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Writing women's history one mother at a time... since 2004.

Chris Cutress’s story of Norma


My mother, Norma, was born in Hyas Saskatchewan in 1923. When she was about 4 years of age her mother died in childbirth (with twins who also died). My mother told me of a tornado that moved the grain silo 5 miles down the road and a barn that they never found.  Of the time when her 19 year old brother was head-kicked by a horse and died with the family crowded around him two days later. And of the time when she and some of her friends went skinny-dipping at a secluded pond.

When she was in her late teens she went to Hamilton, Ontario to stay with relatives. At the beginning of the war she was working at a bakery and never wanted for baked goods even with rationing. She left that job, and the free baking, to work at Massey-Ferguson and later Westinghouse as a machinist making heavy machine guns for the war effort. Her picture behind the barrel of a heavy machine gun appeared in a trade magazine and later in a book about Canadian women at war.

After the war she studied and graduated from Hamilton Civic Hospital as a registered nurse. She worked her way west and settled in Prince Rupert, BC where she met and married a career navy man.

When he was reassigned to Victoria, BC she followed and gained employment as a member of the Victorian Order of Nurses and, after a few years, was chosen to travel to Esquimalt to accept an award to the order from Prince Philip. As she, and others, were awaiting the arrival of the Prince she was approached by security to accompany them to another building in which an ‘under the weather’ Prince Philip was being fed coffee to wake him up so that he could carry on with the ceremony. She was asked in her nursing capacity to assist in this endeavour. Prince Philip did make it to the ceremony but the award for the V.O.N. was delayed until another time.

After my birth in 1955 my mother dedicated herself to being a mother, homemaker and mostly single mother since my father was often on assignment at sea. These years were filled with soccer, baseball, Boy Scouts, P.T.A. and other volunteer works.

In early 1997 she was diagnosed with lung cancer. She had been a smoker since her thirties but stopped smoking immediately upon the diagnosis. But, the damage had been done and the cancer spread to her bones and throughout her body. In May of 1998 she succumbed to the disease at the age of 74.


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