Norma Smith, Mother of 4, was a Trailblazer who Retired as VP of UMI
Norma Smith, age 86, of Saline, Michigan passed away peacefully on Friday, January 5, 2024, with her family by her side. Norma was born September 5, 1937, to the late Charles and Marie Meyer, and was the loving sister to the late Marianne, Joan, Carol, and Chuck Meyer. She is survived by her four children Chris (Roz) Smith, Julie (Tom) McElmurry, Brendan (Julie) Smith and Brad (Alli) Smith, her six grandchildren Tara McElmurry, Colleen (Mike) Rybolt, Nathan (Paige) Smith, McKenna (Rocco) Smith, Leah Smith and Parker Smith, her great-grandchild Cameron Smith, along with many “grand dogs.”
Norma was born in Buffalo as the youngest child of her family, but arguably never a true child, as she was always independent and mature for her age, ready to take on the world. She could be found in Carl Meyer’s Hoff restaurant where her family provided delicious German dishes to the Buffalo community. Her time in the restaurant likely sparked her inspiration for her own kitchen, as she was an avid cook, loved trying new recipes and sharing them with those she loved. Notable dishes are her famous sour cream coffee cake, German potato salad, numerous soups and stews and most recent fan favorite, her hot chicken salad with potato chip topping.
“Learn as if you were going to live forever. Live as if you were going to die tomorrow,” a quote from Gandhi she lived by. Norma graduated from D’Youville College in Buffalo with a BA in history and economics, and her learning continued her entire life. An avid reader and news junkie, she also enjoyed spiritual, metaphysical, and political discussions. She was always interested to see if you had read the latest column from Maureen Dowd or Heather Cox Richardson or had caught David Brooks on Friday’s PBS News Hour, and if you hadn’t, she’d fill you in. These worldly conversations were center stage at her weekly Sunday Morning Coffee gatherings, which began at the Drowsy Parrot and then continued at Brewed Awakenings.
Norma met her ex-husband while she was in college in Buffalo, and they began a family there. His work moved them to Rochester, NY, Trumbull, CT and then to Saline, MI. She was a stay-at-home mom until her divorce, when she began working at University Microfilm Incorporated (UMI), then owned by Xerox. Norma spent 20 years there, climbing the ladder and retired as a vice president of operations. A single mother of four and often the only woman leader in the corporate boardroom, Norma was a tenacious trailblazer of her time, setting an example for her children and grandchildren, who have also gone on to be successful in their own fields.
After retiring from UMI, Norma stayed busy by becoming a consultant for both private industry and nonprofits, while also dedicating her time volunteering with many causes throughout her community, including Catholic Ministries, Trinity Health, St. Joseph Mercy Health System, Saline Area Schools Foundation, Washtenaw Area Council for Children at Risk, among others. She was also fond of traveling, getting her passport stamped in the UK, Ireland, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Costa Rica, Canada, Mexico, Germany, France, along with many domestic trips with friends and family. Along with her interest in travel, reading and cooking, Norma had a love for animals, especially whales, specifically beluga whales, which she loved to visit at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. In 2012, she had the opportunity to swim with those belugas, and last year on a trip to Cabo San Lucas with some of her family, she enjoyed watching humpback whales in the wild. One of Norma’s favorite phrases was “live large,” and that’s exactly what she did.
Norma embraced aging gracefully, but there were some moments when she revolted, like when it was time for her to get hearing aids. She decided it was also time to get a tattoo - a hibiscus flower on her chest, which she proudly showed off to her family that Christmas. This move, along with all her travels and the rest of her life story, is why her grandchildren all agree on the term “badass” to best describe their Nana.
The pages of Norma’s planner were always full of her favorite things - weekly games of bridge, activities at the senior center, Friday morning breakfast at The Saline Inn, Sunday Morning Coffee, and visits with “The Virgos,” a sisterhood she formed with three other women as they bonded over their star sign and many other life experiences. She also enjoyed regular get-togethers with her dear friends Nancy, Dipper, Fr. Tom, and Sister Rachelle.
Perhaps most importantly, Norma was the best mom and Nana to her family. She would make every visit special for her grandchildren stocking her pantry with their favorite cereals, always including Lucky Charms in that mix. She manned the toaster every morning making sure everyone had their fill of “holy bread” (Paesano bread from her beloved Zingerman’s). Norma also made sure each visit included one of her classic “mystery trips,” which took her family to new or fun spots around the greater Ann Arbor/Saline area. She tried her best to incorporate a little magic and whimsy in her role as a Nana, even one time taking her older grandchildren on a “fairy hunt” years ago in Mill Pond Park, armed with “fairy dust” (sparkles) and flashlights running and giggling throughout the playground. Family visits to Saline also included a favorite pastime known as “pond driving” - attempting to hit golf balls across Mill Pond from her backyard. Mostly, she simply loved being around her family, whether it was being at a major life event like a college graduation or playing a game of Uno or Rummikub. It is without question that her favorite titles in life were mom and Nana.
Norma coined the phrase “you’re in the golden circle of light,” as a kind of prayer to a family member or friend as they were traveling, to keep them safe. It’s been fondly shortened to “GCL” by some of her family and has become a regular phrase for many to spread love and well-wishes to those near and far. So, as we close - GCL, Nana! We send you off in the golden circle of light now and always. We love you so.
Friends will be invited to celebrate Norma’s life at an event in the Spring, specific details are forthcoming. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, The Shedd Aquarium or Saline Area Social Service. Other ways to honor Norma would be taking a walk in nature, feeding the birds or simply taking a moment to be in awe of the Earth’s beauty. To sign Norma’s guestbook or to leave a memory, please visit www.rbfhsaline.com.
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