Norma accepting her 30 year tenure award from Executive Director Mark Hassemer

We said goodbye to a friend and longtime ACT employee recently. Norma Jean Henson worked at ACT for 35 years, the second longest tenure of anyone in the company.

Norma loved her work. She always smiled. She will certainly be remembered for her lifetime of dedication to persons with developmental disabilities. (Norma also worked at Woodhaven for more than 35 years!).

Norma’s legacy is well established. She was kind, compassionate, and generous.

When ACT opened the first individualized supported living home in Columbia, she was there, providing support to Mila and Chris.

For the past 25 years she has been a permanent fixture at the Blue Cedar house working with Joey, Perry, and Richard.

Community Living Assistant Program Director Terri Kruger says, “Norma was genuine. You don’t find too many people in this world who give their entire lives to others. Norma did that.”

Describing Norma as her “rock”, Kruger recalls many times when Norma would pick up extra shifts and lend a helping hand.

Norma chatting with Albert, an individual served in ACT’s Community Living program.

Four times when Norma’s Manager was deployed overseas, she took on extra permanent hours to ensure that individuals had the support they needed.

She was so in tune with the individuals she supported, she knew when something just wasn’t right. “When Norma said something was wrong with one of the guy’s health, you knew something was wrong,” Kruger says.

Norma also made sure that not a single special occasion for their families went unnoticed or unacknowledged. She helped them purchase cards and gifts. She worked hard to ensure each of them maintained an active role in their families.

Norma was a joy to work with. She always kept you laughing and smiling. You would often find her playing music while working, encouraging the guys to dance, sing, and enjoy life.

Kruger recalls one of her favorite Norma stories:

“One of the people Norma supported couldn’t say my name properly. When he tried, he called me Tangarae. So Norma started calling me Tangarae. She didn’t do this to make fun of him but to let him know that it was okay that he couldn’t say my name correctly, that I would be okay with it, and that I would answer any time my name was said that way. He also referred to Norma as Moma. For the time I was blessed to be a part of Norma’s life, that is how we greeted each other.”

She continued this work she loved until her health no longer allowed her to.

It’s hard to imagine that a replacement for someone who is so committed to the well-being of others could ever be found. But we know that person is among us. Maybe 35 years from now we’ll be acknowledging his or her amazing contribution.

Good bye, Norma Jean. We will miss you.