Featured Resident – Norma Roberts
Norma was born on a farm in Kidder, MO. She was the middle child of three children born to Lloyd and Lola Orr. She had a brother, Lyle, and a sister, Carol.
Growing up on a farm, she was in charge of bringing in the firewood each night and helped with milking the cows. She attended school in Kidder. Gym was her favorite subject because she loved playing basketball. History was her least favorite subject because she didn’t find it interesting.
One evening while Norma was outside gathering wood, she got a phone call. It was from Lee Roberts and he was asking her out on a date. She was 14 and he was 15. They started dating. There wasn’t much that they could afford to do in Kidder. Their dates were usually going to a movie and getting a bottle of pop from the gas station. He gave her an engagement ring for Christmas 1953.
She graduated valedictorian of her graduating class in 1954. There were a whopping two people in her graduating class. After graduation, Norma got an apartment in Hamilton, MO, and a job working in a shoe factory.
The couple married in April of 1955 and have been married almost 68 years. They moved to the Northeast area of Kansas City. Lee worked at GM and Norma stayed home. She was bored and didn’t like the city. She lived across the street from the Kansas City Museum and spent many hours wandering around in it. She also went on many walks. After about a year, they moved back to Hamilton. They eventually settled on a farm. They had no running water. They used pond water to wash their clothes and had a well that they drew water from to drink. Lee drove the 80 miles each way to GM and Norma went back to work at the shoe factory.
In 1957, Norma quit her job and became a stay-at-home mom to their son, Gary. They raised chickens, which they stored in the grocery store’s locker once they were killed and dressed. She also raised sweet corn. The couple attended the Christian Church in Kidder. One year they had a contest for Mother’s Day which was what mother and baby looked the most alike. Gary and Norma won!
In 1959, the family relocated to Pleasant Valley, MO. They got involved with the Pleasant Valley Civic Organization and remained involved for over 35 years. They did many spaghetti dinners and chili dinners. They also were in charge of Bingo for eleven years. They attended McMurray Methodist Church in Claycomo for many years.
Gary was involved in baseball and they traveled all over for tournaments. The family also traveled other places for pleasure including Colorado, Utah, Florida, Indiana and Las Vegas. Norma enjoys playing the slot machines and they spent their 50th wedding anniversary in Vegas.
Lee’s brother and sister-in-law were alcoholics. Lee and Norma would have their niece, Cheryl, come stay with them in the summer. When she was 13, she asked if she could just live with them. So they finished raising her and she’s just like a daughter to them.
Once Gary was in school, Norma went to work at the Olan Mills Portrait Studio in Gladstone. She worked there for around 15 years. She and Lee retired in 1984. However, in 1987, they went to work cleaning up at the airport for about six years and then the re-retired.
Over the years, the couple has been involved with the Eagle’s Club. On Friday nights, they would get together and play pitch. On Saturday nights, there was usually a live band and dancing. Norma did ceramics for several years. She has some Santas that she made on display in her apartment. But Norma’s absolute favorite thing to do was mowing the yard. She preferred it to cleaning the house.
As Lee’s health declined, Norma had a harder time keeping up with the yard and the house. They decided they needed to move. Their daughter-in-law, Rhonda, had just moved her mom into Westbrook and she really liked it. Lee and Norma came a toured the facility and moved into Westbrook the end of September. She loves that she doesn’t have to cook anymore. She also enjoys the other residents and thinks that the staff is great.
One interesting fact about Norma is that she stripped bluegrass for a couple of years. For those who were uninformed about this. They would strip the grass and harvest the seed for extra cash. The seed was then sold to grass companies for planting.
Besides Gary and his wife, Rhonda, they have two granddaughters, two great granddaughters, a great grandson and a great great granddaughter.