Norma Jean (Ray) Fruchey had ALS. She was 61 when the disease took her life, two years after the onset of symptoms.
We honor her not because she had ALS, but because she was much more to us:
To her three children, Cheri, Lynn and Lyle, she was a loving Mom. She encouraged us, was proud of us, loved us deeply and worried about us. She introduced us to a world beyond our Wyoming upbringing. She supported our interests and activities and was a mom to our friends. She was a living example of how to have a full and adventurous life.
To her grandsons, Zachary, Grayden and Bryson, she is Nana. They hear about her but never knew her. This video is for them.
To her older brother, Sam (and wife Nina) Norma was his little Sis, who tagged along everywhere. They were close and shared a love of adventure, story-telling, games, animals and family. Perhaps they are together again.
To her nieces, Beverly, Brenda and Bonnie (and their children) she was Aunt Norma who loved to visit them in Ohio.
To Ernie and Kimberly, she was the most welcoming, loving Mother-in-Law. She would have loved Peter.
To her many friends, she was loyal, and despite time and distance, could happily pick up every relationship with ease and love.
A native of Ohio, Norma lived in Seattle for the last five years of her life. Her husband’s work took them to Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Colorado and Wyoming, where they raised their family.
Norma was gregarious, outgoing and an achiever:
At the age of 11, she was the first girl newspaper carrier in her hometown.
She was in the top 10 in her graduating class at Portsmouth High School and participated in many activities, including year book editor, class officer, prom co-chairman, plays, honor society and spirit club.
She attended Ohio University Athens where she was president of her dormitory and fraternity sweetheart. Norma was the first female recipient of the Williams Co. Scholarship, based on academic achievement, receiving scholarships totaling more than $3000 (a small fortune in 1950s). She was awarded a scroll of honor for women leaders on campus and graduated with honors with a teaching degree.
While she enjoyed being a mother and a homemaker, she pursued many professional paths:
She was secretary and bookkeeper for a lumberyard in Laramie, Wyoming.
When the family moved to Denver, she dusted off her college degree to become a substitute teacher.
She sold real estate, was a Weight Watchers leader and Jazzercise instructor for many years in Riverton, Wyoming.
Norma saw the world as a travel agent with “fam” (familiarization) and family trips taking her to Greece, England, the South Pacific, Hawaii, Africa, etc. She was enthusiastic in helping with her clients’ travel plans.
Her last job was as a docent at the zoo in Seattle, combining her love of animals and people, gift of gab and natural ability as a teacher.
Norma enjoyed talking, traveling, “her” Denver Broncos, cards, games, animals, counted cross stitch, arrowhead hunting, friends and family, her numerous “grand dogs” and especially, meeting people. She coaxed beautiful flowers out of the Wyoming winter while waging war on dandelions.
No remembrance of Norma would be complete without a few stories...
One time she brought a mother and adult son home with her. She had met them in the grocery store and recognized their Australian accents! Mom never met a stranger.
She met Roy Rogers once. In her words, “the little airport was crowded, but I was determined to get his attention.” She called his real name, “Leonard Slye, Leonard Slye” until Roy turned to her. Over coffee she explained that she had grown up near his Ohio home town.
She was fiercely independent and lived on her own until four days before her death from complications associated with ALS. Although the disease took away her ability to speak, it couldn’t take away her spirit.
Shortly after she died, one of her classmates remembered her in a letter to her home town newspaper, “I know that all of us who knew that pretty blond girl of the PHS class of 1955, will always remember her as Norma Ray. And she can come home again. At least in our fond memories.”
We all miss Norma more than any words can ever express.