Norma Jean Bradbury Austin was born on January 22, 1926, to Thomas Leo Bradbury and Leola Renee Antene Bradbury in Minneapolis, KS.
Norma grew up on a beautiful farm in the midst of an extended family, and because she was so tiny, her grandparents and aunts doted on her. She hit her maximum height at four foot six, so she remained doted on the rest of her life.
Although the Great Depression struck when she was three, she said her family didn’t know they were poor because they raised livestock, a large garden, and an orchard. However, she did remember the difficult times when drought and wind created the Dust Bowl, and dirt blew into every crack and cranny of their house.
Even when the wind wasn’t blowing, Norma often stayed indoors to help her mother while her sister Donna helped her father with the farming chores. Norma’s grandmother and mother were superb cooks, so it was not surprising that Norma also learned to be a great cook, one time garnering the title of the best cook in Ottawa County.
Because the country schoolhouse she attended only went to the eighth grade, Norma moved to Minneapolis, KS, population 2,500, to attend high school.
It was in Minneapolis she first met Charles Austin and thought he was the cutest boy she had ever seen. In the midst of her high school romance, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and the United States entered World War II.
After she graduated from high school in 1943, she moved to Concordia, KS for nurse’s training. Once there, however, she became so homesick that she returned home, which allowed her to marry her high school sweetheart.
After their marriage, Charles and Norma led a roving life throughout Kansas and Oklahoma, following construction jobs.
Tom Austin was the eldest child born to the couple. Merry Austin Palmer followed three years later, and six years after Merry’s birth, Charles and Norma adopted a red-headed boy named Doug.
In 1963, Charles and Norma separated. When the divorce became final, she moved back to Minneapolis, KS and went to work at a nearby Eldorado trailer factory, sanding and hanging doors on campers and trailers.
After five years at the trailer factory, she attended Brown Mackie Business College for secretarial training. Once she passed the state exams, she applied for a receptionist’s job in Junction City, driving three hours round trip every day to work for social services.
After two years, she nailed a job at a rehabilitation center in Salina, thirty miles away from Minneapolis. Later, she worked as a dispatcher for the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department in Minneapolis, so she didn’t need to make long drives to work anymore.
In 1979, Tom wanted to move his family to a small town in Utah and was offered a job on the police force in Blanding. Norma helped the young family make the move, and when she saw Blanding for the first time, she said she felt she had come home. After Tom’s family settled into their new community, though, she returned to Kansas and picked up her own life again.
In 1981, Merry also moved to Utah along with her mother, her brother Doug, and her son David. This time Norma came to Blanding to stay, making it her home for 32 years.
She always said her happiest years were the ones spent in Blanding and especially loved serving in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One of her favorite callings was Primary chorister where her fun and outgoing nature encouraged the children to sing with all their hearts.
Not long after moving to Blanding, Norma began to experience difficulty walking, but she still helped Doug when he opened a bakery. At the time, she said she wished she were twenty years younger because she loved baking and working with the public.
Through the years, her health continued to deteriorate, and in 2001 she became wheelchair bound. As she required more help, Rocky Mountain Home Health Care provided aides who also became part of her family, and they allowed her to remain in her own home until her final illness.
She passed away on May 16, 2014, at the San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington, NM.
Norma is preceded in death by her parents and her son, Doug. She is survived by her sister, Donna Boss; her children, Thomas (Karalee) Austin and Merry (Ted) Palmer; by four grandchildren; ten great-grandchildren, as well as numerous step-grandchildren and great-grandchildren.