Norma Steiger came to study at the Valentine about 1982, a few years after I did. The Valentine Assembly was the predecessor of NAN and was a part of the needleart program of that Richmond, Virginia museum. Norma was an Army wife and had moved around a lot. When we met, she was living in Flagstaff, Arizona. Many of our conversations seemed to center around the weather contrasts that she encountered coming from snowy Flagstaff to beautiful, springy Richmond in April.
When Norma completed her Certification studies in Canvas in 1984, she was awarded the Louise Downing Scholarship to go on into Honors. She had won the Vicki Helms Memorial Scholarship the previous year to advance from Level 1 to Level 2, even more proof that she was an excellent stitcher and student.
However, her Honors study went “on hold,” because Norma and I became part of the first class in Judging Certification in 1985-86. We were a small group of five who enjoyed our experimental time together beginning a new, exciting part of the embroidery world. In one of our many dinners together, Norma, introduced me to white zinfandel wine, which I still drink by choice. It was a happy introduction for me.
We finished our Judging Certification in 1987 and began our judging careers. We stayed in contact by phone and mail, in the days before the Internet.
We took a trip together once. By this time, Norma lived in Tucson. She wanted to visit her Godmother, Mrs. McManus, in a Washington, D.C. suburb before returning home, so we traveled together back to Maryland from the Assembly which was in Williamsburg that spring. I remember her amazement at seeing the dazzling beauty of the azaleas in bloom as we drove into Silver Spring to her Godmother’s home. There are no azaleas in Arizona.
Mrs. McManus, had a vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and Norma came often in the 1990’s for a summer visit. I live and teach in Rehoboth in the summer. Norma never failed to give me a call when she was in town. We would always get together at my apartment or at the McManus house. We had many lovely visits there. One time Norma really surprised me by just dropping in at the Rehoboth Art League, where I work. That wasn’t unusual, but seeing her in a swim suit (the usual tourist attire there) as she walked toward me with a big grin, was the surprise. Unfortunately, that was the last time that I saw her.
In 1998, Norma lost her life in a tragic auto accident. She was continuing her Honors study in lace, and had talked to me a lot about it. The Notebook Award is given at Assembly in Norma’s honor, because her notebooks were always so exceptional and set a standard of excellence that is part of the NAN program today.
Norma Steiger was a good friend, and I remember her often, especially when the azaleas bloom.
Written by Dolores Andrew