In the wee hours of July 28, 2020, Norma Jean Pfrunder, nee Swift, stepped peacefully into the heavenly garden after a brief battle with large B cell lymphoma.
Born Dec. 31, 1942 in San Luis Obispo, Calif. to Elmer Swift and Edith Barrett Swift, the family soon moved to Norco, Calif. to live in the house built by beloved grandpa Felix Barrett and grandmother Minnie.
Raised in the countryside with two older brothers Ray and Stuart, Norma learned to appreciate life to the fullest. She graduated from Corona High School in 1960 and immediately began earning a living and reputation as a pleasant, reliable, hardworking employee.
Described as fun loving, delightful, and able to fearlessly talk to everybody without bias, she fit in because of her acceptance of different life styles and ideas. Always sensitive to others needs, she carried no animosity. She loved getting out and going places, be it to a favorite eatery or movie theater or to visit family and friends throughout the U.S. Norma wasn’t intimidated with traveling as long as she was discovering new and different things.
In 1971, the shy Vietnam War Army veteran, Charles “Charley/Chuck” Pfrunder, bravely asked the beautiful neighbor with that big smile to the drive-in movie, On Any Sunday.
Romance blossomed and Norma and Chuck were married March 18, 1973, in Las Vegas.
Residing in Riverside, Norma was employed as a clerk by Grant’s variety store and later in a local packing house office. In 1978 Norma landed a Blue Cross/Blue Shield job performing data entry then claims adjudication remaining until 1993 when the Medicare contract ended.
Too young to retire but ready to embrace the redwoods, she relocated Chuck and her legally blind mother to Humboldt Hill, Eureka, Calif. and started working at North Country Clinic in Arcata.
In 1995 the three purchased their home in McKinleyville and Norma transitioned to a Eureka podiatry office. Then in 2000 Norma became the lead bookkeeper for Mad River Home Health remaining until her retirement in 2013.
Norma established strong relationships with the home health staff and is remembered for her dedication and being a great bookkeeper, the key to the department’s success. She even tried retiring early, but returned “just to help out” when they couldn’t do without her.
When not at the office Norma was busy making pies and goodies from her backyard berries for the next potluck, or was out being the ultimate yard sale hunter/picker.
She had a penchant and eye for things unique, unusual, and priceless, including jewelry of all kinds and her cherished Blue Willow porcelain. If anyone needed a particular or elusive item just ask Norma and she’d find it in her travels or one of her MANY totes kept for the next big sale. For years she’d be found at Redwood Acres Flea Market or other sales venues from Garberville to Trinidad sharing booth space with her friend of over 42 years, Bob Vogel.
Norma’s lifelong passion was horticulture and animals, mainly felines, but also birds.
Initially fascinated with her father’s aviary of colorful parakeets, later she embraced hummingbirds. And everyone knew of Norma’s love of cats and concern for the local feral population. With help from colleagues she’d capture homeless cats, often kittens, have them spayed/neutered, returning them to the wild or getting them adopted. Her first love was Panther, a big black cat, her last concern, Tommy, the 12 year old outdoor enclosure cat successfully re-homed by a loving caregiver before Norma’s passing.
Many of Norma’s friendships evolved from her green thumb activities. She maintained memberships in the American Begonia Society, Los Angeles International Fern Society (LAIFS), and Riverside Garden Club annually making the trip south to attend renown plant shows. Norma, a certified Master Gardener, cultivated and propagated a wide variety of flowers and plants including her ultimate favorites begonias and ferns.
A lasting tribute is the 1992 naming of the dark red, cane-like cultivar, Begoniaceae ‘Norma Pfrunder.’ She never stopped growing plants or sharing her knowledge and expertise. Her collection was ultimately given to many local enthusiasts leaving behind a bountiful, remarkable legacy for present and future generations to cherish and enjoy.
Norma is survived by her faithful husband Chuck, brother Stuart Swift and children David (Christine), Christopher (Kristen), Becky Huss (Harry), and Kim Hertch (Christopher); her best ‘big sister’ in-law Leigh (Swift) Stutts and children Samuel, Richard (Leslie), and Saundra Radford (Donald); sisters-in-law Genny Murawski (Ed) and Barbara Pfrunder, and several grand nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her brother Raymond Swift in 2018.
Private inurnment, Ocean View Cemetery Mausoleum, Eureka Calif. A garden celebration of Norma’s life will be held when COVID-19 restrictions allow a safe gathering of her many friends and family.
Consider memorial donations to Humboldt Spay & Neuter Program, 2606 Myrtle Ave, Eureka, CA 95502, or a local animal shelter. Remember Norma by taking time to stop and smell the roses!