Norman had served overseas during the war in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a radar operator. He had graduated from the Ontario College of Art in 1950 and begun teaching at the University of Alberta a few years later. He and I were the grandchildren of sisters, born in Sunderland, County Durham. The younger, born 1882, had immigrated to Vancouver in 1913 and the older, born 1870, to Calgary in 1926, but they had never attempted to visit one other. Postal contact between them and their families ended when the older sister died in 1953, predeceased by her daughter, Norman’s mother, in 1948.
Norman died last week, most unexpectedly, at the age of 90. He had been still painting large canvases; his art had been still evolving. Openness to such change was one of the two major things I had discovered that we shared – we both believed that our new work should be a significant step from our previous work. The other was that we both believed that composing involved collaborating with one’s materials. In his case this had come to mean – by the time I