Elizabeth Norcross Obituary

Service Information

In Memory of

Elizabeth Norcross

July 16, 1927 - June 3, 2014

I was born July 16, 1927, at 9 pm at Wilson Hospital in Washburn, North Dakota, to Ben O. and Mable Everson. The doctor was Dr. Gordon. I was told the time of birth was late so my Mom could finish the supper dishes. We lived in town for the first years of my life. A few exciting things happened to me such as being attacked by a mad rooster and rescued by the pastor next door. I was also sent to the hospital in Bismarck because the preacher's kid threw sand in my eye. I also remember coming down the stairs with swollen jaws due to mumps. I was allowed to look out a window and watch the neighbor kids play in the yard. After that we moved...
I was born July 16, 1927, at 9 pm at Wilson Hospital in Washburn, North Dakota, to Ben O. and Mable Everson. The doctor was Dr. Gordon. I was told the time of birth was late so my Mom could finish the supper dishes.

We lived in town for the first years of my life. A few exciting things happened to me such as being attacked by a mad rooster and rescued by the pastor next door. I was also sent to the hospital in Bismarck because the preacher's kid threw sand in my eye. I also remember coming down the stairs with swollen jaws due to mumps. I was allowed to look out a window and watch the neighbor kids play in the yard.
After that we moved to the farm. Dad took over the old homestead that was started by my grandfather. It had expanded considerably-to 1600 acres. This was the beginning of several fun years for a couple of small girls (my sister and me). We never had roller skates, tricycles, or bikes like the city kids, but we had horses and a lot of pets.

When we moved to the farm, there was only one horse for us to ride, but that changed one day. My sister developed into a night person early in life, and I was always early to rise, eat breakfast, and start my day of adventures. So one morning, I saddled Toots and took off to visit. When lunch came around, I was nowhere to be found, so Mom started calling the neighbors to find me. She finally did and was asked if I could stay for lunch and then be sent home. After that, I was grounded for a week and was not allowed to ride. It wasn't long after that when a beautiful horse arrived, AND HE WAS MINE! From then on, my horse and I were inseparable.

Farm life was great. Dad let us make a harness for Toots, so she could pull our sled in the winter and the wagon in summer. We could ride for miles to visit a neighbor. One of the neighbors gave us two runt pigs from their litter. We took care of them until it was time to sell. We also had pet lambs which we bottle fed and gave treats of buttered bread with sugar on it.

When it was time to shear the sheep, Dad would put us in the wool sacks to tamp down the wool. End result-sheep ticks! No problem, Dad took them out.
Often we would ride on the fender of the car when it was time to pick up the mail. In the winter, the sled and horses would come out, and we pulled someone on skis.

When we were old enough, we attended summer parochial school which was held in a different country school. Prior to its start, Dad or the hired man would transport hay, so we could feed our horses. We usually had to ride about five miles each way with our lunch pails and Bibles strapped to the saddles.
Our regular school was only a couple of blocks away through the cottonwood grove and over the stile. My sister went to school, but I was too young. I would ride my horse to school and look in the windows. Even though I had just turned five, they decided I would be less of a distraction in school than out! It was a one-room school from first to eighth grade; of course, there was only one teacher. The teacher lived at our farm during the school year. Some fun: She could grade us on our home deportment! My grandfather donated the land, so the school was called the Everson School.

As you can tell, this was the best part of my life. Our grandmother and an aunt lived in town, so we would go visit. Of course, most of the farmers went to town on Saturday, hence the Friday night baths in the wash tub in the kitchen behind the clothes rack covered with a blanket.
When the depression hit, it was decided to pack up and move to Oregon. I think the worst day of my life was seeing my horse go on the auction block. I refused to ride him to show off what he could do. I spent my time in the hay mow shedding tears.

We moved to Cottage Grove in 1936 and stayed there until January 1937. Early in 1937 the family moved to Eugene. My sister and I were enrolled in the Frances Willard Grade School where we finished 5th and 6th grade. The Eugene house had acreage. My dad tried to find work with the truck and started a wood business, Everson Fuel Company. Mother worked in the nursing home to make ends meet. My sister and I had to do what we could to get dinner started so dad could finish cooking it. We had a cow that I milked, so we had fresh milk and our own cream. I'm not sure how long we lived there.
We moved once and then again to a house on 6th Avenue and High Street which was right across from our pastor and our church. It was a great place to live. The war started, and mom had to drag my sister and me back in the house and make us stop waving at the convoys of soldiers that went by on the highway. "But mom, they're protecting our country!" That didn't work. Mom would jerk us back into the house and tell us to behave ourselves. Fortunately, we were too young to get into trouble.

I finished 6th grade and went to Woodrow Wilson Jr. High School and graduated from Eugene High School in June 1944. The high school building was demolished later, and residents and former students each got a brick to take home. I had to miss a lot of high school because in my first year, my sister was quarantined. School was somewhat difficult for me because of absences and the fact that I was younger than the other students. There was one teacher who taught me to appreciate poetry. Some people said I was her pet because I got to run errands during class. My elective high school classes were Shorthand, Typing, Bookkeeping, and Office where we actually worked in the school office and answered phones, kept some records, took dictation from the principal, and transcribed letters. It was a complete office and a good education for my future career.

My sister and I moved to Portland and went to work in the shipyards. The worst thing that happened on that trip was that my sister and I had an argument about where to sit on the bus going to Portland. Both of us wanted the window seat. While we were arguing, somebody stole my sister's purse which took half of the money we were to live on until our first paycheck. We had $18 remaining. The purse was found a year later under a woodpile in Corvallis with all identification intact. We stayed on Vancouver and Shaver in a private home (boarding house). We had a two-burner hotplate in our room.

My sister went on to college (Pacific Lutheran College). I moved to 17th and Alberta with three other girls and continued working at the shipyards until September of 1945. Then I took a sabbatical and went home for minor surgery on my foot. I came back to Portland in January 1946. When I arrived at where the girls were living, they handed me two nickels and two phone numbers and told me to find a job so I could pay my share of the rent. I found a job at International Forwarding Company and worked there for 25 years. During that time, I needed to find another place to live as the girls I was living with went their own ways: one married, one moved to Minnesota, and one married and moved to Eugene. So a different roommate and I moved into a private home my dad found for us that had kitchen privileges. The landlady had two sons attending Oregon State--one for each of us! Then my roommate moved out.
I lived with Mrs. Foss for seven years and tried to get her sons to be more attentive to her. I knew I would be responsible for my own parents and felt Mrs. Foss's sons should take responsibility for her. When Mrs. Foss moved with a son to Corvallis, I found a place in Northwest Portland where I stayed for number of years.

In 1957 I married a guy I'd been dating-- not one of the brothers. We bought and remodeled properties in Northwest Portland so they could be rented. When that marriage broke up in 1967, I took two houses and he took a duplex. I moved to an apartment complex on Savior Street. Later, I sold the two houses. On Labor Day 1969, I bought a small houseboat. I lived on the Columbia River for 21 years across from Jantzen Beach South Channel. Houseboat living was great, and I had good neighbors. I got married and divorced there too: I married Harry Norcross on July 19, 1967, and the marriage lasted until 1987 although the divorce wasn't final until 1988.

By and large, my life was centered around working. I enjoyed the jobs I had-all in freight forwarding. I worked for 25 years at one business that went out of business. I was the last one in the office. I took the key, locked the door, threw the key into the mail slot, and walked off to my next job. My next job lasted only one year and the one after that for 10 years. Both companies went out of business. I never had to look for a job. I was always offered jobs based on the recommendations of my employers or their customers.

At International Forwarding Company, I worked as a billing clerk, secretary, payroll, accounts receivable and payable, and freight claims. I really wanted to be rate clerk. Finally I got that job and was great at it. Rate depends on the value of the shipment, how far it is going, and how easily it's damaged. The work was hard, but I found it all very interesting. Wherever I worked, people, including the president of the company and the vice president, said I was the best rate clerk in the city of Portland. That gave my dad something to brag about! I got my last job because of an agent from my first job who bought a truck line. When I needed another job, he offered, and I stayed for 15 years.

My last job was with that truck line company. At one point, I became the office manager. When they replaced all section heads with men, I went into the Computer Department even though I had never used one. Then I worked as a temporary employee for the last three years of my career. During my career, I worked all jobs in the office from billing clerk to office manager. Eventually, forwarding companies were no longer needed, and I was out of job.
I purchased a house, retired, worked in the yard, built a sidewalk of brick and a brick bench under a tree. I enjoyed working in the yard. I fixed up the house and finally sold it. I rented an apartment for five years and then moved to Holladay Park Plaza.

I like to read and enjoy poetry: The Rubaiyat by Omar Kayam, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, and Poems from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, as well as other poems by Robert Service and Edgar Allen Poe. I also like historical novels, biographies, and mysteries. My favorite TV programs are Mash and Jeopardy.

My interests also include music. I took piano lessons from the age of 8 in Washburn, North Dakota, and stopped when we came to Oregon. My sister and I had a choice of how to spend money from our Aunt at Christmas. My sister bought a war bond, and I took piano lessons until it was time for a recital. Then, I quit! However, I kept buying sheet music and playing by myself. As an adult, I took piano from a Mrs. Dum and then again from Will Kenton, who was Stan Kenton's cousin.

I loved to sing. I first started singing in a choir at Central Lutheran church on 6th Avenue in Eugene when I was 10 or 11 and still in grade school. The pastor's daughter was the director. She came home one day in tears and said to my mother, "That daughter of yours absolutely refuses to sing alto. She wants to be a soprano and doesn't have the range." Eventually, I finally had to make up my mind to sang alto and learned to stay on my part.

During that time, Dad was janitor at the church. Sometimes he didn't get up early enough, so my sister and I would go over to the church and throw the 4-foot slabs of wood into the furnace to get the church warmed up. We also had to keep the church dusted and ready for Sunday services. We finally earned the janitor's job, and dad gave his salary to us. Besides janitorial work, I taught Sunday School for the children and occasionally played the piano for them.
When I moved to Portland, I joined the senior choir at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. I took voice lessons from Grace McKenny and then Edith Galbreth. We had a recital and I was singing Danny Boy as a soprano. I stopped at the high note, asked for a glass of water, drank it, hit the high note, and kept on going. Edith Galbreth taught me to sing alto. I also took voice lessons from Will Funk.

I sang with Robert Zimmerman and the Portland Symphonic Choir for one year and then joined the Portland Chorale under the direction of Will Funk, who was also the choir director at Central Lutheran Church.

Various choirs would come to Washington Park to entertain in the evenings, and the Chorale sang there a couple of times. One year at the beginning of the program, Will Funk mentioned some of the things that had happened to members during the year. He announced that two basses from the choir had married, and strangely, they had married each other! I grabbed Harry's hand and raised it up to show that we were a male and a female!
The Portland Chorale went to Spokane in 1974 for the World's Fair. We stayed in the dorms at Gonzaga where there was a second story walkway. The men stood below and serenaded the women.

There was only one room for changing clothes before and after the concert. It had some type of divider in it. I charged in to change, and found myself surrounded by men; all the women were on the other side! But I was there first!

I sang in church choirs at Bethlehem, Bethany, Central, and Savage Memorial Presbyterian. My husband and I sang a duet at Bethany and at Savage Memorial, but then he gave up on me. He felt I was ruining his singing.

During my singing career, I went from a soprano to an alto to a bass. I stopped singing when I ran out of breath. At Central as a bass, I sang next to Peter Charlston and Mel Ellis, When Mel left, I sang next to Gary Downing or Bruce Johnson.

When I moved into Holladay Park Plaza, I sang with the Plaza Singers for one year. We did Cole Porter songs. The director wouldn't let me sing with the men for a sea shanty; instead, I had to sing I Love Being a Girl.

Now I sometimes sing along with my records, but I mostly enjoy just listening.

I have no immediate family left. My mother was born January 2, 1891, and died January 7, 1968. She was 77 years old. My dad was born in Dakota Territory March 6, 1888, and died October 1, 1975. My sister was born June 4, 1926; and died December 8, 2008.

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"Ms. Norcross was a lovely woman. I delivered Meals-on-Wheels to,her apartment at Center Commons. I missed her when she moved, and was sad to hear of her..." Claudia Robertson

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More Obituaries

Oregonian, The
Norcross, Elizabeth 'Liz' 86 July 16, 1927 June 03, 2014 A memorial service celebrating Liz's life will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 28, 2014,...

Read obituary at Oregonian, The.

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