Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Norman Spencer (1958–2024)

Our dear friend Norman Spencer died today in Oslo. Too soon, too soon.

I met Norman many years ago when we served on a university committee together. He was on the tenure track in foreign languages, teaching Latin and what he called “baby German.” I remember that at first glance he reminded me of my friend Aldo Carrasco — argyle sweaters, ties, a proper academic look. Norman and I began having lunch together before each week’s committee meeting, a perfect opportunity to talk about the absurdities of university life and those who oversee it. The records of those conversations remain sealed.

In the late 1990s, Norman followed his heart and moved to Oslo, where he began a new career as a translator. And no one was better suited for such work. Norman was a master of languages, most recently studying Georgian and Yiddish. When I was trying to figure out some years ago what the word pikakirjoitusvihko meant, all I had to do was ask Norman, who — no surprise — recognized the word as Finnish, knew a little Finnish, and checked his hunch about the meaning with another translator.

Every few summers, we would get to see Norman, or Norman and Frode, on their trips back to the States. Norman would make a circuit to visit family and friends all across the country. And though the fourth Thursday in November is just an ordinary day in Norway, Norman always wrote (and e-mailed) “I remembers” on that day, a fambly tradition that he became part of after a Thanksgiving dinner in our house many years ago.

Elaine and I had expected to see Norman here last year, but family matters made his trip to downstate Illinois not possible. We had bought a bottle of Redbreast Irish whiskey, one of his favorites, in anticipation of that visit. We’ll toast him with it tonight.

comments: 5

Fresca said...

Stenographers notebook, but I like express notebook better.

Man oh man, I hate when friends die, even if they aren’t mine. Much condolence, Michael on the loss of your friend Norman. Who will hunt down obscure Finnish words for you now? 🥲

“The records of those conversations remain sealed.” even more so now:
the grave’s a fine and private place…

Norman was only three years older than me. As I read the obit I thought, gee, if I die before Michael I hope he writes mine. I know fact, I want to request a four-sentence review, should that come to pass.

I hope I don’t sound flippant. You write beautiful tributes, and you are good at friendship.
Norman (and Aldo!) would agree I warrant.

Fresca said...

“ express exercise book”

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks, Fresca.

Joanie Casali Grills said...

The words "Norman is gone" seem impossible to me. We met as small children, 8 and 9 years old. His birthday is the day before mine; he was a year older. His mother, Dolores, was my mother's best friend. His father, Earl, was my dad's best friend. As kids, we saw each other most Saturdays that Dad and Earl played golf. Norman, in my mind, was the kindest, sweetest, smartest person I've ever known. Brilliant doesn't begin to describe him. He loved life, and he loved his family. He was humble, funny and extremely witty. When dear Earl passed away (way too soon), Dolores joined a group called WOW (Widow or Widower). Norman called it "Whoopee on Weekends". That was Norman. Rest in Peace, dear, sweet man.

Michael Leddy said...

Joanie, thanks for remembering Norman here.