A Tribute to the Life of Norman Dazey
Shortly after I learned of Dad’s passing, I was thinking about the legacy that he has left behind. So I sent a text to my brother and sister and said “Everything that he has taught us to do and how to live a meaningful life is amazing. He lives on in each of us every single day through our strength, our kindness, our laughter and our love. Sending love and support to both of you today.” My siblings and I had just lost our father. Gloria had just lost her husband. How would we all move forward from here?
As I age, I have been giving a lot of thought to how much we are imprinted by our ancestors. I see my dad in Paul constantly—in his thought and his action—the way he learned how to engineer anything came from dad. LeiAnn exhibits that deep and loving kindness from our great Aunt Clara who was her early caregiver while mom and dad worked. Sometimes when I laugh and throw my head back with my mouth open I know, I have become my mother. I catch quick glimpses of my Aunt Mimi or mom in Suzanne by the way she moves her head or laughs. Sara is Paul’s mini-me, who is Norm’s mini-me. So in short, dad has not died. He is alive and well in all of us!
But today is a celebration of Norm’s life. Everything he gave us helped to make us the people we are today. Some of you may have learned to tie your first knot from him, or how to throw back your first long neck beer, or grind your pelvis like Elvis. He taught hard work as a value. And when Grandma Dazey had to go into a nursing home after her stroke, I saw a man who never said a word about the finances or responsibilities. He worked all day at the Products, stopped to visit his mother on his way home, had a loving home cooked meal with his entire family gathered around the table discussing the days events and then quietly dismissed himself to the garage to work a second job fixing cars so that he could pay for his mother’s care. Norm did not have to talk about it. He lived a life of examples on how to show up in the world.
Saying “fixing cars” seems to minimize what he did … he was an artist. The most rusted and busted, crashed up, vehicles that had succumbed to cancer would come into our garage and weeks later they would emerge as if they were rolling off the assembly line for the first time. He had two projects that stand out as favorites. Glenn Poucher brought him an amphicar that needed an entire reengineer to the front end so it could be driven into the water again. So after months of labor, the family and Glenn headed to Round Lake to test drive the car. Mom was too afraid and stayed on shore. But not us kids—we thought dad walked on water so there was no doubt he could drive on water too. As a successful launch found us cruising around the lake, neighbors were running out of their houses yelling, “Call the police. A drunk has driven his car into the lake.” Dad laughed and laughed as he beamed with pride. To this day it remains one of my fondest memories and also my dad’s. He never grew tired of telling that story!
The second and probably most significant car project came in a much smaller package—in the form of a small block of wood and a kit to build a Pine Wood Derby Car. This time he was the mentor. He guided Paul on how to shape that block of wood into a sports car that would later roll down the track to victory and a first place trophy. The significance of that has not been lost on me. Paul has made a very successful career engineering front bumpers in the automotive industry. Early impressions and guidance matter.
When I moved home from California in 1978, I came home without my vehicle. I soon heard from my parents that I needed to get my ass back out there and retrieve my VW van. So off to the airport I go with our family husky Ike in tow. The plan was for Ike to co-pilot my cross-country adventure and hopefully scare away any dangerous characters. That fearlessness was again, a value I learned as Norm Dazey’s daughter. After locking myself out of my van on an exit ramp in a blinding snowstorm in Truckee California with Ike just sitting there, staring at me unable to open my door or window, I realized that I might need some help getting home. So I called dad and asked if he would send Paul out to help me drive home. In Dad’s infinite wisdom, he said, “Paul is a junior in high school, and I don’t need two of my kids stranded in the Wild West. Can you drive yourself to Salt Lake City and meet me at the airport?” I committed to driving another day with my dog and headed to Utah. Once I picked dad up, I never drove again, but it was my favorite cross-country trip of all time. My knight in shining armor had saved my ass, and we had the best father-daughter trip ever.
Reflecting on Dad’s relationship with LeiAnn I see a special bond. Mom and Dad were both the babies of their families, and LeiAnn was the baby of ours. She was always daddy’s little girl. He built her a custom bicycle that she flew down Richard Street. He occasionally hopped on the bicycle himself, holding Ike’s leash so he could run like hell, taking dad for a pedal-free ride—Dad always did like to go fast! After I moved to the West side of the state, I knew I would be relying on my siblings and stepmother to care for dad as he aged and sure enough, daddy’s little girl showed up in the same way he had for his mother. So anyone looking for a hot fudge sundae on a Sunday night should see LeiAnn—she has a huge void to fill now that dad is gone.
So the movie of childhood memories that have been flashing before my eyes for three days now will live on forever. Boy Scout jamborees, trips to the cabin, smelt dinners at Aunt Dorothy's, euchre games with Aunt Marge and Uncle Fritz in Frankenmuth, with my Aunt Mimi’s family in Fremont Ohio, and with Uncle Maurice’s family in Adrian. But what stands out most from childhood was the love we all had for each other, the tremendous life skills we were taught to create successful lives for ourselves, and how much we laughed. Anyone who knew my brother Mike knew his crazy laugh. If there was a pitch for a joke, he took it, not caring if anyone else laughed as long as he thought it was funny, because he liked to crack himself up.
Dad’s first act in life was his childhood where he had to bury his father who had died in a car accident when dad was 18—his second act was his marriage to our Mom and our childhood years—and his third act revealed itself at his 40th class reunion. In May of 1991 Mom had just died. As you can imagine, he was lost and lonely. So as the reunion rolled around in August, Joyce Bakewell was bound determined to match him up so he wouldn’t be alone. As fate would have it, Gloria also attended that class reunion and the rest is history. Dad’s first cousin Owen Bohlke and his wife Shirley, Dad, and Gloria soon became fast friends that palled around together, much like Owen and dad had done as children. They played, and danced, and found love in their companionship. Dad knew how lucky he was to have Gloria and he secretly told me every chance he could get. I want to acknowledge Gloria’s selflessness and care. After caretaking for her first husband, it would have been easy for some to walk away and say this is not what I signed up for. But she did not. Dad began to have health challenges that affected his eyesight, and mini-strokes decreased his ability to walk without assistance, among other things. But Gloria was unwavering in her care of our father. So Gloria, on behalf of my brother and sister and myself I want to publicly express our deepest gratitude for your love and excellent care of our father. There are not adequate words to express the depth at which we feel your compassion and love gave our father a rich life of love that he deserved. Gloria, we thank you so very much. God Bless you always.
In closing, I want to share a conversation I had with dad several years ago. I had just moved home from Madison Wisconsin and was in pretty grave condition and dad was going blind. So I asked him one day if in his dreams could he see. He said that yes he could. Then he asked me if in my dreams I was chemically sensitive and wearing a mask on my face to protect myself. I told him no. In my dreams, I am always healthy and whole. He said, “me too.” Then after a brief pause, he said, “I imagine that this is what it will be like in heaven.” So today I feel great comfort as I envision my dad healthy and whole, dancing with loved ones while his shining light guides us each to live on with happy fulfilled lives just as he had done.
Gloria will need your continued love and support in the days and weeks ahead because she has a huge void in her life that she cannot imagine right now how she will ever fill.
With deep gratitude and love, we bless of all of you for coming today to honor our father and husband’s life and legacy. Norman LeRoy Dazey may you rest in peace.
—Written and read by Norm’s eldest daughter, Pam Dazey
January 27, 2018
Pam, Paul and LeiAnn:
My prayers to you all during this difficult time. May God be with each of you at this time of great sorrow. Love you all!
Pam, you and your Family are in our thoughts and prayers.
Ron & Kathy
So sorry for your loss, my thoughts and prayers are with you.
Very sorry to hear of Norm's passing. He was one of the giants of my childhood. Mr. Dazey was always kind to me and I will always hold wonderful memories of him and Mrs. Dazey. Condolences to his family and especially to my childhood friend Lei ann. We will all meet again someday in the promised land. Pleasant journey Mr. Dazey.
Gloria, our deepest and most sincere sympathy to you and everyone in the family for the loss of Norm. May your special memories and God's love comfort you always. Love and prayers to all . . .
My deepest sympathies for you and your family during what I know is a difficult time.
My sincere condolences to my great aunt and Normans family may God continue to comfort you during this trying time!
My deepest condolences to Gloria and Family; Norm was a great guy and will be missed by many.
He was a crazy, lovable old guy just like my dad was. Well I guess they're out somewhere drinking beer and playing euchre together somewhere way up north.
Greg and I send our heartfelt condolences to all of the family. Pray you find comfort in your memories.
I am so very sorry to hear of the loss of your father. I will be praying for you and the rest of the family.