Remembering Norm Anderson

Mr. Rotary

Norm Anderson was a dedicated, dynamic Rotarian with perfect attendance for sixty-four years.  In fact, he participated in a Rotary meeting on his 89th birthday, two days before he died.

Norm was a very successful businessman with vision, imagination and energy which led him into many areas, but Rotary was always at the center of his life.  We think about driving or flying to an international convention. When Norm wanted to attend the Lucerne, Switzerland, convention in 1957, he had to book passage on a transatlantic ship. That was his first of 29 international conventions!

Norm was an outstanding, creative District Governor, with his 1993-4 year highlighted by the great convention he produced in and around Solvang, California – appropriate for Norm’s Danish heritage. I remember much of his year, because I was his District Newsletter Editor.  

And how that happened was typical of Norm’s style. One morning, shortly before his DG term began, as we were leaving a meeting of the Solvang Breakfast Rotary, Norm said “How would you like to be my newsletter editor?”  I had a full life with family and running my business, but I told him I would think about it.  I will never forget his next words, “Don’t think about it too long.” A few days later I understood his instruction when I received my copy of the district handbook, and saw that I was listed as the editor. Obviously, he had made that decision months before, and assumed I would accept.

Norm could assume that people would comply with his requests, because it always seemed to happen. He was a bright, thoughtful guy, and what he was asking for would seem reasonable and beneficial, and there was really no reason to refuse.

And in turn, whenever one needed help with a worthwhile project, there was no better person to ask than Norm. While our daughter was an army officer with the US mission in Kosovo she was appalled by the savagery with which villagers were driven out of their homes into the mountains with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing. The attackers even planted land mines in their schoolyards in case they returned.  Winter was approaching, and our daughter and her unit asked us for help. The Santa Ynez Valley gathered 4000 pounds of clothing, but we had to find a way to ship it, since all military flights from this area were full.

In a situation like that the obvious person to ask for help was Norm. Fortunately, Norm’s large circle of friends included one who owned a transcontinental moving company.  We boxed all of the clothing, hauled the boxes to Carpinteria, California, and were able to get everything into a partially full truck headed for Connecticut. All at no cost. And we knew that, if we could get the boxes to an APO box in New York, they would be shipped free to Kosovo.

But the Connecticut to NYC leg was still a problem. So Norm contacted the District Governor in Connecticut. That DG had a lot of reasons why it couldn’t be done, but we had Norm on our side, so it happened. Don’t waste your time saying no to Norm.

And in an interesting footnote to that adventure, the DG in Connecticut had a project providing goats for people in Haiti, and in the Rotary way he gave us an opportunity to help. So Norm and I spent the next month asking Rotarians and my clients to join us in the goats project. We funded several, and the City of Buellton employees donated enough money for a goat, and had a contest to name it.

Life with Norm was exciting and productive. As Rotarians in our district know, Norm was not shy about looking at Rotary needs and behavior, and offering critiques along with his help.  But as I look back, he was usually right, and we are all so much better for his decades of service. Thank you, Norm.