Life Story / Obituary
For all who knew Norma Fick, it was clear to see she found her greatest joy in her family, faith and in her Irish heritage. Always caring and kind, foremost in her heart was the love she held for her family and her love of teaching. A friend of many, Norma touched others with compassion and grace. Although she will be dearly missed, Norma leaves much to be remembered as her legacy lives on.
While the nation struggled through the worst year of the Great Depression, the year 1933 saw an unprecedented U.S. jobless rate of over 15 million. At the same time, great strides were being made in the culture of America as Radio City Music Hall opened and The Ranger, the first U.S. aircraft carrier, was launched. FDR held his first “Fireside Chat” to boost the spirits of Americans while a thirst for entertainment was a welcome deviation from hard economic times. Despite the changes in the world around them, Frank D. and Irene (Kennedy) Fick found much to be thankful for on March 6, 1933, when they lovingly welcomed the birth of their little girl, Norma Jean into their hearts and home.
Born and raised in the riverfront city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, her father was born and raised in Grand Rapids and early on in life worked for Van Heyningen Dairy delivering milk with a horse drawn wagon. He also worked at Steelcase for a time and eventually landed a job working the second shift as a switchman with the C&O Railroad in Grand Rapids. Her mother, who was born and raised in Hastings, Michigan, remained at home as a homemaker.
Norma was later joined by her younger siblings, Thomas, Gerald and Nancy. The ultimate older sister, she often could be found doting on her younger brothers, Tom and Jerry. Their family home was located on the cities southwest side on Stafford Avenue where young Norma enjoyed a childhood typical of the times. As a young girl she loved playing school, often playing the role of schoolteacher to her younger brothers.
For many, many years, Christmas Eve was celebrated each year beginning at midnight when Norma’s father returned home from working in the rail yard. Growing up, her mother made nearly all of their clothing and hand-me-downs were simply to be expected. Norma always held her brothers and sister very close to her heart. Over the years she not only continued to love them, but their spouses and especially their children, too.
An excellent student, Norma received her education from Grand Rapids Public Schools. She attended Burton Elementary School through the eighth grade and graduated from South High School in 1951. Having excelled in her studies, she went on to continue her education by attending Western Michigan University where she received her Bachelors degree in 1955. In 1968, she earned her Masters degree from Michigan State University.
With an unending heart for young people and her desire to see them thrive, Norma’s younger years playing schoolhouse paid off in numerous ways. Norma went on to become a truly generous, wonderful and great teacher who especially loved teaching the “little people”.
Throughout the years, Norma's “specialty” included teaching those children in kindergarten, first, second and the third grades. She saw each child as a special individual with their own unique background and individual traits. With ways all her own, she inspired them by offering a solid foundation for their educations. Norma held such a gifted talent for recognizing the good in others and truly seeing the positive in them. It was her heart’s desire to help others learn and grow their potential which was her ultimate devotion in teaching the little ones.
While Norma never married or had children of her own, her heart was full with the love of children. Her nieces and nephews were a special part of her life and remained so for all of her days. She always made it a point to attend all of the family holidays and birthday celebrations, but most importantly, she never missed an opportunity to be with her family and celebrate events.
Ever proud of her Irish heritage, Norma would wear the color green every day in the month of March to honor St. Patrick. With her Irish roots and along with her love for travel, she especially loved her countless trips abroad to Ireland, Portugal and to Stratford, in Canada. In the U.S. she particularly enjoyed times spent in New Jersey, Chicago and trips to California. Each summer Norma took numerous trips with different family members and close friends.
Along with travel, Norma also developed a keen interest in genealogy long before it became commercialized. Prior to the advent of personal computers, Norma traveled the world visiting libraries as well as state, provincial and county offices where she spent hours upon hours scrutinizing microfiche screens for records of her ancestors. As a result, Norma was able to trace her ancestors on both sides back four generations. In fact, she traveled to countless cities in the U.S., Ontario, Canada and to Ireland to capture her ancestor’s historical records.
A lifelong fan of Bridge and tennis, Norma played both games well into her sixties. It is no surprise that Norma loved the sounds of Irish music and she thoroughly enjoyed attending the Grand Rapids Symphony whenever she was able. When it came to cooking, Norma mostly ate out, however, for holidays she enjoyed providing a new dish for her family to try. For many years Norma liked dining at the former German restaurant in downtown Grand Rapids called the Schnitzelbank. Later in life she was a regular at the Great Lakes Shipping Company Restaurant near the corner of Breton and Burton.
Faith played a large role in Norma’s life. She attended Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids where she was a faithful parishioner for many years. Among the many things that brought Norma joy was the love of family. Her most prized and cherished possession in addition to their rich history and genealogy records, all of which she carefully placed on paper. Norma was one of the sweetest and most caring people through to the very end of her life. She always had time to share with her beloved family and friends, but especially her nieces and nephews with whom she loved dearly. Gone yet never to be forgotten are the wonderful memories she leaves behind.
Norma J. Fick, age 87, of Jenison, MI passed away Wednesday, July 29, 2020. In addition to her parents, Norma was preceded in death by her brother, Gerald Fick Sr. and by her nephew, Gerald Fick Jr. Norma is survived by her brother, Thomas E. Fick Sr.; sister, Nancy Piegari; sister-in-law, Joyce Fick; nieces, Carol Bryzinski, Louann Snoeyink, Cathy Fick; nephews, Thomas E. Fick Jr., Michael L. Fick Sr., James Galiardi Jr., Daniel Galiardi and John Galiardi. According to her wishes, cremation has taken place. Memorials may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association of West Michigan. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to share a special memory with Norma’s family and to sign her online guest book.