A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. â Proverbs 17:22
If you could bottle Harold Normanâs laugh, every patient would get a prescription for it from their doctor. Life has thrown him some curves which could break a manâs spirit, but one wouldnât know it from his continuous and infectious laughter.
âI always look forward to a phone call from my friend, Harold Norman!â says Rosalie Geller-Byrne. âHis laughter is like a vitamin pill.â
Geller-Byrne has worked closely with Norman over the years, first as a parent of some of his students, and then through his work with the Fine Arts department at Churubusco High School.
âMy children learned to express themselves in written word and take command of language skills in his English classes at CHS,â Geller-Byrne said.
Norman, 76, began his teaching career at CHS in 1957 and continued there until he retired in 1998. Retirement didnât mean slowing down for Norman, though.
Just last spring he was hard at work helping out a former student, Amy Jagger, as she directed the play, âGuys and Dollsâ at CHS last spring.
She had played one of the leads under the direction of Norman during her high school career on the stage.
âHarold is such a wonderful hard-worker with a servant heart,â said Jagger.
âI hope people can truly appreciate how much credit he deserves for the theater department being so successful at Churubusco High School for so many years.â
Norman said he had very little experience on the stage before his first year teaching at CHS when Vivian Harris, a teacher there, asked him if he would help with the senior play at CHS.
It was to be the beginning of a long career for Norman â and the âBusco community will probably never be the same.
When he began to pass the torch to Geller-Byrne, she was grateful for his knowledge and experience which he willingly shared.
âHe offered his years of experience, friendly advice, knowledge of how to handle schedules, students, anxious parents,â said Geller-Byrne, âand the incredible work load that encompasses an extracurricular activity like a musical production.
As a colleague, there is none finer.â
Get Norman talking about theater and he can tell funny stories as if he were still there about nearly every production of which he has been a part.
His favorites seemed to be the musicals, and one example of his influence is in the fact that in a student body of 400, there were 76 cast for the production of âFiddler on the Roofâ in the 1976-77 school year.
Norman was the founder of the Turtle Town Players, a community theater group in âBusco. This organization has performed some very popular shows highlighting past performers called âCelebration,â in which the favorites return to the stage to perform songs from their previous performances.
As if all this werenât enough, Norman has served on the Whitley County Community Foundation board, the Churubusco Library board, the Methodist church board, has been a Sunday school teacher, worked with the food giveaway on missions and served on the Turtle Town Players board.
One of the curves thrown at him was his recent bout with cancer. His spirit wasnât broken, though, and he says with a hint of pride that he is a seven-year cancer survivor and has been cancer-free for three years.
Rather than slowing down, he picked up another hat, helping raise money for a cancer cure with the local Relay for Life organization.
Norman has been looking back over his life recently, not so much in reminiscing, but to find out just what happened to some of those students he had those many years ago.
The class of 1960 recently celebrated 50 years since they graduated and made sure that Harold Norman was there at the event.
âWhen those kids graduated, it was like a funeral to me,â Norman said, even though the 22 weeks of night rehearsal that year just about did him in.
âI was tired!â he said.
He has been gathering information about some of the students from the past 50 years to put together in some form for the community.
Jennifer Gross, who played Liza in âMy Fair Ladyâ in 1996-97 is one student he mentioned. She is involved with the Center Grove High School music department of which Norman says, âTheir choirs just blow you away!â
Chris Mettert, Higgins in âMy Fair Ladyâ opposite Gross, now has the show choir and other choirs at Kendallville.
Jessica Petelle, known for her role as Gladys in âThe Pajama Gameâ 1993-94 has gone on to Hollywood, says Norman, and worked as a screener for Jerry Springer.
Shane Barkley, who went on to direct for Columbia City High School in recent years was under the direction of Norman in high school.
âHis Beauty and the Beast was the best I had ever seen,â Norman said.
Geller-Byrne sums it up well: âHarold Norman has contributed greatly to the lives of young people in and around Churubusco for many years.â
And if you get a chance to sit and talk with Harold Norman, be prepared for a good dose of medicine in the form of laughter.