My New Neighbors


by John C. Westervelt


        Bob and Norma Kramer and I moved into Crestwood at Oklahoma Methodist Manor in June 2012. Bob and Norma live across the hall from me. Every time I passed these two, each had a smile, confirming for me that life is good.

        Early in 2013 I began to miss seeing Bob and Norma. Then I learned that Bob had been diagnosed with myasthenia gravis. One day in early March, Norma called to say, “I hate to leave Bob alone. Could you pick up my mail?”

        After that, each afternoon I called Norma and said, “I am going for my mail. May I get yours?” Her response was, “I would appreciate that so much.” Standing in the doorway each day, I learned something new.

        Norma grew up in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Her brother Winfred was fourteen years older, and Harrell was nine years older. She doesn’t remember her dad because he died when she was eighteen months old in the beginning days of the depression of the 1930’s. Her mom Bernice was educated to teach school but elected to get a year round job. She attended cosmetology school and opened a beauty parlor.

        The bungalow where Norma lived had a porch all across the front. A hydrangea at the side of the porch was as tall as the house. It had both blue and pink blossoms. Sitting in the breakfast nook surrounded with windows, Norma could look out on a backyard full of flowers. Along the side, honeysuckle overflowed the trellis. Further back were stately, red and pink roses.

        Winfred was in love with Thelma, the daughter of a university professor in Shawnee. When Thelma’s dad moved to a university in Arkadelphia, AR, Winfred chose to go there for college. He was in ROTC. Harrell joined the Army Air Corp and was stationed at Hickam Field near Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

        Norma was eleven-years-old on a peaceful Sunday afternoon on December 7, 1941. The word spread throughout Shawnee by radio and word of mouth that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field. Norma and her mom began hopefully praying that Harrell was safe. In a few days, Christmas packages came in the mail for Norma and her Mom from Harrell’s address in Hawaii. Hope surged until on that same day a man arrived at the door with a telegram reading, “We regret to inform you....”

        Winfred could have left the army since his brother was killed, but he chose to serve his country. By now Winfred and Thelma had a little boy and Thelma was pregnant. Winfred was on a training mission in Kansas when he was burned by an exploding flamethrower and later died. Four months later, a healthy baby girl was born without a daddy.

        Norma graduated from Shawnee high school and from Oklahoma University in 1952 with a degree in Speech Pathology. Norma’s first job was as a Speech Pathologist with the Oklahoma City Public Schools. She and her roommate had an apartment near the Oklahoma University Medical School.

        Bob Kramer (King Daze Class of ‘49 Tulsa Central high school - entered Oklahoma University Medical School after completing premed in three years. Bob met Norma, and in time they were married.

From their mid-town home, Bob had a short drive to the Utica Square Medical Building where he practiced as an ophthalmologist. Life was good all those years of raising a daughter and two sons and then the retirement years. Finally, they moved to Crestwood. No one expected myasthenia gravis. But since it happened, it is good to have the support of Oklahoma Methodist Manor.

        When I see Norma, she is smiling. I smile back. When we go our own way, I feel in my heart a tug of gratitude for her family’s sacrifice during World War II to protect my freedom.


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