Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sentimental Sunday: Goodbye, Aunt Norma

Aunt Norma, my Mom’s second youngest sister, died two weeks ago on 5 May 2013. I found out about her passing the morning after her death, as I was preparing to leave for the NGS 2013 Conference in Las Vegas. I immediately sent a condolence message to her son, my cousin Richard. Mom was deeply saddened by this unexpected news. She hadn’t seen her sister in over 20 years (Mom lives in British Columbia, while Normande lives in Ontario), although they spoke on the telephone.

This past Thursday, Richard called Mom to let her know about his mother’s last days. He explained that her Roman Catholic French-speaking parish priest administered the last rites, that she was conscious, and that she was surrounded by her children at the end. He also told us how he stayed by Normande’s side for 30 hours until she closed her eyes one last time, and that he made the arrangements for his mother's wake and funeral. Although Mom felt emotional listening to Richard’s words, she was grateful that he took the time to personally call her.

Normande, or Norma as she was also known, was born on 12 January 1937 in Rouyn, a mining community in northwestern Quebec, Canada.1 She received the names “Aline Normande Laurette” at her baptism three days later at Cathédral Saint-Michel Archange in Rouyn. Her godparents, Paul Samuel and Laurette Coursol, along with her father Eugène, signed the parish register.2

Normande Desgroseilliers and her sister Jeanne d'arc Desgroseilliers in about 1946
Normande (right) with her sister Jeanne d'arc, about 1946

Eugène was the town’s chief of police.3 He and his wife Juliette, who celebrated their 11th wedding anniversary the previous summer, were the parents of seven living children (six daughters and one son).

I’ve written about Aunt Norma here, here and here.

In the spring of 1957, Norma married Howard Handy in Sarnia, Ontario. They had four children: Brian, Michael, Julie, and Richard. My cousin Brian, who was two months younger than me, passed away in 1979; Uncle Howard passed away in 1984.

Normande and Howard Handy on their wedding day in 1957
Normande and Howard on their wedding day, 1957

I’ll never forget my aunt. She was tall (she and Aunt Jeanne d’arc were the tallest of the Desgroseilliers sisters), beautiful, always prettily dressed and coiffed, and a happy and smiling woman.

Goodbye, dear Aunt Norma.


1. Paroisse Cathedral St-Michel Archange (Rouyn, Quebec), Sacramental Certificate, 1987 (privately held by Yvonne Demoskoff, Hope, British Columbia), Aline Normande Laurette Desgroseillier [sic] birth and baptism certificate (1937 baptism); issued 1987, citing the parish register. Although Normande was born on January 12th, she celebrated her birthday on February 12th.

2. St-Michel-Archange (Rouyn, Quebec), parish register, 1937, no page number (entries are entered in chronological order), entry no. B.17, Aline Normande Laurette Desgroseillier [sic] baptism, 15 January 1937; St-Michel-Archange Jean-Baptiste parish; digital image, “Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, ( : accessed 10 April 2011). Normande’s baptism record states her date of birth.

3. St-Michel-Archange, parish register, 1937, no page number, Aline Normande Laurette Desgroseillier [sic] baptism, 15 January 1937. Normande’s baptism record states her father’s occupation. Eugène was employed as chief of police in small communities located in northern Ontario and northern Quebec from about 1927 to about 1940.

Copyright © 2013, Yvonne Demoskoff.


  1. Oh, so sorry to hear about your dear aunt passing. It sure does pull at my heart strings, how said it is to let miles grow between our loved ones, I too have some dear aunt and uncles that I really need to visit. May God Bless you all.

  2. Sad news :( I hope that memories of the good times will bring you and your mom (and your cousin) peace. Thank you for sharing, especially that beautiful photo of Norma on her wedding day.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Marian. I have good memories of Aunt Norma and of the visits my family paid to her home in the 1960s and 1970s and of her visits to my parents' home in the 1980s.

  3. For Mom, it was the geographical distance and a fear of flying that kept her from visiting Norma and her sisters. Thank you for your thoughts, Karen.


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