I walked the Millenium Trail one day in late February, looking for the memorial bench for Norma Kobayashi.
Along the way I met a grandpa out with his grandchildren. They were on a nature walk and very excited to show me budding pussy willows. I imagined Norma with her own children, walking the trail, looking for signs of nature.
Norma’s three daughters and friends, Karen and Ingrid, picked the bench location. It was a special place for Norma when she lived in Riverdale.
I also enjoyed a visit with Denny Kobayashi, who shared some family memories about Norma and her life in the Yukon.
Norma was a “born and bred” Yukoner. She was born in Whitehorse on September 4, 1959. Her grandmother, Elsie Suits, and her mother, Marion Blackwell, were also born in the Yukon. Blackwell lived in a cabin at McClintock Bay for many years.
Denny transferred here from Winfield, B.C. in 1981, working with Kelly Douglas. He and Norma were married soon afterward.
They had three daughters—Kirstyen, and twins Kyla and Kelsey. At present, Kirstyen is in Calgary articling as a chartered accountant. Kyla is in Victoria at Camosun College and Kelsey is in Vancouver at the Blanche MacDonald Fashion Design School.
Norma would be proud of her girls.
The inscription on Norma’s bench tells her story in a few words:
In loving memory of our Mother, Daughter, Sister and Friend.
Her kind and gentle spirit will walk with us always.
Denny remembers Norma as being selfless. Family and friends were always number one in her heart. The girls were her life.
Denny chuckles as he recalls the evening before Kirstyen`s birth. It was Christmas Eve and he was working.
Norma and Denny had attended pre-natal classes and were ready for this adventure. Then Norma and her friend, Ingrid, called and told Denny to come home right away—it was time to go to the hospital.
PHOTOS: Nellie Dale
When Denny came home he wanted to check on his hospital bag; double checking to see if everything was packed in accordance with the pre-natal class checklist. Norma was insistent.
“She even swore at me,” Denny laughs.
Swearing, apparently, was just not part of Norma’s character.
Kirstyen was delivered safely on Christmas Day. Denny remembers the nurses tucking the baby into a red stocking and delivering her into Norma’s arms.
Nature was also close to Norma’s heart. In addition to loving the trail access from their Riverdale home, she took delight in romancing further afield. She loved berry picking, and shared her favourite berry-picking spot near White Pass with her daughters.
Norma and Denny also enjoyed international travel. Their trip to Western Samoa was a tremendous cultural experience—but adventures have funny incidents interspersed with the more serious moments.
Women in Western Samoa dressed conservatively. But it was warm and Norma, dressed in shorts, stood out in the crowd. As Denny recounts the tale, local men giggled at the “white lady” and wanted to impress her.
Body tattoos being a sign of manhood, they were also anxious to show Norma their body art.
One fellow, it seems, made Norma shriek; she thought his lava-lava (the traditional Polynesian skirt) was going to come off as he slid the garment up his leg to show off his tattoos.
In her quiet and loving way, Norma was always ready for adventure!