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Grady Glenn Norman was born in Grassland, Texas in 1925, on the Norman Family Farm which was established in 1916.
With three girls and eight boys in the family, Norman was the youngest of 11 siblings.
“I had so many brothers and sisters my mother couldn’t think of a name for me,” he said.
Norman’s first name, Grady, was passed down from his mom’s brother who had passed from tuberculosis and, with a suggestion from his mother’s friend, he received his middle name, Glenn.
Norman attended primary school in Grassland, before transferring to Graham in fourth grade.
In school, he remembers enjoying sports.
“Boy, it sure was something,” he said while mentioning Graham’s gym, where he would often play basketball. “We played a lot of ball then. There wasn’t a lot to do.”
As a junior, he transferred to Post High School where he graduated from in 1943.
At the time, World War II was being fought and Norman decided to volunteer for the Navy.
He signed up in Tahoka and within two months he was being sworn in.
“They called me in and asked, ‘You want the Navy? you got the Navy!’”
Two weeks later, Norman was on his way to bootcamp.
“They told me, ‘Be here at 7’oclock sharp, not 7:05; then, you’re late.’”
At bootcamp, Norman can remember inspections.
“We had to have a certain number of socks, shirts and peacoats,” he said. “There was always one boy who couldn’t find his socks and would accuse us of having them. He would look through our bags, but our socks had our initials on them. It was always something with him.”
From bootcamp Norman traveled to Lawrence, Kansas, where he attended the University of Kansas to become a machinist.
“I thought I was good at sports until I got there,” he said.
Norman had tried out for a basketball team during his 16-week stay, but said his competitors were much taller.
“They were from the East Coast,” he said. “They were all 6’6”, 6’5” or 6’4”,” he said.
From his snowy and cold stay in Kansas, Norman went to San Pedro, California where he waited to be assigned a ship.
One of his friends at the time suggested he come with him to serve on a submarine, but Norman was hesitant to the idea.
“I couldn’t swim, never could swim,” Norman said. “I had no opportunity to learn to swim. There’s no water around here.”
Norman was finally assigned to the USS Jason, the fourth Vulcan class repair ship of the United States Navy.
In the final year of the war, Norman was stationed at Ulithi, an island in the Pacific that was surrounded by underwater cables, keeping ships and submarines from entering.
Norman said that once a week, for a couple hours, the men could go on shore. On shore, Norman would search for shells which he would make into jewelry.
“I couldn’t hardly take it around there sometimes,” he said. “I was bored.”
However, on March 11, 1945, Norman was far from bored.
“One night, I was writing a letter below deck and I heard something come over the ship real low,” he said. “Then, General Quarters sounded.”
The sound Norman heard was a southern Japanese kamikaze plane. The planes struck the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Randolph which had left a cargo light on despite the black out. The plane, striking over the stern starboard quarter and damaging the flight deck, killed a number of crewmen.
“The plane’s nose was sticking right out of the flight deck,” Norman said.
Norman was discharged in early 1946.
“The only time I ever got seasick was coming home,” he said. “We hit a storm coming back and the ship would pitch. Boy, it would pitch.”
Upon returning home, Norman married Mary Margaret Duckworth on January 1, 1949, in First Baptist Church, Post.
“I asked her dad to marry her and he said, ‘I don’t know if there is anyone good enough for her.’”
However, after Mary Margaret graduated from Baylor with degrees in both education and religion in 1948, her father, Ira Lee, allowed Norman to marry her.
“I would go to Waco all the time to see her,” he said of his wife of nearly 71 years.
Norman then went on to buy his first piece of land, just north of Grassland, on which he built a home that would soon house his four children: Lee Norman, Nancy Gordon, Bobby Norman and Mary Ann Wright.
“I bought it from a neighbor, Mrs. Gregg,” he said.
Norman continued to farm but moved his family to town in 1966.
“I’ve about quit farming now,” he said. “That land has been in the family a long time.”
As he and Mary Margaret got older, she eventually moved into assisted living in Slaton where she passed at the age of 92 on October 24, 2019.
Norman would drive to see his wife most ever day for four years, spending the whole day with her. He would read the Bible and tend to all of her needs with much love.
“She took care of him,” Gordon said, “and when she needed him, he was totally devoted.”
Norman is a family man. In fact, he has a total of 18 grandchildren and 35 greatgrandchildren.
“He would get out there and jump with them on the trampoline right now if he still could,” Gordon said.
Norman is also still well known for being the “candy man.”
“He knows what candy everyone likes,” Gordon said. “He’s always got candy in his pockets.”
Additionally, Norman has been a member of First Baptist Church for over 70 years, a deacon, a Sunday school teacher and a faithful servant.
If there’s one thing Norman has done the past 94 years, its experience life to the fullest.
“I’ve got to see a lot of things,” he said.
On March 7, Norman is set to celebrate his 95th birthday at the First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall from 10 to 11:30 a.m. The community is invited to attend.