Norma Olive Drosdowech
19 May, 1935 – 15 April, 2021
Remembered with Love
Norma Olive Drosdowech was born on May 19, 1935. She lived in a tiny house on Minto Street with her parents, George and Olive Johnson, and her older brother Bob. They moved to Claremont Avenue when she was six. Memories of growing up in Norwood and CGIT were dear. She excelled at school, especially in English, but also got in trouble for flirting with the boys. She became a lovely piano player. Her mother’s fine sewing skills allowed Norma to look fashionable on a modest family income. A lifelong swimmer, many happy times were spent at the family cabin at Red Rock.
Norma was a caregiver and great support to her own mother and aunts. Her father passed away only two weeks before Laura was born. Although heartbreaking to Norma, she became the leader of her family. She maintained meaningful connections with Bob’s family and his wife Sunny on the west coast.
On scholarship, Norma completed her Bachelor of Arts, Paedogogy and Education degrees. She was Lady Stick at the Faculty of Education and was the outstanding graduate of her sorority. Life-long friendships with her ADPi sisters were treasured. Her parents were proud of her academic achievements as their own schooling was cut short due to hardships.
Norma began teaching at Glenlawn Collegiate in 1957 where she met her husband Peter. Romance was encouraged between staff making it easier to court a colleague back then! They wed on July 29, 1961 and honeymooned in Europe for six weeks. Norma and Peter were partners in marriage, parenting, teaching, business and travel. Their lives were intertwined, yet they gave each other room to grow. She missed Peter tremendously.
Norma gave birth to four daughters in six years: Laura, Linda, Sandra (Jason) and Carol (John). She was a fun and loving mother. She sewed our clothes (matching), ran a nursery school, was a brownie leader, read and sang to us, helped with essays and life. She had a relaxed approach to house-keeping and created a cozy home to grow up in. She was present for long talks and lots of laughs. Mom said she loved it all - the early years, the teen years and seeing her daughters become women.
A homemaker for twelve years, Mom stayed interested in feminism, politics and education. She went back to teaching in 1975 as a kindergarten teacher before becoming a Family Life Educator. An advocate in the 80s for “sex ed”, Norma insisted, in the face of great controversy, children have a right to learn about their sexuality. She earned her Master of Education degree in 1989 and became a school counsellor impacting the lives of children and staff. The friendships she made in the St. Vital School Division, especially with the gang, ran deep. She retired in 1995 and began teaching at the University of Manitoba.
Norma relished playing host with Peter! Everyone liked to hang out at 4 River Lane: get-togethers at the house, kids in the yard, teenagers in the basement, grandchildren in the pool, and Sunday dinners with the good china. Her house was the party venue for decades. Norma enjoyed sitting in her verandah with a cup of coffee looking out over River Lane and her family of neighbours.
Norma loved going to church! It was an important part of her entire life. She joined the Unitarian Church later in life and embraced a spiritual community that was openly diverse. In her role as Chaplain, she gave sermons, performed marriages and funerals, and guided pastoral care. Her oratorical skills were first noted at church when she was young. Being an exceptional speaker was something she prized all her life.
Mom was a rare individual who liked going to meetings and belonging to committees! She had strong convictions, a tireless work ethic and believed in serving her community. The weight of her words was always a force for good. She resembled the Queen so when she aired her opinion it could be quite regal! She served on countless groups, her last being with the Manitoba Council on Aging.
Peter’s family was important to Norma. She was close with his parents, sisters Ellen, Phyllis and Leona, their husbands and children; especially Phillip and Mark. The many trips to Dauphin made it feel like her own hometown. Good times were had running Clear Lake Lodge with Peter, Phyllis and Jake. She thrived as an Innkeeper and adored spending time with guests. Trips to Clear Lake with family were the best of days.
In 2001 Norma celebrated the arrival of her first grandchild with six more to follow. She was an adoring and accepting grandmother with curly silver hair and a warm smile. She was present in their lives and expressed gratitude her grandchildren were in Winnipeg. Emily, Sage, Andrew, Zoe, Lucy, Jackson, Gloria, as well as her step-grandchildren Danny and Ethan, enjoyed running amuck at Grandma and Papa’s.
Norma enjoyed concerts and events at Rainbow stage, the WSO, and MTC. She played the piano with glee at home, church, school and the Lodge. Reading and writing were also hobbies. She read Little Women and Anne of Green Gables every year. She liked writing memoirs, speeches and Christmas letters. She once penned a letter of complaint in prose (a sonnet!) to the Minister of Education.
Mom lived her last years at home with Sandra and Jason’s family. Mom spoke often of loving the house, the cats, and the view of the river and memories of Peter. Mom liked to talk and enjoyed the company of her home-care companions, especially Maricel. It was an honour for Sandra to care for our mother at home. Sandra hoped she would live to 100, just like Aunt Pat, but that was not to be. Mom died peacefully at home with family all around. We will miss her and love her for all our days to come.
People were drawn to Norma’s light, compassion and wisdom. She was a trail-blazer and a kind soul. Her wish for the world was for people to open their hearts to embrace the delightful diversity of humanity and to care for each other. Donations in her honour can be made to Rossbrook House, an inner-city youth centre, founded by her sorority sister, Sister Gerry MacNamera.
A zoom service will be held Friday, May 7 at 7:00 pm. You may follow this link to view the service: https://zoom.us/j/94421897098?pwd=VkF0UnFxTXQ2bld5ZG83bk9YeU5FUT09
Light a candle and enjoy a beverage of your choice to help us celebrate Norma’s life.
Livestreamed Funeral Services
Wednesday, 7 April , 2021
Norma Olive Drosdowech
have a memory or condolence to add?ADD A MEMORY
29 April 2021
My sympathy to the family.
For many years a group of us were invited #4 River Lane on New Years Eve . Most of us were were teachers with their spouses and others with connections to schools The setting was warm and inviting and Norma and Peter were great hosts. The evening began with a wonderful meal which included dishes from the guests but for me the highlight was Peter's beef roast. There was sometimes a homey rustle by children or a pet but no intrusion. Sometimes we played a game or two but mostly I recall conversation and sincere wishes for a happy New Year. We came to expect that we could come together like this the next year. We were blessed with that opportunity.
29 April 2021
My deepest sympathies to your family. I loved reading this tribute - Mrs. D was my 1st Grade teacher at Victor Wyatt and gave me a lifelong love of reading and encouraged me to start writing and never stop. She was effortlessly warm, encouraging and supportive. I attended that school for a decade and from beginning to end, Mrs. D was consistently present and aware of who I was and who I was trying to become. Thanks to Mrs. D, I became a journalist and will always be grateful for her many gifts as an educator and a compassionate human being.
28 April 2021
My deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Mrs. D. It is heartwarming to
read about the beautiful and full life she lived. I am among the many students whose lives she touched. Mrs. D was an amazing teacher who had a wonderful way of bringing warmth and kindness to my kindergarten experience at Victor Wyatt school back in 1979. Even though that was so long ago I can still picture her in our classroom playing the piano and teaching is new songs, her generous hugs, reassuring smile and handwritten notes. She left an impression and will always be remembered. ❤️
26 April 2021
I was saddened to read that Norma Drosdowech has died.
Norma was the chair of the Manitoba Council on Aging when I first became a member. Under her leadership, the Council worked with the staff of the Seniors Secretariat to learn more about the needs of older Manitobans throughout the province and to advocate for those needs being met.
Norma was not only competent but cheerful, with a ready smile and a good sense of humour.....which were often accompanied by a very determined streak to make positive changes happen!
Family and friends will miss her, I know. I hope that good memories and pride in her accomplishments will be sources of strength.
25 April 2021
Please accept my condolences. I remember Norma very fondly. She was involved at several volunteer levels at Planned Parenthood Manitoba, where I worked. Norma was an amazing woman with drive and passion in support of sexuality education; and a mentor to me in my early career.
25 April 2021
So sorry to hear of Norma’s passing. I remember spending so much time at River Lane house - sleepovers, playing outside and the pool. Norma was always happy and kind and welcoming. It was an honour to have her perform our wedding ceremony. Sincere condolences to Sandra, all the sisters and the entire family.
24 April 2021
I’m so very heartbroken to hear of the passing of Mrs. Drosdowich. She was my first teacher, and without a doubt forever remained my very favourite. She was so gentle, and sweet, and fun... but firm when it came to expressing her belief and faith in others. She was that person who always made you feel so special, just with her smile... who would lead you to thoughts of flowers and sunshine and kindness and warmth whenever she came to mind (she still does). Every time our paths crossed she would connect with me as if we saw each other yesterday. I’ve thought of her so many times over the years and will continue to do so in the days to come. Please accept my heartfelt condolences... she was a true gem.
24 April 2021
Norma was a role model, a friend and a leader to all of us. A friendly welcoming smile.
Thank you to you Norma for always willing to share a bit of yourself.
Stacey St. Germain
24 April 2021
Mrs. D was my first teacher ever❤️ She was my kindergarten teacher in 1975 at Victor Wyatt. She was an amazing teacher to all of us. She was kind and ran the classroom effortlessly. I remember kindergarten because of her, all of the activities we did were so much fun. and even though I didn’t have her after kindergarten I would see her here and there at different stages throughout my life and she always knew exactly who I was. She will always hold a special place in my heart💕💕 she will be missed so much ♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️
24 April 2021
Please accept my condolences to the family. Mrs.D as she was known to us made a difference for so many. She taught us that it was ok to be ourselves in challenging times, she was my first lens of feminism, and she was love embodied. She seemed to always know when we needed her, even as we moved through our lives, she was still present at many important moments. Listening to her speak at the funeral of our dear Mel was difficult but brought solace and memories, and watching her officiate the marriage of our other dear friend Stacey, was a beautiful gift.
In my school years there was not a single problem that we did not feel we could bring to her office. In my mind I can still see the room, us sitting there in our little chairs, and hear her always measured and loving voice. Even when, I have no doubt, we had been extremely trying for I am sure every single other member of the teaching team...
Thank you for sharing this beautiful soul with us for so long.