A reminiscence by Peter and Katie Basquin
Norman’s unique contributions to Carleton were informed both by his punning sense of humor and fondness for history. He was a major scriptwriter of The Road to Dunsinane and a founder of the Reformed Druids of North America.
After receiving a Masters degree in Biology from University of South Dakota, he returned to Rapid City, SD and his family home—one of the oldest houses in town, and one reason for his lifelong interest in historic preservation. The Nelsons’ cabin in Camp Remington in the Black Hills nurtured his interest in ecology.
With Sam Clauson (in whose GS Print shop Norman later became partner and eventually, owner), Norm – as he was universally known in Rapid City – formed the Black Hills Group, Rocky Mountain Chapter, of the Sierra Club, and later helped expand the Sierra Club influence throughout the Dakotas.
As Sam said, “Norm had a way of strongly stating the case for conservation without personally attacking anyone. He could disarm even the most vocal critic with a verbal pun.”
Norman claimed that his punning skills originated at home: “When my sister Carly, a grad student in ornithology at Cornell, came home for Christmas vacation, she received a road-kill hawk someone had given us for her. My mother wasn’t fazed: she had stuck it in the freezer in a large plastic bag.”
“Ready to return to Ithaca, Carly started to stick it into her suitcase, and suddenly was struck by a thought. ‘What if they inspect my baggage and find a dead hawk?’ Without missing a beat, Dad said, ‘Just tell them it’s carrion luggage.’”
Norm helped found Rapid City’s West Boulevard Association, wrote their preservation-oriented walking-tour pamphlet, and was part of their summer festivals. He also served on the Rapid City Historic Preservation Commission and always had a correction for the Commission’s minutes. With his extensive memory, he was ready with an anecdote about any proposed project.
After retiring from the print shop, Norm continued to work as a free-lance editor on projects about South Dakota history.
Since childhood he had been a member of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, but stopped attending because he didn’t like the priest. A friend talked him into studying EfM (Education for Ministry, a four-year Episcopal Bible-and-church history course).
As he told us: “The most dramatic event of the whole four years was the day in class when I said that the thing I liked about the Episcopal Church was the liturgy; it didn’t matter who the priest was, the Book of Common Prayer service was what was important. As I said it, a voice in my head commented, ‘You quit going because you didn’t like the priest!’
“I started attending Emmanuel Church regularly again (and apparently quite shocked the priest!). Shortly thereafter I became a lay reader and, later, a Lay Eucharistic Minister, and Clerk of the Vestry for several years.”
He continued to maintain the small, open-air Chapel of the Transfiguration at Camp Remington and to read services there.That’s where his memorial service was held in the summer following his death April 13, 2009, after years of declining health.
And one last piece of advice that Norman gave us: “When you’re mailing your Christmas cards, be sure to sprinkle a little nutmeg or cloves in each one, so you can wish your friends ‘Seasoned Greetings!’”