One of Norman’s greatest gifts, which was unusual in a man, was his determination to keep in touch with people on a regular basis. In his younger days he’d visit friends across the country, but he’d also speak frequently to friends and family on the phone and latterly by email and on Skype too. (My mum will always think of Norman at 10.30 am on a Sunday. They had called each other alternately almost since each had a phone installed!) Norman also always remembered everyone’s birthday and in the last couple of years he was chuffed to send e- birthday cards to relations to save postage! I’m sorry to be sexist here but it’s true isn’t it; Norman was quite a rare man in this respect. Admit it…it’s usually the women in households who keep in touch, don’t they?
Norman had friends that he was still in contact with back from his camping days in the 1940’s and times when he and his first wife took in lodgers, including my dad. If his original friends had passed away, he was often still in contact with the next two generations, who fondly called him ‘Uncle Norman,’ some even uncertain as to why they really knew him! Norman was such a charismatic, inspiring soul that everyone loved him.
This was never more apparent than on his 100th birthday. There were so many moments in Norman Campbell’s life which were truly remarkable, including the times he overcame the odds health-wise and his determination to live life to the full, but it was his 100th birthday celebrations which will remain in the memory of many family and friends as truly special.
Unlike the ‘The 100 year old man who jumped out of a window…’ Norman wholeheartedly embraced the plans for his special day and, thanks to his daughter-in-law who did the major part of the arranging, he succeeded in getting together folk from all over the globe including Australia, America, Jersey, Scotland and also many parts of the UK. In fact, I doubt if so many of his family have ever gathered together either before or since.
Those who were staying for the weekend arrived at a The Holiday Inn near where Norman lived in Surbiton on the Saturday and Norman arrived that evening to greet them. Everyone was in a cheerful mood and though Norman expected to leave by about 10pm, he actually stayed until gone midnight to toast in his actual 100th birthday on the Sunday!
Returning the following lunchtime for a sit down Sunday lunch for about eighty people, Norman was yet again in good spirits, showing off his telegram from the Queen and his multitude of cards and gifts. It was this lunch which I attended with my parents and do you know what impressed me most about Norman that day? It was the way he confidently introduced us to members of all his family, remembering the names of even the youngest, some of who he’d only seen in photographs until the evening before!
Author’s note: If there’s a message in this little story, it is that it’s worth making an effort to keep in touch. Many elderly people are lonely, but all it takes is a phone call to keep in contact with someone who might be equally as lonely. The more you reach out to others the more they’ll reach out to you in return. It doesn’t always have to be family either. All sorts of people make our lives rich. Norman certainly did!