Friday, September 14, 2018

Neil Arthur Norman, 1931 - 2018

Our friend and colleague Neil Norman passed away Wednesday night September 12, 2018, after a long, courageous battle with cancer. We'll miss him -- a lot! Neil was a mentor to many of us, and an inspiration to all of us. He walked the talk, literally, walking his precinct well into his Eighties.

I was honored to present the the Benton County Democrat's 2018 Norm Miller Leadership Award to Neil on May 31 of this year. I'm publishing the text of my presentation here in Neil's memory. It says so much about why we held Neil in such high regard.

Neil A Norman accepting the 2018 Norm Miller Leadership Award

 When I was asked to say a few words about Neil as our 2018 recipient of the Norm Miller Leadership Award, I asked his wife Jan for some input on things Neil did before joining us on the Benton County Democrats. I think she said something like, “Oh, my goodness!” I understood her reaction when I received the “summary” 3-page email outlining Neil’s service and accomplishments.

I read through Neil’s impressive record of public service and political activism. I tried to wrap my head around the idea of someone who started actively looking out for others when he was in the 3rd Grade in a little town in Tulare County, California.

As legend has it, Neil recruited his best friend, a big 5th Grader, the son of migrant farm workers, and Neil’s self-proclaimed bodyguard, to help patrol the playground to ensure children of farm workers were not being bullied. Neil, seeking an advantageous vantage point from which to survey playground unity, rode on his friend’s shoulders.

That was a long time ago — we won’t say how long — but in all that time, Neil’s dedication to fairness, to the ethical treatment of human beings from every walk of life, of every race, and religion, has never wavered. What’s changed is that Neil, throughout his long record of service, has now carried others on his shoulders.

Neil’s record of public and professional service is long and distinguished, ranging from a plethora of democratic party and campaign leadership positions from El Dorado, California, to Lynchburg, Virginia and back to Richland, Washington, and places in between, to achievements in science and technology that include everything from rocket ships to nuclear power plants.

Please visit the displays here in the room, because I don’t have time to go through all of Neil’s accomplishments, and even if I did, you wouldn’t believe me.

Neil has received many prestigious awards. Just last year he received the National Society of Professional Engineers Award — the highest award given to an individual by the Society. Their description says, “It is presented to an engineer who has made outstanding contributions to the engineering profession, the public welfare, and humankind.

And that phrase, “public welfare and humankind,” gave me the inspiration for how to tell you who my friend Neil Norman is.

When our current president attacked Muslims, Neil met with the Imam of the Tri-Cities Islamic Center to find ways to reassure members. When the president attacked immigrants, Neil worked with the Tri-Cities Immigrant Coalition to ensure that immigrants in our community knew their rights. When police in Pasco used what was perceived by the community and others as disproportionate lethal force to subdue a clearly mentally disturbed Hispanic man, Neil advocated for police de-escalation training. When refugees were relocated to our community, Neil collected donations of furniture for them, stored them in his garage, and helped distribute them.

Neil is a man of faith, and so I would like to quote from the Bible, if I may. This Bible was presented to me in 1946 — I think Neil may have been working on Harry Truman’s campaign at that time.

This is from James 2:14 - 26

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

You see that a person is justified by works, and not by faith alone.

And so, while Neil is an eminently deserving recipient of our 2018 Norm Miller Leadership award, what I think we are doing here tonight is celebrating the life of a man who lives his faith. A man whose myriad good works, define who he is.

It is my honor to present to Neil Norman our 2018 Norm Miller Leadership Award.

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