Before the sun rises on most mornings, Norma Hendrickson is up and going. She joins in an exercise class that begins at 5 a.m. two days a week and walks with a friend or serves in her church’s temple on other mornings. Explaining, she said, “I love mornings when it is quiet and peaceful and cool.”
Her description of mornings could very well be a description of her. Of course, there are times when she is bubbly, energized, and full of life, but there is a peacefulness that emanates from her to calm those around her.
Currently, Norma and her husband of 46 years, Clyde, whom she describes as her “best friend and versatile life assistant,” are enjoying their retirement. Together they raised their five children and now have 16 grandchildren. She says they “overwhelm us with their goodness and talents.” All of her children currently live close to her, which pleases her. Three of them are about five minutes away and two live only an hour away, so she gets to see them frequently and spend time with her grandchildren. Norma shared, “Many women despair about reaching the ‘empty nest’ stage of life, but I have loved it. I like having these days and years to spend with Clyde. We get up when we want, go to bed when we want, listen to the music we enjoy, and thank God for each day we have together.”
When Clyde retired in 2013, he and Norma served a mission for their church together in Eastern Canada for 18 months. She said that it was the perfect beginning to their retirement together to be able to leave their home and work and serve together daily.
Norma grew up in a large family with three brothers and two sisters in a small town in Utah. “Our home was filled with good food, good music, and good books,” she explained. Her parents owned and ran a nursing home together. She was inspired by their good work ethic and knew that they loved her. Even after her parents’ divorce when she was in junior high, she never doubted their love for her.
When she was a teenager, she recalls, she “had friends who reached out and included me in their circle, even though my family situation was different from theirs, and I was not one of the ‘popular’ girls. They did not realize that their kindness changed my life and dreams for a happy marriage and family in my future.” Together with some of those friends, Norma participated in cheerleading her 10th and 11th grade school years. She described being “devastated” when she did not make the team her senior year of high school.
However, she continued, “that challenge became a blessing,” as not being involved with cheerleading that year allowed her to have the time and for her voice to be healthy enough that she played the lead role in the school musical. It was through that involvement that she met and started dating Clyde.
When Norma was 50, she began the process of achieving a lifelong goal of completing her college education. Together with her youngest daughter, she started taking classes at the Salt Lake Community College. Having earned her associate degree before she was married, she was able to transfer to the University of Utah after only a few classes and earned her Bachelor of Communication degree with a news writing emphasis. Working with the (community college) campus newspaper and then in an internship during college with a small community newspaper, The West View, Norma was able to fulfill another lifetime interest of being a newspaper columnist. She continued working with The West View after college until the newspaper closed. Currently, she serves as the editor of the Big Ocean Women monthly newsletter. Of this she says, “I’ve found a nice niche and live my dream.”
Norma is a person who cares deeply and works diligently. She feels that she frequently falls short of her best intentions, but those who know her would probably be surprised at this assessment. She is passionate about “learning and teaching, loving and nurturing, exercising, baking bread, and family traditions.” She also shared, “I try to keep God and His commandments at the center of my life and find He always blesses me with just what I need.” Recently, Norma has also become passionate about researching the lives and stories of her ancestors and working on sharing her life story with her own family as well.
This wise woman who has lived through the different stages of life with grace and an open heart to learn and grow shared these words of advice when asked: “To teens: Be kind. You never know how you can change (or save) someone’s life by simply treating them with kindness and respect. To young mothers: Be kind to yourself. You are doing small and simple things that will yield great blessings for yourself and your family. Take time to enjoy your children in the moment. Put down your phone and stroll through life instead of scrolling through social media. You are doing the most important work in the world—the work God designed just for you.”
Written by Lisa Bjornberg