Sheila Norris of Red Deer, Alberta passed away peacefully with family at the Red Deer Regional Hospital on October 29,, 2019 at age 92. A heartfelt thanks to her numerous caregivers, nurses and doctors; all of whom helped ease the final leg of her remarkable life’s journey.
Mom or “Nana” was pre-deceased by her husband of 63 years, Chief Warrant Officer (Ret), Wm Edwin “Bill” Norris (or simply, “Gramps”). She is survived and deeply missed by her brothers in Manitoba – Ron (Maxine), Keith, and Barrie (Norma) Radford – as well as her son Wm Robert “Bud” (Vicky), granddaughter Leah (Barry), grandson Wm Paul Robert “Rob” (Carol), great-grandchildren Wm Scott Patrick (Wafaa), Jacqueline, Emmet and Hayden; and special nieces Lou-Ann, Louise, and Brenda. She was loved throughout the Radford clan and will also be fondly remembered by Elaine (John) Posthuma and Martha Smith.
Born in Winnipeg, she and her 9 siblings were raised on a string of Depression-era farms between Gladstone and Neepawa. Brothers Bob, Bruce, and Ken joined the Canadian Army and fought in Europe during WWII. The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan brought new airmen, including the “ suave “ Bill of the Royal Canadian Air Force, to many Canadian communities, including Neepawa where Sheila met Bill. They were married in Toronto in 1947. Both shared a commitment to family, a passion for cribbage and an interest in restoring houses and antiques.
Sheila and Bill, and son Buddy, moved across much of Canada, as Bill – in his 37 year air force career – served at various RCAF and Canadian Armed Forces Bases in Centralia and North Bay, ON; Cold Lake, AB; National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa twice; Vancouver, BC; Namao, AB twice; finally retiring from Namao in 1977.
Sheila had her own successful career in the federal government, first in the Department of Citizenship and Immigration and later in the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. When meshed with her humble origins, this public service experience provided Sheila with rare intercultural knowledge and valuable insights about bureaucratic politics.
Sheila and Bill retired to Gull Lake, AB and Ocala, Florida, but Sheila found Ocala too far from her family. So Gull Lake and Red Deer became home. Sheila then pursued a life-long dream: creating her own small business, Memory Loft Collectables. After a decade of successful entrepreneurship, she sold her company and turned her full attention to family, friends and flowers; taking time to deepen her amazing knowledge of British and Royal history, sharpening her opinions on Canadian politics while reflecting on both imperial and Indigenous poetry as well as existential questions relating to faith and fate. She was a big fan of CTV’s Don Martin and “My Lisa” LaFlamme.
Her fondest public memories included: in 1939, being in Winnipeg to see the Royal Tour of Canada by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth; in 1951, watching as Bill was part of the Honour Guard welcoming Princess Elizabeth to Canada; and in 2005, being at the Canadian Light Source as Queen Elizabeth visited the University of Saskatchewan. A few years later, she was honoured to have His Excellency, Saskatchewan’s Lt. Governor, Gordon Barnhart, visit her home.
From riding in horse-drawn carts to online grocery shopping with her IPad, Sheila absorbed decades of technological change without wavering in her commitment to humanity; balancing empathy with accountability while being a constant champion of that most elusive of virtues: simple kindness when she would say: “Now, that’s enough.”
A ceremony celebrating the memory of Mom / Nana will be held during the spring of 2020, as Alberta’s Wild Roses begin to bloom. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to STARS Air Ambulance across the Prairies.
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