Diane Fridley Norman
September 8, 1949 – February 4, 2021
Diane Fridley Norman, 1949-2021
This is a love letter to Diane. Her extended family and friends are in deep shock that a woman who shared such joy, infectious laughter, style, and openhearted enthusiasm died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage on February 4th in her home in Saint Paul. The doyenne of hospitality for her community, Diane was a bright light, a bold personality, the life of any party. Cooking and entertaining were her high art forms, gardening was her sanctuary, her home a welcoming center of activity. She was both sophisticated and down to earth, comfortable in her own skin, fearless in the face of the unknown and eager for new adventures like dog sledding or starting a Master’s degree in her 50’s, a dedicated Mom, a cherished Nana to her three grandchildren and a wonderful friend to many.
Diane was preceded in death by her mother, Martha “Joan” O’Brien Fridley; father, Vernon Leroy “Tom” Fridley; brother, Michael W. Fridley (Tricia), all of Fort Wayne, IN. She was born in Fort Wayne the second of six children to whom she was affectionately known as “Tooie,” after a puppet on Kukla, Fran and Ollie.
She graduated from Bishop Luers High School in 1967, received a BA in Theater from Purdue University, and a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture, University of Minnesota.
She married ceramic artist, Mike Norman, in Cyprus in 1977 (after paying a “special wedding fee”) and moved to Wisconsin where Jenny was born. The twins, Amanda and Zach, followed in 1982 and they set up their household on Baker Street in Saint Paul. It was a home brimming with art, creativity, and family gatherings - where Diane established her culinary and horticulturist skills. By the time she moved to her house on Battle Creek Road, Diane was adept at hosting amazing dinner parties and holiday celebrations worthy of high praise. She extended her family by welcoming in friends and “orphans” who needed a place to land. There was always room at her table. Diane loved dogs, Ike and currently, Willie, were her constant and loving companions.
Diane was a true professional: strategic, visionary, a generous and supportive colleague, always telling the truth (no matter if you wanted to hear it or not), brilliant in professionalizing and improving systems and generating business. A mentor to many, especially to young women whom she taught to have a voice (often in a room full of older men), how to network, how to offer opinions without offending, how to think expansively and creatively, how to be curious, how to navigate difficult conversations and meetings. Her career revolved around the Twin Cities arts and design community.
In 1979 Diane combined her love for the performing arts with her prodigious organizational skills to create D.F. Norman & Assoc. providing management consulting services to clients included the Guthrie Theater, United Arts, COMPAS, dancer Sage Cowles, Loyce Holton & Minnesota Dance Theater. She served the St. Paul YWCA as Director of Development/Interim Executive Director before joining Kerker Advertising (now Preston Kelly) in 1987 as an account executive. With incredible people skills, moxie, and business acumen she was promoted to Vice President, Director of Business Development (clients Thermo King & 3M). Diane brought her theatrical skills to the forefront, leading legendary efforts to win new clients. (Favorite story: Her team sent a roasted pig in a little red wagon to Bucca di Beppo with the proposal in the pig’s mouth- client loved it and hired them.)
In 2003 she joined MSR Design as Director of Business Development where she helped expand the Minneapolis design boutique’s reputation nationally. She recognized their talent and knew how to position the firm.
Her interest in gardening and landscape design led her to enroll in the U of M’s Landscape Architecture program. She completed her MA and based on her maturity and design sensitivity, Damon Farber, hired her to join his office in 2006. Turned out that computer design was not for her and she moved on to become Director of Business Development for RSP Architects, Ltd. She led both marketing and business development for a team of 250+ employees in five offices, including India and China. Her particular ability was in managing up: 10 principals, 10 different market sectors, many personalities, many points of view - and connecting the firm to the right leaders and influencers. She retired from RSP in 2019.
Diane was a force of nature in her life beyond work and family. She applied her creative energy to many non-profit boards and projects including ULI Minnesota, American Society of Landscape Architects, MN Women in Landscape Architecture Scholarship Fund, U of M College of Design, and served in board leadership roles for Artspace Projects, Inc., Théâtre de la Jeune Lune, and Zenon Dance Company. Diane is survived by her children: Jenny M.O. Norman, Amanda J.P. Norman Hundley (Will), Zachary W.F. Norman (Hanna), Jen Orth; sisters: Nancy J. Wilhelm (Joseph), Maurine “Kelly” A. Carpenter (Christopher), Kathleen “Katy” Wendel (Kenny); chosen sisters: Dawn Renee Jones, Catherine V. Jordan (Steve); brother: Timothy E. Fridley (Diana); grandchildren: Cameron Norman, Diane and Vivian Hundley; co-grandparents: Mike Norman & Jan Davies; Canine Companion: Willie; best neighbors: Shelly, JoAnna, Ezra & Fiona Harris; many nieces and nephews, legions of friends and colleagues.
Friends are invited to share stories and photos here: https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/dianefridleynorman
A Celebration of Diane’s life will be announced in Summer 2021.
Memorials: In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Fraser.org; plannedparenthood.org; artspace.org.
As a true theater artist, she left us wanting more!
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Diane Fridley Norman
February 9, 2021
Diane was an unfailingly generous person. She lit up the room with her huge smile and gregarious laugh, and brought so much life to our graduate school class. Her absence will be deeply felt throughout the design community. My deepest sympathies to her family.
February 8, 2021
This is so heartbreaking. Diane was a dear landscape architecture classmate for three years. She was always witty, funny, and warm. Diane was such a bright light and had infectious energy lifting up everyone around her. My condolences go out to her family and friends.