|Long Lake, IL; C boater, Sailing Supporter
With the onset of Scowlines, Jim Smith and the editor developed a policy regarding the posting of obituaries. Ignoring that policy now demonstrates an understanding of why this sport is so unique.
Norman Reese of Long Lake, IL passed away early Saturday after a ten-year+ battle with dementia. His last great moment in the sailing world was at the Geneva ILYA Championships where so many of you stopped to greet him. His broad grin as you knelt down to him in his wheelchair speaks volumes of what the memories of Normie at regattas blazened in your heart. Every WYA C, every C Regional, Invitational and Championship saw the Reese family in tow as Normie supported the C fleet. At Geneva, it was about saying goodbye to a friend but it was also about cherishing the friendships developed simply by attending regattas. Norman Reese never won an ILYA Championship or Nationals. He DID meet you there and compete. He was part of this family we all celebrate all summer, every year, every regatta. That evening he flirted with the editor like we were youngsters. His charm led me to hope he was recalling the early years when he was so vital, so active. Thank you to all of you who spent the time that night to wish him on his way. It was poignant to watch throughout the evening.
One of my fondest memories of late was visiting with him a couple years ago, when he was still articulate. We were at his home standing in front of pictures of the family. He paused to reminisce and asked if I knew how beautiful his wife was as we looked at photos from the early years. He proudly recalled her accomplishments in the WYA and ILYA - as though I did not know this about my best friend. But his thoughts were on his family and what role sailing played in their lives. He looked at pictures of his daughters Katie and Kelly remarking on their sailing prowess. It was joyful for him to remember his past but I was struck by the role sailing has played in his life. Isn't it true of so many of us? Our joyous moments are often centered in this fine sport and what it has developed in our own families and the broader sailing community we call "family".
Norman will be honored at a service on Wednesday in Lake Villa, IL at the Ringa funeral home. He will be there 9-11:00 (service at 11:00) - cared for by his Long Lake family. The Ringas are lifelong friends. They buried their own father so very recently. The raucous Long Lake friends will be there remembering the antics. Hopefully, making an appearance will be the C scow poster of Normie and Suzi and Buddy and Gordy and Biwer and Hiller and on and on all sitting on Harleys. There will be joy recalling the shenanigans of the Long Lake crowd. Though small, their lake is large in stories and fun. Theirs is a story like so many we can all share; it's what inland lake sailing has developed with our strong homelake racing and first rate regattas where we all attend - most of us like Norman Reese - to make the event more full of fun.
And to those of you who had Norman bail you out of a jam at one time or other (that includes some youngsters in the fleet today), come and say goodbye to one of the forefathers of the C fleet - a regular guy, a nice guy, an avid sailor whose smile lit up a room. He was a gentleman to the end with only automatic speech in his severely declined state that always denoted a spirit of respect for his friends.
Norman, you were a gentle man with a smile that illuminated the world when you saw your family up to the end. You still saved that smile for me each time I saw you. But I was just one of many and not the right one. You may not have remembered her name in the end but you were always looking for Suzi when she was out of your sight. When she appeared in a room, you felt comfortable enough to doze or rest. All was well.
Rest, my dear Normie. The race is now over. The last downwind leg was difficult. You crossed the finish line with all of us following you still waiting to cross.