Eulogy for Norm Mabie
Delivered by Wayne Suggs at Norm's Funeral 2/06/04
I was thirteen, maybe fourteen years old when I met the man that knew everything there was to know about flyfishing. He was the head of sporting goods at Gibson's Discount Center. As a boy I'd go in and he'd always drop whatever he was doing to help me. To answer questions, or to just talk. I'd always tell him of my family fishing vacations in Colorado. He'd ask me about the rivers I'd fished and how many fish I'd caught on the flies he'd sold me. The only three flies I needed at the time. A mosquito, an elk hair caddis, and a warden's worry. I always couldn't wait to get back and tell Norm of my adventures. As a child, in my eyes Norm was a legend. Now as a man I still hold him in that same regard.
If you were lucky enough to visit Norm at his fly shop, if you were fortunate enough to have him teach you the art of fly tying, or if you had the privilege to spend time with the man on the water, you always learned from him. It was during those times that I learned about Norm.
Norm was born in 1931 to Rome and Anna Mabie in the town of Dubois, Pennsylvania. Norm's mother and father had 5 boys and 5 girls. Everyone of the boys were outdoorsmen. They all loved to hunt and fish. At age 8, Norm was flyfishing the spring creeks of Pennsylvania. At age 12, he was tying his own flies and going out on his own in search of big elusive browns that inhabited his home waters. One evening during a fly tying session, Norm told me a story of his childhood. One day he decided to skip school and go flyfishing. While on the river, he ran into his teacher who was playing hookie himself. They both agreed not to tell anyone and they spent the day together fishing on the river. Though Norm took the occasional day off from school to hunt, fish, or trap mink for extra money, he was an excellent student. Norm was also quite the athlete. He lettered in four sports in high school. Norm's dedication to him in his high school yearbook read, "Bubs" - (Bubs was his knickname), it read, "Bubs - An outdoor enthusiast always hunting trapping and fishing when he's not earning letters in track, football, cross country, and wrestling.
During High School, Norm's dream was to live in the wilds of Idaho and work for the Forest Service. Instead Norm decided to serve our Country. He enlisted in the army in 1949 and served in Germany. He then returned to the United States and married the love of his life. He met Donna while she was babysitting his little sister. Donna and Norm were married in Georgia on September 5th, 1953. In 1956, Norm was stationed at White Sands Missile Range where he spent 10 years. He then served the remainder of his military career in Germany. While in Germany, Norm was the president of the American Rod and Gun Club.
He retired from the service in 1969. Donna and Norm moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico because they loved the climate and the friendly people that lived here. Norm and Donna have two sons. Norman Jr. and David.
After retirement Norm spent many good days fishing and hunting with his good friends that he'd made over the years. In the 80's Norm Co-founded Mesilla Valley Flyfishers and was the Club's first President. Since then the club has had many presidents but everyone including myself has always thought of Norm as the club's leader. Norm was a master rod builder and fly tyer. He taught many people how to tie flies. He was also a casting instructor and held many casting clinics for would- be flyfishers.
But to me, the one thing that Norm did with his life that stands out above his other accomplishments was what he did for kids. Norm always took the time to go to schools and teach children how to tie flies. He put in countless hours at Young Park and Alumni Pond teaching kids how to cast fly rods. As Norm did with me, he did with all others. He always had the time.
One of Norms good friends, John Dillon, said it best. Norm has left a legacy and if you think about it, he really has. Every time you sit down to tie, every time you cast a fly, Norm will be there with you. His knowledge, his techniques, his innovations. John was right, he has left a legacy. His ideas will live with us generation upon generation.
I could go on and on, as we all could about Norm. About his deep belief in God, how kids loved to go to his fly shop, maybe not for the fishing advice, but for the candy he always handed out. There are so many stories to tell, about his grandkids, about his family, how he and Donna celebrated their 50th anniversary in September, but I will leave you with this:
Norm had to leave. Norm had to leave before all of us. We all know why. He had to find the fish, he had to figure out the hatches. He had to figure out the flies to tie to match those hatches perfectly. Thats the way Norm was. And when our time comes, you know Norm will be there. He'll greet us with his hearty laugh, Can't you just hear him? "How are ya? It's great to see ya". He'll be fishing his favorite 5 weight, knee deep in the river of eternity. Before we enter the river to join him well be sure to hear Norm say, "watch your step". Norm, my mentor, I will miss you deeply. God Speed my friend.
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