Life Story / Obituary
In everything she did, Norma Schoonover was a humble servant of the Lord she loved. She lived to love, support, and encourage her husband, and together they shared a love story that exemplifies what marriage is truly intended to be. Norma was a loving and attentive mother who was the thread that kept the whole family together throughout the twists and turns of their journey as a family. Life will never be the same without Norma here, but she leaves behind a timeless legacy that her loved ones will proudly carry on in her footsteps.
Although the 1930s were laced with great trials as the Great Depression affected nearly all American families from coast to coast, there was much to celebrate in the lives of Thornton and Alice Henderson as they announced the birth of the baby girl they named Norma Rose on June 6, 1931, in Bedford, Indiana. She was one of six as she was raised in the family home alongside her siblings, Pat, Bill, Kay, Bob, and Bonnie. In many ways, Norma was a typical young girl of her generation who attended local schools including Utica High School. Although she had been a cheerleader, she gave that up so she could be on the debate team instead.
Life was forever changed for Norma when she met the young man with whom she would write an adventurous love story that would span 70 years. His name was William Schoonover, and they met at the Utica Roller Rink in 1948. As the story goes, she was drawn to his dark hair and deep tan while he was smitten with Norma’s dance moved on her skates. They began dating, spending nearly all their time together taking in movies and eating popcorn, going out to eat, and just getting to know one another. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together Norma and Bill were married on September 9, 1950, deeply in love.
New and exciting days were in store for both Norma and Bill when Billy Graham came to Detroit on an Evangelistic crusade in 1953. In time, they both accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, which marked the beginning of a life of service for them both. While Bill was attending the seminary, Norma worked in a clothing factory. She didn’t think she’d be a preacher’s wife, but that she did. Norma became very active in the church and instrumental in Bill’s ministry after they moved to the Upper Peninsula as she volunteered at church in a variety of ways including singing and cooking. Over the years Bill became a Methodist pastor with appointments from Lower Michigan to Georgia and the Upper Peninsula. All the while, Norma took on many jobs in order to help make ends meet in their family. Over the years she worked as the secretary for the Dickinson County Board and also as the Marquette County Manpower administrator. In addition, Norma took care of the books for Carter’s children clothing company.
In addition to coming alongside her husband and finding her own way in the workplace, Norma effortlessly cared for their home and their six children including Thomas, Bill, Alice, Ruth, Anna, and Deb. She raised her children with both faith and love, and she was very involved in the lives of her children. Norma had high expectations for them, but she also praised them on a regular basis. There were years where it seemed like their family survived on Bill’s garden and Norma’s canning skills combined with her frugal ways. She made the best apple pie and cinnamon rolls, which were well-known and loved within her church congregations. There was always extra room at their table, and over the years she prepared countless potluck dinners. Her kids always knew there was room at their table for any of their friends as well. A talented seamstress, Norma made numerous pieces of clothing when her children were younger. Even though her children attended several schools as her husband’s ministry took them all over, Norma always had a way of making her kids feel stable, loved, and sure of their place in the world around them. Norma put her organizational skills to work countless times, and she made it seem as effortless to prepare for a meal for 100 as it was to prepare a meal for her own family. In everything she did, Norma led by example, and one of her favorite things to say was how it was impossible to out give God. As the years went by, their family remained close, and Norma was the one who made sure they always got together for holidays, even if they were several miles apart.
There were so many things to love about Norma. She was a prayer warrior who prayed on behalf of countless others. Norma humbly served others throughout her life, expecting nothing in return. Once they retired, she and her husband hosted several tours in the Holy Land as they fell in love with the experience from the first time they visited. In time, Norma and Bill became tour guides, and their trips became larger each year. During their retirement years, she and her husband moved to the U.P. since a quieter, calmer way of life was something they both loved. They enjoyed tending to their huge garden there and doing the simple things like watching deer around their place.
All who knew Norma Schoonover would agree that she was truly beautiful on the inside and out. She was kindhearted and accepting of everyone, a stranger to none and a friend to all. Norma found such strength in reading her Bible, and she loved bringing others to know and love the Lord she treasured more than anything this side of heaven. Deeply loved, Norma will be forever missed.
Norma Rose Schoonover, of Kalamazoo, died on March 12, 2022. Norma is survived by her children: Bill (Lynda) Schoonover Jr., Alice Crookham, Ruth Burby, Anna (Mel) Laurila, and Deb (Russ) Hanstein. In addition to her parents, Norma was preceded in death by her husband, William “Bill”; her son, Thomas; and siblings: Pat, Bill, Kay, Bob, and Bonnie. A memorial service is being planned for Memorial Day weekend in Norway, Michigan. Visit Norma’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and sign her guestbook. Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900.