Norma Thompson Obituary – The Reno Journal-Gazette and Mason Valley News
Norma Thompson passed away on March 22, 2022 after a short battle with cancer. She passed away peacefully with her children and grandchildren. She was 94 years old and said she was ready to return to her Lord, her family and her husband of 67 years.
Born Norma L. Sorensen on July 11, 1927 in the small town of Mt. Pleasant, Utah, Norma was raised on a sheep ranch in a loyal Mormon family as the youngest of six children. Being the youngest had its pros and cons, she says: Most of the time, she was pampered, even spoiled. But over the years, she felt she had somehow acquired five more parents!
Norma loved music. She studied piano and trumpet in elementary and high school, participated in a band, student leadership, sports, and even co-wrote the new school fight song. She attended Utah State where she played trumpet in the college marching band and symphony orchestra.
After earning a sociology degree in 1950, Norma moved to Los Angeles where her sister lived to become a social worker with the LA County Department of Social Welfare. Needless to say, moving from a small Mormon town to Los Angeles was quite the culture shock. After only a year, she returned to Utah and went to work for the Red Cross in Ogden as a director of social services.
In 1952, she was visiting her college roommate who had moved to Carson City, when a huge snowstorm hit, paralyzing the area, stranding thousands of people, including Norma and hundreds of military personnel. She contacted the Reno Red Cross to see how she could help and was put to work helping stranded service members find temporary housing. She loved the area and the Red Cross loved her, so she decided to stay and was hired as a military liaison for the Reno Red Cross.
It was through the Red Cross that she would meet her future husband, Don “Snoshu” Thompson. The Red Cross manager introduced them, as Don was a Red Cross water safety instructor and lifeguard at Idlewild Pool. Don invited Norma to come swimming on a Saturday. As she lay in the sun, enjoying the warm weather, Don decided to cannonball right in front of her lounge chair and covered her in water. We can therefore say that it caused a sensation! When she finally forgave him, they began dating and 18 months later were married on February 6, 1954 at NUR’s new SAE home. Yes, Don married a Mormon girl in a Frat house!
Don worked as a musician and publicity salesman in their early years, and Norma enjoyed going to his shows. But once Corrin and then Cami arrived, Norma became the group’s babysitter. She spent many weekends and New Year’s Eve playing games with Corrin, Cami and Tony Savage – the son of Don’s teammate Jan Savage – and other children as needed.
In 1964, Don and Norma bought Reno Business College, and it became their life for 20 years. Norma ran the bookstore, helped students find housing, and provided funding for veterans. Years after selling the college, they were meeting former students who shared how the Business College had changed their lives. The success of their students remained a source of pride for Don and Norma throughout their lives.
In 1976, she helped Don convert an 1800s ranch into a Holcomb House restaurant. She helped remodel the house, scouted for kitchen equipment and dishes, found and restored antique furniture, designed the menu, supervised the cooks, played hostess, and often washed the dishes. . This restaurant eventually became Bailiwicks, then Silver Peak, and now Huntsman Brewing. The fact that it is still a restaurant after 46 years was another point of pride for Norma and Don.
While working with Don in all of his endeavors, Norma made time to be active in Reno as well. She was a guide at the Sierra Nevada Museum of Art and took an art class with Howard Rosenberg, which she thoroughly enjoyed. She has volunteered for the Red Cross, St. Mary’s Hospital, Washoe Medical Center Auxiliary and the Junior Section of the 20th Century Club. She was president of the PTA at Jessie Beck Elementary School and spent 18 years as a board member of the Nevada Opera. Norma was a dynamic hostess for the many parties and social events that took place in the Thompson house. From family gatherings to after-show theater and Nevada Opera cast parties to birthday celebrations, she has shared her love of cooking with so many and enjoyed the music, singing and the endless laughter that filled her house.
Don and his sister Audrey owned a small A-frame cabin at Lake Tahoe, where the two families spent many summer days boating and waterskiing. The 4th of July was always a highlight, as several families rode up to Sand Harbor to enjoy the day, then hopped on their boats to watch fireworks and made their way to Thompson Cabin to crash on their floors. On those days, more than a dozen sleeping bags were spread throughout the house and on the large outdoor patio. Norma has never stopped cooking and cleaning!
After Don and Norma sold the trade school and leased the restaurant, they took the time to travel. Don was a ski journalist, so they skied all over the United States and attended several Winter Olympics. Don has also worked for Golf Today magazine and they have traveled to Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland and China to play golf.
Norma was predeceased by her five siblings and her husband of 67 years, Don “Snoshu” Thompson. She is survived by her daughters Corrin Keck, Cami Thompson (Scott Lenau) and Randi Thompson (Steve Trollope), her grandchildren Josh Keck (Melinda) and Kristine Keck, and her great-grandchildren Kaelem, Abbie, Dylan and Avery.
Norma will always be remembered by her family and friends as “Saint Norma”, for she was a saint to endure all of Don’s antics and the exploits of her three spirited daughters. Yet she said during her last days on this earth that she had a good life. As she repeatedly told her family as they cared for her in her final month, “Go have fun. You have a life. I had mine.”… And what a life it was!
Both Don and Norma donated their bodies to the University of Nevada School of Medicine for medical research. The family is planning a memorial for her this spring.
In lieu of flowers, Norma would surely appreciate your donation to the Red Cross, the place where she worked, volunteered and met her husband.
Posted on April 17, 2022
Posted in Reno Gazette-Journal