Friday, September 18, 2020

Lucille Walker Norman, Life Celebration

  


September 18, 2020

Knowing how fragile and ephemeral life is, I wanted to make sure my mother's life would be properly documented.  Several years ago, I realized how little I actually knew about Mama, her hopes and dreams, the details of her inner life, so I undertook the mission to remedy that lack, for myself and those who come after. I am Charles Patrick Norman, the eldest child of Lucille Walker Norman, 91, who passed away peacefully at home Thursday September 17, 2020, surrounded by members of her loving family.

Lucille was born in Roxton, Texas, on August 23, 1929, the eldest daughter of Floyd Franklin Walker and Velva Marie (Edwards) Walker. She grew up on the  family farm in the bottomland of the  Red River near Fulton, Arkansas, during the Great Depression. Although there was a levee holding back the river, the family was often flooded out and had to live in Red Cross tents, returning home after the flooded river subsided. My mother's earliest memories were hoeing her father's cotton rows as a little girl. She hated it. Her father also raised watermelons, and at least once won the prize for biggest watermelon at the annual contest in Hope, Arkansas, with a melon so big it required two men to hold it up.

Lucille remembered her brother’s birth, Floyd Franklin Walker, Jr., in June of 1934 also in Fulton, during an epidemic of whooping cough. Lucille’s paternal grandparents, James Richard and Mary Frances (Tefteller) Walker, came to Fulton and took the newborn, Junior, a week old, back to Redwater, Texas, with them for about a month, to protect him, until the whooping cough had gone.

The family eventually settled in Redwater. Lorene Lowry was Lucille’s best friend in high school. They would have sleep-overs at each other’s houses. Lucille said, “All the teenagers went to the Red Springs Baptist Church. James Chapman had the only car in our group, and about fifteen of us would pack into it, hanging on, all over it, and he would drive us all to church and back home. I don’t know now how we did it! Lorene and I would giggle all the time. We had so much fun. She moved away, and wrote me when she got married, but we lost touch.”

After high school at Redwater, Texas, at age 18, Lucille and her friend Louise Child signed up to work at the Lykes Pasco Citrus Packing Plant in Dade City, Florida. After their exciting cross-country bus ride from Texarkana, Texas, to Dade City, Lucille and her friend joined a number of young women from across America in working at the packing plant and staying in a dormitory ruled by a house mother.

Eugene Norman, a native of Moultrie, Georgia, a U. S. Army veteran who served in the Philippines, drove a taxi cab and operated a fork lift at Lykes Pasco in Dade City when he met Lucille, convincing her to go on a double date with her friend, Louise, and his friend Ralph Pettis, for hamburgers at Eddie's Drive-In. Eventually he convinced her to be his wife, in December, 1948.

In 1949, very pregnant with her first son, her doctor advised her of health complications that threatened the lives of her and her unborn child. Afraid of dying far from her mother and family, she and Eugene packed up their belongings in his oil-leaking and smoking 1938 Chevrolet and began a thousand-mile journey to Texas with 36 quarts of motor oil in the trunk. Every thirty miles or so Eugene had to pull over and add another quart of oil. This was before the interstate highways, and not having money for motel rooms, they pulled off to the side of the country road at night and slept in their car. It took them three days to reach Texas.

After rejoining her family in Redwater, Texas, three weeks later, on September 4, 1949, both Lucille and her son miraculously survived caesarian surgery at St. Michael's Hospital, Texarkana, Arkansas, contrary to the dire warnings by doctors that one or both of them were likely to die.

Lucille always wanted to be a nurse. She said, “When I graduated from high school, I wanted to go to nursing school, but we didn’t have the means. After Charlie was born, I applied to the school there in Texarkana, but a doctor there at the school giving physicals, told me I should have another baby while I was young and healthy, and then go to nursing school later. But I still wanted to be a nurse, and was determined to do it. Then I got sick, and discovered I was pregnant again, with Dan. Then, two years later, I was pregnant with Tom, and suddenly I had three children under seven years old. I never did go to nursing school.”

The Walkers were a musical family. Most everyone played an instrument and sang. Lucille played the piano as a little girl, but when she married and began raising her family, a piano was an expensive luxury they could not afford. After their sons grew up and moved out, Eugene told her he would buy her a piano if she would play for him, which she did for years. He loved to listen to her play. After Eugene passed away, she never played again.

Lucille loved music and loved to sing. Redwater schoolmates Mary and Johnny Henshaw recalled several years back that when Lucille and her younger sister, Ruthie Jean, got on the bus every morning, they were skipping down the aisle and singing. I remember when I was a child, Mama sang along with the radio for hours as she cleaned house and cooked. My favorite song she sang was ''Mockingbird Hill.''

Redwater, Texas, was about 70 miles northwest of Shreveport, Louisiana, home of the ''Louisiana Hayride,'' and in the early 1950's she and Eugene made many Saturday night trips to see the contemporary country music stars perform. Lucille said, “We saw just about everyone in country music when they were first starting out, before they became famous. Webb Pierce, Faron Young, Goldie Hill (she married Carl Smith), Jim Reeves, Elvis, the Maddox Brothers and Rose, Slim Whitman, Hank Snow, and Hank Williams. I remember she had an autographed photo of Slim Whitman and several of his records, but she surprised me when she said her favorite country singer was George Jones. She said her favorite at the Hayride was the Maddox Brothers and Rose. “They were like a Mexican group, with real pretty costumes. I don’t think they ever got famous, but I really enjoyed their music,” she said. “The Hayride concerts started around eight p.m. on Saturday nights, and we wouldn’t get home until after midnight. We enjoyed every minute of it.”

In May, 1958, Lucille and family returned to Florida, first briefly to Plant City, then to Thonotosassa, east of Tampa, having lived in the same home on Grovewood Avenue since 1969. Over the years, after her sons were older, Lucille worked at Shuron Continental and then General Cable in Tampa. She later worked at East Lake Square Mall and Brandon Town Center before going to work at Walmart, eventually retiring at age 85.

Lucille was an excellent cook. Her Sunday dinners were highly-anticipated by family and friends, and everyone raved about her buttermilk biscuits, cornbread, hushpuppies, and Christmas fruit cakes.

On May 2, 1985, Lucille was widowed when her husband, Eugene Norman, passed away at University Community Hospital after a long illness. She never remarried, saying that no man could take the place of her Gene in her heart. She was also predeceased by her youngest son, Thomas Eugene Norman, daughter-in-law, Sandy Norman, two brothers, Floyd Franklin Walker, Jr., and Jim David Walker, and two sisters, Ruthie Jean Odom and Cherry Maxine Hogquist.

Lucille Norman is survived by two sons, Charles Patrick (Elizabeth), of Jacksonville, and Danny Franklin, of Thonotosassa, Diane Norman (daughter-in-law) five grandchildren, Timmy and Tammy Norman, children of Dan and Sandy, and Thomas, John and Joseph Norman, children of Lucille's late son, Thomas, and Diane, of Tampa, Florida.

She is also survived by ten great—grandchildren, Tammy's daughter, Darian Weaver, and Timmy's four children, Ashton, Delany, Bryson, and Rylie Norman, Grandson Tommy's (Carla) three boys, Thomas, Justin and Jacob Norman, and Grandson Joseph's two boys, Jax and Elisha Norman. Lucille leaves behind two sisters, Patsy Ann Crumpton, of Texarkana, Texas, and Alice Faye Walker (George), of Tampa, Florida. She also leaves behind a number of nieces and nephews, along with a handful of elderly cousins in Texas.

A lifetime member of the Baptist church, Lucille Norman prayed daily for the health, happiness, and safety of her family. Her love of life, her
laughter, and her joy at being surrounded by family will be sorely missed. We cherish the glimpses of her life packed with adventure, hard work, dedication, and selflessness, good lessons on how to love your family, that will live on in our hearts. Thank you, Lucille. Rest in peace.

Graveside Services will be held Friday, September 25, 2020, at 10 a.m. Interment will be next to her dear husband in Sunset Memory Gardens, 11005 N. U.S. Highway 301, Thonotosassa. Arrangements in charge of Swilley Funeral Home, 1602 W. Waters Avenue, Tampa.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

PRISON PANDEMIC UPDATE # 32 ''Good News/Bad News''

 

09-11-2020

The good news is the Florida prison secretary announced on the news today that family visitation will resume. No word on WHEN visits will resume, or the conditions we'll have to deal with.

Orlando TV channel nine reported there have been over 15,000 prisoners tested positive for the coronavirus, out of 94,000, with 111 inmate deaths as of Tuesday, Sept. 8th, and over 2,700 staff tested positive. Lowell C. I., in Ocala, the women's prison, had 1,003 inmates tested positive. They WILL NOT be having visits until those numbers subside. Other Florida prisons have high infection rates, too.

A nurse told me last week that there have been no positive virus tests at Tomoka C. I. since May. They have opened back up some of the education programs, and chapel volunteers are coming in for socially-distant religious services. No Wellness Programs have yet resumed.

Bad News—my mother is still in Brandon Hospital, and now has pneumonia and low enzymes. The doctor has not released the pancreatic cancer biopsy results, for some reason. They may put her in another hospital, and although the doctor said she's getting better, she can't go home until they get this low enzyme situation back to normal. To me, it doesn't seem like she's better, but worse.

No one has talked to her in over a week. I've called several times, as have Libby and Aunt Alice, but she doesn't answer. I'm worried this hospital ''No Visiting'' policy is having an adverse effect on her, she wants to go home, be with her loved ones, and if she can't, she's giving up.

All we can do at this point is pray for her.

Libby and I are fine, all things considered. I'm working on this face mask lawsuit in Tallahassee circuit court, fighting the bogus D. R. I got in May, with Libby's help electronically filing everything. The Attorney General's office has already sent me a threatening letter, so I must be doing something right.

We are working on a submission seeking a new parole hearing in a couple of months. So much to coordinate. We are working on a Photo Exhibit Supplement for 2015--2020, a collection of my essays Libby is compiling, along with more of my artwork. I would be lost without Libby's love and determination to fight these forces of evil keeping me confined.

We need new letters of support from reputable citizens stating they believe I deserve to be released. More on that later.

For now, best regards and wishes to you and yours.

Charlie

Monday, August 31, 2020

PRISON PANDEMIC UPDATE # 31

 Saturday, August 29, 2020

 

I talked to my mother, Lucille Norman, for a few minutes Friday morning. She sounded fairly well, if tired and preoccupied, urging us not to worry about her. That's impossible, of course. It's my nature to fret. She's more concerned about my situation. ''How are you and Libby doing, son?''. ''We're fine, Mama, if lonely to be apart.''

She had a subdued 91st birthday celebration at home in Thonotosassa last Sunday, with only a few family members present.

She's going into Brandon Hospital on Tuesday, Sept. 1st. She has been suffering for a few weeks with the onset of yellow jaundice, and the surgeon is going in with a camera to see if a duct is blocked. The doctor will take a biopsy of her pancreas to verify whether her condition is malignant or not. Hopefully, the one-day procedure will be without complications.

Please keep my mother in your prayers.

Tomoka C. I. had seemed to have recovered from and gotten a grip on the virus pandemic until this week. A few days ago the medical people put dorms B, C-1, and K-2, over 300 men, under quarantine for 14 days again, because several prisoners in those dorms exhibited COVID-19 symptoms.

In this court case we filed in Tallahassee August 14, I wrote about the serious drug problems running rampant at prisons across the state. The most alarming drug issue surrounds what is generically called ''K-2," or synthetic marijuana, a misnomer, since it has no semblance to pot. The prison authorities claim to be looking out for our health, but their handling of this current drug pandemic belies their words. What is this ''K-2,'' really?

Wasp spray! Can you believe it? Wasp spray, or roach spray, is soaked into various kitchen herbs, allowed to dry, then smuggled into the prisons, rolled into pin joints, and smoked. The effects? Have you ever directly sprayed Raid or Black Flag on a fat cockroach and watched what happens? The roach spins around, goes crazy, kicks its legs a few times, spasms, then dies.

Humans aren't much different from roaches in the harmful results of smoking wasp spray. The lucky ones live. Some die. One died in my dorm last year sitting on the toilet, smoking K-2. He was going home in 40 days.

They put the foolish young ''confinement releases'' in my dorm when their days in lockup expire. Most of them went to lockup for possession of drugs, and the first thing they want to do is find dope to smoke. Friday at 3:30 a.m. I was awakened by a fool screaming gibberish at the top of his lungs, beneath a double bunk, horizontal, clasped to the steel bunk legs, hallucinating, his buddies trying unsuccessfully to pry him out. Everyone was awake, including the guard, who watched from his enclosed officer's station, doing nothing. That happens a lot. I get furious when I go in the bathroom/shower area and that death spray is being smoked. The junkies scurry away like roaches when the light comes on when I start yelling at them.

Eventually the guy under the bunk came out of it, alive this time, his friends mopping up the vomit and rinsing him off in the shower.

''They'' always say that the weekend visitors are responsible for the glut of drugs in the prison. Visits have been suspended since March. The drug flow is un-abating. Who's bringing it in? The same ones who've always brought it in.

They say they will reevaluate the visiting suspension at the end of September. We expect them to declare another evaluation in October. I say, if Disney World, Universal Studios, and Sea World can be open in full swing, why not the prisons?

Limited chapel programs are scheduled to begin September 8th.

It is count, and I must go. All the best,

Charlie

PRISON PANDEMIC UPDATE # 30

 Thursday, July 23, 2020 11:13 a.m. Tomoka C. I., Daytona Beach, Florida

My last update, June 25th, has been long gone. I've been steadily working on my court appeal, with a deadline--now August 16-- no leeway. That's okay, I'm making good progress, until yesterday.

A fellow inmate in dorm K-2 declared a dental emergency earlier yesterday for an abscessed tooth. He had a temperature---duh---infection! --so late yesterday ''they'' declared another medical quarantine for my dorm until the virus test results come back--maybe Monday. Great. Now we have to deal with a new issue.

That does hurt me, since that precludes my attending the previously-approved law library research appointments needed to complete my appeal.

Something weird happened yesterday. June 10th, I had an EKG, for chest pains, and they scheduled an appointment with the prison doctor for a consultation a week later. Cancelled. Rescheduled. Cancelled two more times. Finally I got called.

I went to medical, and the guard called the nurse, said we had to go to mental health. Mental health? I'm supposed to see the doctor. New procedure, she said, video doctor.

She couldn't find my file. The doctor appeared on a large monitor, clear picture, perfect, unlike the faulty Jpay video visits they pawn off on us. I asked who he was and where he was. Department of Health, in Volusia County, down the street from the prison, he said.

He began asking me questions:

Date of birth

Had I lost any weight

Was I eating well

Did I drink plenty of water

Did I get enough exercise?

I wondered what any of those questions had to do with my EKG consultation.

Then he floored me:

''When did you find out you were HIV positive?''

What? Whoa!

''What are you saying? I've NEVER been HIV positive. I'm supposed to be getting the results of my EKG test.''

Oops. Sorry. No wonder we can't find your file. You're in the wrong office.

Another nurse led me back the other way, to Dr. J. Westfall's office. He was in a grumpy mood.

''Left Anterior Fasicular Block,'' (LAFB), the doctor said. ''Don't worry about it.''

Easy for you to say, doc.

Libby asked Mr. Google, who expanded the diagnosis--LAFB is a cardiovascular condition that could increase the likelihood of heart failure, sudden cardiac death, or atrial fibrillation.

Add it to the list.

Saturday afternoon---My mother, Lucille Norman, is recuperating at home from her broken hip, and is doing well with her rehab. She is saddened by the recent death of her younger brother, Jim David Walker, 87, of Texarkana, Texas.

As for the pandemic, Tomoka C. I. is virtually clear of the virus, and is set to resume educational classes July 29th. Prisoners are getting antsy about family visits resumption postponed again, this time until August 17th. The feeling is, if Disney World and Universal Studios can open, why can't this prison?

Columbia C. I., a 1,200 man unit near Lake City, Florida, supposedly has 1,000 inmates tested positive for the virus.

All the best to all.

Charlie