I was asked to write a Memoriam to my friend Norma Strait, and am honored to do so. Please keep in mind, I am not a journalist of any kind, only a person touched by this beautiful soul’s spirit. This is written from my memories, and know a lot of you knew Norma and had special times and memories with her as well, so please let me apologize in advance if I do not mention all those whose lives she touched. That would look like a novel!
Norma Jean Spencer arrived in this world on July 17, 1936 to two parents who had immigrated from the United Kingdom. She was one of three born to her parents, and she grew up in New Jersey.
She married Edward Milton Strait on June 12, 1954. He started at the Chester, NJ Police Department as its first full time police officer, became Chief of Police in 1958, and remained in the position until his retirement in 1984. Norma remained married to Ed until his death in 2010. They had three sons: Edward, David and Thomas.
She acquired her first Toy Poodle in the mid 60s, and like many of us, was quickly bitten by the thought of a show dog. That led her to purchase Ch. White Magic of Frosty Boy CD, who was shown by Richard Bauer, and finished his Championship in 1971.
Norma had so many friends, and was always willing to be a mentor to anyone she “collected” along the way. She bred over 30 Champion Toy Poodles, and while I am confident there were more, that number is all I can verify. Regardless, her work for the breed not only as a member of Poodle Club of America, but the affiliate clubs she belonged to made a difference to our breed. She belonged to Watchung Mountain PC and the San Diego PC for years. She held many offices in both clubs, as well as PCA, last serving on the membership committee where she made countless calls and sent copious reports to me when I served as chair of that committee. This truly was a labor of love as any of you that knew her know that talking on the phone was not one of her favorite activities!
During the 1980s and 90s, Norma also bred several Italian Greyhounds of note. She always loved watching the breed even after she no longer owned them.
Some of her notable Poodles:
Ch. Quark of Beau Fairlady – Jack sired 37 Champions in the US and Japan, and was Norma’s most prolific producer.
Ch. Appli Dream of North Well Chako – Jack’s half brother was a top winning Toy Poodle, Westminster Toy Group 2, 1994, and BOV at Poodle Club of America the same year.
Ch. Sensation JP La Bonheur Shana – BOV at the PCA Regional in 2003.
Her last Champion, Norjean Storm Could finished quickly in 2016. It was Norma’s wish that the Norjean name and line end with her, so Stormy will live out his life as Tom’s companion in Vista.
When I judged Toys in 2016 at Poodle Club of America, I invited Norma to come stay with me and see the National. We both had a great time. I called her that summer after her 80th birthday and asked if she might be interested in a short getaway in the fall. We went on a five-day cruise to Catalina Island and Ensenada. While we both loved Catalina, what we enjoyed most was just being together and having fun!
Norma was an AKC licensed judge. She judged Toys at Poodle Club of America in 2009, many affiliate club apecialties, had assignments in Japan, and always took her assignments thoughtfully and ever so seriously.
On June 24, 2018, Norma was preparing for bed in her bathroom, and suffered an aneurysm to her brain. Her son Tom was home, but Norma kept her own hours, often staying up until 2 or 3 AM and then sleeping until late morning. Tom found her the next day, alive but unconscious. He immediately got her to the hospital in Vista, and was given the news she would probably not regain consciousness.
She died peacefully in the hospital four days later. When we were together both times in 2016, she shared with me she had a real worry about lingering or being a burden. Norma got her wish, and it gives me some peace as well as this was very important to her.
Her Memorial in Vista was well attended and well done by her friends and sons there. She had been active in her local church for years, and as always with Norma, had made friends along the way.
Several people shared with me she had planned to attend PCA in 2019 to visit and watch me have the honor of selecting BOB. We had yet to discuss it, she of course knew she would have been welcome.
“We who choose to surround ourselves with lives more temporary than our own, live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan.
And in the unforgettable words of Sir Elton John
“Goodbye Norma Jean, You had the grace to hold yourself
While those around you crawled”
’ll miss you as long as I remain here. Until we meet again, my friend. And we will meet once more at the Rainbow Bridge.