Happy trails to a great lady!

The cardinal, my grandma’s favorite bird

One month ago today, on February 11, 2013, my Grandma passed away at the age of 99. I was tasked with writing something for me and my cousin to read at the funeral. I feel compelled to share it because she passed on her love of nature to all of  us and because she was a great lady who I loved dearly. (A big thanks to my cousin and sister for remembering some great details and helping put this together.)

So here it is, a tribute to the best Grandma ever:

Grandma Norma was a member of the Greatest Generation. Her generation survived the Great Depression, rallied for World War II and raised families to carry America forward. They lived through traumatic historic events and came out on the other side stronger, tougher and determined. They didn’t waste time talking about their emotions or what bothered them, they just did what they had to do to get things done. It was as simple as that. When someone needed help, you helped, when your country went to war, you answered the call. They were patriots to the core and America wouldn’t be what it is today without them.

Grandma embodied all the best things of her generation with an extra dose of smarts, wit and humor. She went to college and received a Masters degree in Education at UW-Madison long before it was common for women. She raised three great girls. And she was an awesome Grandma who we loved very much.

But to us the most important things about Grandma aren’t what you would read in an obituary. Yes, she was an adventurer and traveled extensively, but she also inspired many family members to do the same. Yes, she read tons of books, but she also passed along her love for reading to the rest of us. Yes, she was a teacher, but she also taught each one of us during conversations peppered with historical facts from her encyclopedic mind. Yes, she volunteered, but she also helped out neighbors in need, stopped in to check on friends and wrote letters to keep in touch and always sent cards for people’s birthdays. She had a true sense of self and her presence livened up a room with her stories and laughter.

Our favorite memories about Grandma include playing cards for hours, such as Kings in the Corner and 31 Blitz with a classic kick under the table so we wouldn’t miss a play. “And don’t forget your nickels,” she would always say. She would ask us to regal her with songs on the piano and in return would yell positive commentary from the other room. She always spied and heard her favorite birds exclaiming, “There’s an oriole at the feeder!” Accompanied by banging on the window at the squirrels urging them to get way from the bird’s seed stash. And we can’t forget the time we all went white water rafting on the Colorado River when Grandma was 73.

We will always think of Grandma when we see Big Red gum, pink Kleenex, windmill cookies, bright red lipstick, navy sweaters, red geraniums, khakis, scarves, men’s cologne and cardinals.

It’s impossible to sum up someone like Grandma, she meant something special to each one of us. So we would like to leave you with some of her best words of wisdom and catch phases.

“Life is what happens when you have something else planned.”
“You’re in trouble with a capital T.”
“Your parents do it because they love you.”
“Always leave things better than you found them.”
“You bet your boots.”
“Now wait just a minute!”
“Oh piffle.”
“Good Heavens!”
“Isn’t that the truth?”
“I love you whole bushel baskets full.”

And last but not least, “Now I’ve seen everything!”
Because at last it’s really true.


  1. JNapoli says

    What a lovely post, OWT. She sounds like an inspiring presence, and your gratitude for her life is so well expressed.

  2. Judy Hilson says

    Thanks so much for sharing your tribute. Your grandma Norma was truly an amazing woman. We can see a bit of her in each one of you. Her legacy continues to grow. We know she was so proud of all of you. We feel blessed to have known her.

    • Carolyn Kraft says

      Thanks for the nice comment Judy! Grandma was really one of a kind and I was blessed to know her. She really was a special lady.

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