stability they have experienced for years now can be traced back to this special lady. I thought it might be fun and helpful to ask her a few questions so that we can learn from her.

What things have  helped you the most in life?

I think the main thing that has held us together has been the love we have for one another.

Also, I have always had goals that I am working towards. You have to have a vision of what you want. In jobs or at home—in whatever.

What were some of your goals over the years?

To be a hair dresser and have a nice home for my family. We owned a motel, but during that time I took classes to work toward my goal of being a hairdresser. After running and maintaining a motel for 10 years, we were finally able to sell it and buy our first home.

My husband was a farmer from youth and he thought that was what we were suppose to do. It was not something I wanted to do, but I did learn how to milk cows. That was the beginning of our life together.

We separated the milk and sold the cream from our ten cows. We were there about a year and my husband was stooped down picking beans and he looked up at me and said, “Can you see the bright lights in the city”.  And I said, “Yes sir, I can”. We sold that farm and took off to the city, Kansas City.

Once in the city, I did waitress work and all this time, on the farm and while waitressing, I wanted to be a hairdresser. I couldn’t give that up. I came home one day from the restaurant, and I asked my husband if I could go to beauty school. He said yes, and so I went.

I was working as a hairdresser in Kansas City and my husband Darrell wanted to buy a motel, so we bought one. During that ten years, I did hairdressing on the side and worked at my sister-in-law’s beauty salon on the weekends. Then we sold the motel and moved into our home.  And that is when I was able to work doing my passion full time—eventually owning 3 of my own beauty salons.

What kind of mom were you with your sons Wayne and Rodger?

I was very protective of my children. We were in Hotsprings, AR with my sister and her family and we went to this dance in a home in the country and it wasn’t too clean and I laid my coats on the bed to keep my boys safe. I was very particular.

I would wrestle and dance with the boys to Elvis Presley records. My  boys loved my chocolate cake, cookies, and cupcakes and of course the regular meals too. I have always enjoyed cooking for my family.

Having my boys was a joy.

When you have faced difficulties in life, what has helped you?

When my husband was living, he helped me. Now that he is gone I go to the Lord for help and he really does give me comfort and help me with any problem. The Lord will help you through these times. I think people lean too much upon themselves to solve their own problems. Some things we just can’t solve.

I was always busy during my life and had little time to worry about things. Today I have more time to sit and think about my life, mostly the good times.

What are some details from your past that would tell more about you?

When my husband was in the service overseas in the 40’s I worked in a dry cleaning place in Wenatchee, WA.

I have an adventuresome spirit. I was three months pregnant when my husband came back and I drove an old chevrolet from northern Arkansas to Augusta, GA, back when women, especially pregnant women, did not travel all that much alone.

At age 19 I got on a train, never having ridden a train in my life, to go to Columbia, SC to get married to my service husband. We got married the very next day, April’s Fools day 1944, and were together until October when he was sent to Europe. I left there and drove back to Arkansas with another woman and took a train back to my husband’s parents. And then I took off to Washington with my family.

I had my first son, Wayne, in April of 1946. And my second son, Rodger, arrived December 31, 1948.

After my husband got out of the service we bought a farm in Calico Rock, AR, where our farming adventures happened for only 10 mo. I didn’t like those cows, or the hay, or the corn. I think my husband felt the same as I did.

First I did housework, I picked cotton, I picked fruit in WA, I did waitress work, managed a hotel, and finally spent many, many years doing my favorite work of hairdressing (1952-1980).

Working like this has helped keep me occupied and gave me purpose in life. We grew up with nothing and when you see that things can be better you, you work hard to raise yourself up. Hard work is good for you, it is healthy for you. I love to make things brighter and more beautiful. I am all for that. I have been blessed with health and happiness.

You see, we moved into that motel and only had two rooms to live in. We lived there for 3 or 4 years, before we were able to make our small apartment slightly bigger and then finally move into our own home.

What do you think your experiences in life taught you?

Dealing with the public, you learn a lot about different personalities. I had 8 employees at one time and you get to know people and this helps you grow in life. At times you would deal with agitated, sad, or happy people, and I would talk through things with all of them. I wouldn’t allow dirty stories or jokes to be told in my shop. I kept politics out of my business.

I had a good time. I really enjoyed my years running my own business. I am so glad that I pursued my dreams in life.

What advice you would give younger people who are just getting started in life?

First thing, I think they should know the Lord and follow him. They have to have a dream or hope or goal to pursue from their youth forward. Get a good education. Look for ways to save. Turn off lights when you leave a room. Reuse what you can.

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