Earl Arthur Norman was born July 31, 1926, in Winnebago, Nebraska to Arthur and Hazel Norman. He and his three sisters lived in a small, three-room house in Walthill, Nebraska with their parents. Like most Americans during the Great Depression, his family had limited means. However, Earl often told his children he was never bothered by this because there was an abundance of love in his childhood home.
Earl voluntarily enlisted in the Navy during WW2 on June 6, 1944 – on D-Day. Being only 17 years of age at the time, Earl had to get permission from his father to join the military. As a young man from the landlocked Midwest, he had no experience being on a boat prior to joining the Navy. This would prove to be a difficult assignment for him as he discovered he would suffer from chronic seasickness. Many sailors experienced this, but most eventually adjusted to life on the water. Unfortunately, Earl never did acclimate to the sea, and he was ultimately stationed back on land. When asked how he handled the seasickness, he would smile and say it never felt as bad as his homesickness.
Earl’s service to our country continued throughout a good portion of his adult life. After serving during WW2, he entered the Air Force in April 1951, where he served until December 1952. He was called to active duty during the Vietnam War. Everyone in his squadron was sent to Vietnam except Earl and one other airman, who were both stationed at the Air Force base in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. This assignment was home for Earl from January of 1968 until May 1969 and felt like paradise for his young family. Later in life, he served in the Iowa Air National Guard, where he was an accomplished mechanic repairing jet engines.
While working for the Guard, Earl could be seen riding his bicycle to work from Sioux City to Sergeant Bluff nearly every day. He talked about seeing children along his ride saying, “Look at that man riding a bike!” while they pointed and laughed. Apparently, those kids weren’t used to seeing adults on bicycles, something he always found humorous. Cycling became one of Earl’s most beloved pastimes. Upon his retirement from the Iowa Air National Guard, he traversed the United States on his bike several times – dipping his bike tires in the Pacific Ocean to start his journey and ending with a dip in the Atlantic. He also explored several other countries on his bike including Australia, Ireland, Great Britain, Scotland, and New Zealand. While most of us would struggle to even walk across the mountains, Earl crossed the Rocky Mountains on his bike when he was in his 70s. Always humble, he said anyone could ride their bicycle over mountains if they knew how to properly use the gears! He enjoyed cycling well into his 80s.
Earl married Joan Dougherty in 1958. The couple had four sons and one daughter together. Earl and Joan raised their family in Sioux City, Iowa. Upon his retirement from the Air Guard, they moved to Wayne, Nebraska. In Wayne, Earl worked as a radio engineer at Wayne State College, maintaining the college’s public radio station. He loved being around the broadcasting students, and they loved him too- even giving him the nickname “Earl the Pearl”, which suited him quite well. When he retired from Wayne State, he moved to Omaha, where he lived out his final years.
Earl is survived by his loving children: Greg, Dave, Teresa, Steve and Matt, grandchildren: Fabian, Tiemo, Kia, Aaron, Brad, Cody, Jake, Molly, Lily and Joey.
Funeral: Friday, September 22nd, 11:00AM at West Center Chapel with a visitation starting at 10AM.
In lieu of flowers, we request donations to Doctors Without Borders or the Sierra Club.