Best known to her friends and neighbors as world traveler, substitute teacher and the “Penguin Lady,” Norma passed quietly from public view in the past few years, but her legacy lives on in the many articles written about her travels and books in The Friday Flyer.
Though little is known about her birth or early years, over the past two decades, The Friday Flyer reported on Norma’s frequent and often exotic trips to every continent in the world. Friends and acquaintances who enjoyed traveling vicariously with her often asked, “Why don’t you write a book?”
That’s exactly what she did in 2008 when she came out with the book, ““I Haven’t Been Everywhere – But It’s On My List.” The influence a 1st grade teacher and a college professor had on Norma’s life of travel is discussed in the book’s foreword. Norma started traveling seriously in 1958 when her music professor offered a six-week, six-unit music tour of Europe, culminating in a degree from Cal State University at Long Beach.
After experiencing bus tours with many and varied travelers, she decided that freedom of the road and decision-making was her bag, so she spent most of her trips renting cars and driving to and around her areas of choice.
“I meet people easily – some say too easily, but the resultant encounters often helped broaden my knowledge of my host country as well as the people and their culture,” Norma said for her book-signing in March 2008.
The first to admit that travel is not all fun and games, Norma justified minimizing the hardships in order to experience the thrills of learning about new faces and new places. “Life is like a book. If you don’t travel, you don’t get past the first page,” she said.
For one who traveled to all ends of the earth, museums, palaces and other such buildings held little interest for Norma. But what never ceased to fascinate her were the people. She would sooner pose with a shopkeeper or soldier than with a famous monument; and it was men and women living their daily lives who captured her undivided attention.
The former teacher and substitute teacher, known as the “Penguin Lady” to many of the students who grew up in the Lake Elsinore Unified School District, Norma completed her children’s book about penguins, “Early Bird – Late Bird,” the same year as her travel book.
She traveled to Antarctica in 1995 on the Russian scientific icebreaker, “Akademik Sergey Vavilov,” and fell in love with the penguins on that polar continent, particularly the Gentoo species. The story she wrote in “Early Bird – Late Bird” was a fictionalized, fact-based story about the lives of a penguin family on an Antarctic peninsula.
After Norma’s 2006 trek to Mongolia, Siberia, Poland and Spain, Norma’s legacy to Canyon Lakers may best have been summed up with a Mongolian proverb she shared: “A traveling fool is better than a sitting wise person.”