Norman Wolfe sat at a table, gazing out the windows to the snowy scene outside; his thoughts often strayed to the great outdoors and the beauty of the Wyoming land. Norman made Garden Square Assisted Living his home, and it was there that a group from Central Wyoming Hospice and Transitions showed up to throw him a 100th Birthday Party in advance of the big birthday bash his family had planned for the weekend.
Norman's eyes shifted to his coffee mug, adorned with pictures of stone arches from various national parks. He said he'd visited some and wonders how many years it took for the arches to form. "It's really something, I can't believe it," he said. "I wonder how they stay up there, some of them look like they don't have anything to hold them up there but they must have. They've been there a long time. It's beautiful, beautiful country."
His love of this land started early. "Do you know where the Devil's Tower is?" he asked. "I used to live there, in the shadow of the Devil's Tower. And it was something. When I was a'growin' up and I worked for the ranchers, and I decided that I was going to do something else when I got growed up, to help the Park. It's hard to do, to find something to do where you can help," Norman added". I was raised out there by the Tower, and grew up there, went to school in Sundance and Hulet. And I enjoyed it, it was good country." He paused, no doubt picturing it in his mind. He reflected, "The beauty of it was one thing I really liked, and freedom. There's freedom out there."
Norman said he liked to travel and has done a fair bit of it. After high school he went overseas for a time, and that led to an even greater appreciation for his own country, he said.
"I came back to Wyoming and decided I was going to make it my own, you know, because you couldn't beat the beauty that Wyoming's got. And it's something."
Norman married Peggy McGhee in 1947, in Casper. "A bunch of us would run around before I decided I was going to go with her, and here I ended up my life with her, 'pert near," remembered Norman. Together they raised three sons, Peggy passed away in 2009. "And she was a good wife, she wasn't one to run around or anything..." Norman's voice trailed off, and his gaze, once again, was drawn to the outdoors. He pointed to a line of houses.
"A lot of that was built since I grew up, and I used to have a trail, there was a trail up there and I broke horses to ride, and I used that trail, and them houses are on the trail now, most of 'em are, no trails anymore."
Norman said he thought part of the key to a long life was spending time outdoors and being "up and around," and he said having the care of Central Wyoming Hospice and Transitions staff made him feel better, if not watched over. "They keep checking and make sure I'm doing things the way I'm supposed to, "he chuckled. After a small silence, Norman's eyes wandered back to the doors and the view outside. "It's beautiful country, even in the snow," he said softly, and added that he's lived a good life. "I knew where my home was going to be."
Upon Norman's passing, Central Wyoming Hospice Nurse Niesha Urquhart, one of those who took care of him, reflected on her time with him. She remembers him as bright-eyed and full of hugs.
"I think Norman was one that had a really good spirit, he was always positive and very loving, and even on his bad days he wasn't having a bad day. He wouldn't let you think he had a bad day." Neisha said Norman was seldom in his room, but always wanted to be out and talking with his friends. She said caring for him warmed her heart.
"It put a smile on my face. He was awesome, just funny, just the way that he would talk to people. I would sit and eat lunch with him sometimes when I would go in and it was lunchtime, and he would tell his little 'table ladies', table partners that they should eat their food, and yet he wouldn't eat his broccoli, she laughed. "He said he's not going to eat anything that's green."
Neisha noticed Norman was rarely in his room when she visited. "Every time, he was in the activity room, waiting for something to happen," she said. "He was always out and about and talking to everybody, and I think he's going to be greatly missed there. He made lots of friends."
To those who had the pleasure of meeting him, there was no doubt Norman loved the Wyoming life. Those that know him well knew he loved life and everyone at here Central Wyoming Hospice are honored to have spent the time with him that we did. Learning about his life and preserving his memories are part of the reason we love what we do.