Norma Marie Earnest was born in Oakland, California on Dec. 13, 1921. She died on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and is being buried on her 91 birthday.
She was the first daughter to George Earnest, a Scottish blacksmith from Boston, and Victoria Joseph, a Portuguese descendent of some of the first white settlers in California.
George had come to the Oakland shipyards in WW I to help build ships for America. He was a master of metal and took great pride in his work. George, Victoria and Norma travelled around a lot, often in lumber camps until Norma was ready to start the first grade. They settled in Klamath Falls, Oregon. It was about this time that Norma's sister LaVonne was born.
George worked for the lumber mills and began his own business of making horseshoeing tools. He built a reputation for making the finest tools available. The business that he built, G E Forge and Tool, maintains the same reputation today after more than 70 years.
Norma did well in school, being moved ahead two grades. She graduated from high school and attended the local business college. When WW II started she was working for Wadhams Food Distribution.
During the war she and a few friends drove to Tulelake, California and assisted in handing out clothing, food and books to the interned Japanese. She was very proud that she reached out and showed them friendship and kindness.
She was a member of the local Klamath Commandos. The Klamath Commandos was a private, women's military support organization providing hospitality and entertainment activities for servicemen. Two major activities were operation of their Service Center and the Wounded Servicemen's Project, which aimed at meeting social needs of soldiers transported to Klamath Falls from military hospitals within 500 miles.
It is because of this service that she met Keith Walrath, a young man from Iowa who served as a Marine in the South Pacific. Keith fell in love with this fair lady and when he was discharged from the Marines, he returned to Klamath Falls to court her. They were married at Sacred Heart Church on April 7, 1946. Their first daughter, Barbara, arrived a year later. She was joined later by David, Penny and Virginia. Keith and Norma were blessed with 64 years of marriage.
Norma was a devoted wife and mother. As Barbara entered school, Norma began teaching first grade Catechism. Her teaching was characterized by her fine understanding of her faith and always looking to find ways to present it clearly to her audience, whether they were 6 year olds or adults. She continued teaching for nearly 50 years in Klamath Falls and Oregon City. She was proud that the Sisters always considered her classes some of the best prepared students for First Communion. She also became a Brownie and Girl Scout leader, supporting her daughters. She even allowed her son to join the troop.
Norma was a life long volunteer in the Veteran's of Foreign Wars, where she and Keith held many positions of leadership. She was likewise involved in the Catholic Daughters and later the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women, who voted her Catholic Women of the Year. She has the longest continuous membership in the Catholic Daughter's in Oregon at 68 years.
Her vision for leadership went beyond the conventional. When she finished her leadership cycle in Klamath Falls in the 1960's, she supported a Native American woman to take her place. Probably one of the first Native Americans to assume such leadership in the Catholic Daughters.
She loved her faith and was involved in many ways at her parish St. John the Apostle in Oregon City. She spent many years studying the Bible with Fr. Mazerk at the Grotto. She was a reader at daily mass who brought keen understanding and presentation to the Scriptures. Her friends miss her gifted sharing.
Norma loved knowing history and the world. An avid reader, she created extensive collections, in books and stamps gathered over nearly 60 years.
Norma has four grandchildren, Christine, Randy, Matthew and Nicholas and a great granddaughter Erin. She also has two step grandchildren, Ray II in Washington and Shauna in Colorado with 4 great grandchildren and 4 great, great grandchildren.