Obituaries » Charles (Chuck) Leal Norman

Charles (Chuck) Leal Norman

July 24, 1920 - July 11, 2019

U.S. Veteran
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Charles Leal Norman, 98, passed away peacefully with his family at his side on July 11th at North Shore Living in Grand Marais, MN. He would have been 99 years old on July 24th.

Charles, as his family always called him, was the second child born to Erben and Esther Edblad Norman on their small farm in Shevlin, MN on July 24th, 1920.  In 1931 his parents moved Charles and his older brother Wilfred, his sister Betty and younger brother Bruce back to the Norman family farm along the Rum River north of Cambridge, MN. Charles attended the one-room Oak Hill School adjacent to the farm until eighth grade when he moved to the upper grades in Cambridge, graduating in 1938.

Those early farm years were filled with a lot of hard work since they didn’t have electricity, plumbing, or a tractor so Charles and his siblings learned to plow and plant with a team of horses, milk cows by hand, feed the pigs and chickens, and chop firewood for the cook stove and heater. They did have running water—provided by Charles and his brother. And, as he told his children many times, this was all done “Without complaining!”

Following high school Charles helped on the farm for several years and then enrolled in a machine shop course at Dunwoody Institute in Minneapolis which he completed in 1941. Charles was employed by Northern Pump until enlisting in the Navy in August, 1942.

Charles was very proud of his service in the U.S. Navy, serving most of his enlistment aboard the USS Nashville in the South Pacific.  He kept a journal and later wrote up his experiences, including a Kamikaze attack and being part of the crew that was responsible for fulfilling General MacArthur’s promise to return to the Philippines. Charles was honorably discharged in December, 1945 as a Water Tender 1st class.

After several years alternating between work on the farm and in Minneapolis, Charles moved back to Minneapolis in 1949 and began working at Johnson Hydraulic, Inc. It was during this time that his cousin Caroline introduced him to her friend from church, Alice Johnson, who soon became the love of his life and they were married on September 9, 1950. They settled down in a small house on Boardman St. in south Minneapolis and soon welcomed son Greg. Three years later Alice and Chuck, as his friends called him, added daughter Cindy to their family, and one year later, Tim completed the Norman family.

In 1956 Chuck began work at Toro Co. in Bloomington, MN where he remained until his retirement in 1986. Most of those 30 years were spent creating the first full-size working models of institutional lawn care equipment, such as used on golf courses and along highways. Chuck also loved to create his own lawnmowers or snow blowers, go carts, etc. out of found parts or parts he made himself. However, any kid who ever saw it thought that Chuck’s best creation ever was the Thunderbug–a child-sized, gas-powered car complete with body, upholstered seats, and a pull-behind trailer!

Travel was something that Chuck and Alice enjoyed throughout their marriage. They started trailer camping with their kids in the early 1960s and continued until they were in their mid-eighties. During those 40 years they visited most of the states in the U.S., including two trips to Alaska, as well as each of the Minnesota State Parks. Many of their friends caught the bug as well, which led to quite a few group camping trips. Chuck and Alice’s legacy lives on as their children and grandchildren continue to enjoy exploring the U.S. by trailer as well.

In his spare time, Chuck was a man of many talents. In addition to the mechanical wonders he created, he enjoyed metal work and welding and created custom iron railings and light fixtures. He was an accomplished woodworker and wood turner, and dabbled in metal turning and blacksmithing, as well. Chuck also made quite a few custom embossed leather belts and wallets. It seemed that he could make or fix anything, and family and friends often built up a backlog of projects for him.

Chuck enjoyed various forms of art, as well, such as sketching and painting. But where he really excelled was in wood carving. He did his first carvings as a child, but refined his skills in adulthood and created dozens of beautiful wood carvings over his lifetime. Chuck made many kinds of animals and birds, but his favorite subject was always horses. Many of his friends and relatives received his wonderful pieces as gifts, but Chuck also received quite a few commissions for special pieces.

Chuck was an active member of Bethany Lutheran Church on 36th Av. in south Minneapolis for 62 years. He served on the church council, men’s groups, and created beautiful wrought iron candelabras as well as other items for the church.

In 2012 Chuck and Alice moved out of their south Minneapolis home of 62 years to the Augustana Apartments near downtown Minneapolis. As Alice’s health deteriorated and dementia progressed they eventually moved to an assisted living unit at Augustana where Alice passed away on May 11, 2016.

After Alice’s death Chuck moved to Carefree Assisted Living in Silver Bay, MN, a smaller and more personal facility that was also closer to Cindy and Tim in Cook County. After several months there he fell and broke his hip and required hospitalization and treatment in Two Harbors and Duluth, MN. In November 2016 Chuck was transferred to the Cook County Care Center (now North Shore Living) in Grand Marais, MN where he passed away.

Chuck is now content and certain about where he is: In his eternal heavenly home with his beloved Alice.

Chuck was preceded in death by his parents, Erben and Esther Norman; brothers Wilfred Norman and Bruce Norman, and sister Betty Walburg. He is survived by children Greg (Bettijo) Norman; Cindy (John) Muus; Tim (Diane) Norman; grandchildren Jamie (Kristen Wollin) Norman; Jenny (Matt) Connolly; Tyler (Kari) Norman; Ashley (Forest) Kitzis; Alyssa Muus; Jacob (Laura) Muus; Britta Muus; great-grandchildren Trinity Norman; Shawn Connolly; Leila Connolly; Quinn Connolly; Remi Kitzis; and Matteo Muus.

We would like to thank the staff of North Shore Living in Grand Marais, MN for the kind, patient and  compassionate care that they provided for our father and grandfather.