BAKERSVILLE, N.C.— Thomas William Norman, age 69, of Bakersville passed away on Sunday, November 29, 2020. Tommy was the son of the late Jesse Howard Norman and Madeline Wilson Norman. He is survived by his sister, Peggy and husband. Two nephews and their families and several cousins also survive.
Tommy attended Mitchell County Schools and after graduating from Bowman High School in 1969, he attended Appalachian State University and graduated with a degree in Biology in 1973. He also held a master’s degree.
Tommy loved Mitchell County and the mountains of North Carolina and never veered far from home. He began and ended his teaching career at Mitchell High School teaching for 29 years from 1973 to 2002. He was a much beloved Biology and Physical Science teacher as well as Basketball coach to many students. He was lovingly referred to as “Norm” by many. He later added Drivers Education to his teaching career to help keep the roads of Mitchell County a little safer. Tommy was a teacher for all walks of life and worked many years in summer school to help those students who needed assistance to achieve.
Tommy had a kind heart and a warm smile. He never met a stranger and always went out of his way to help. Many unknown acts of kindness were his way of paying it forward. Electric bills, gas bills, food, children in need all benefited from his generosity, always done anonymously.
Norm had a host of friends who will miss his friendship and laughter. He had a passion for his town. He could often be found “cruising dodge” as he referred to it. That was to drive around Bakersville and listen to the radio. His cruising would often take him to one of his favorite spots - Courthouse Hill. Norm would park and look over the town with pride. He would say “why would anyone want to live anywhere else”. He would look at the Roan and talk about it with a fondness as if he himself had a part in creating it. He would generally land at one of his favorite hangout spots in town - the lobby of United Community Bank. He loved the folks at the bank. He enjoyed his discussions about current world events and would often find that another customer that had come in to do business had also taken a seat on the couch for conversation.
Norm had a standing breakfast or lunch appointment at one of his favorite cafes in town - Helens Restaurant. He had a booth with his buttocks imprinted therein. This was his place for friendly yet heated debate with his friend Bobby Buchanan. The two would often be called down by their waitress for their fervor in debate. It was common and the town locals would often listen in for fun.
Norm could bring a feeling of home wherever he went in town. His very presence signified small town charm at its best. Norm loved people. He rooted for the underdog. He wanted to help people. He had some common sayings “Pull people up when they are down”.He would say “lift them up out of the mud”. He truly wanted to make people’s lives better.
Norm had some close friends that he could often be found cruising with or grilling out with on his back deck. Among those closest to him included life-long friends: Leeroy and Sue Ledford, Stan & Patti Elkins, Kenny Paco & Sherri Silver, Rick & Debbie Duncan, the late Tim Worm Willis & wife Robin and of course former student, business partner, and trusted confidant Vern Grindstaff and wife Tiffany.
As is in life with us all, Norm had his share of demons that he dealt with. Bystanders would most likely say that he let them get the best him. Rather, those who loved Norm would say that he struggled and modeled for the rest of us how not to let the grip of temptation overtake us. Norm’s life should not be defined by his weaknesses but rather by the good he shared with this world. That’s how he chooses to see us anyway. Let’s afford the same courtesy to this good man.
A celebration of life with a private gathering will be held later in the spring of 2021. Donations in memory of Thomas W. Norman can be made to Gouge Elementary School, 134 Laurel St., Bakersville, NC 28705 – Charitable Program for children.