`Normie' Beers, 93; Directed West Seattle `Y' For 32 Years
Nobody called him Mr. Beers, not even the little kids. At YMCA camp, when the kids would see him coming - small and bald, bounding with ideas - they'd all holler "Normieeee."
And he'd holler back, just like he was a kid and not a grownup, like he wasn't the guy in charge. He was in charge, but he didn't like the distance that came with fancy titles, not even "Mister."
So, for 32 years, the executive director of the West Seattle YMCA was known simply as Normie. And his easygoing, familiar style made him a hit with the kids.
Normie was dedicated to "his kids," all the boys and girls who visited the West Seattle YMCA. From 1926 to 1958, Normie was there 100 percent for the kids. Not even his wife, Betty May Dudley Beers, could distract him for very long: In 1932, the West Seattle Herald reported the couple's honeymoon plans included "taking part in Y.M. camp activities."
When Norman Alwyn Beers died last week, at the age of 93, generations of "Normie's kids" felt the loss.
"I was 8 years old when I joined the Y and became one of Normie's kids. From that time on, for 60 years, he was always there," says Ken Wise, owner of West Fuel in West Seattle. "He's sure going to be missed."
Even after he retired as YMCA executive director, Normie was there for the community.
"I didn't know him in his heyday but he was certainly an inspiration to me," says Clay Eals, currently president of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society. Eals was working on The West Seattle Herald when he got to know Normie.
"I think he was an inspiration to a great many people, and he was a terrific promoter of the community. He had a tremendous influence on the landscape."
Over the six decades Normie lived in West Seattle, hardly a day went by that he wasn't actively promoting the community. He was a member of the Lions Club, the Rotary Club, and the Commercial Club, which later became the West Side Chamber of Commerce. From 1965 to 1982, he served as the chamber's executive secretary.
Respected as "Mr. West Seattle" by community leaders, business owners and West Seattle residents, Normie worked tirelessly to make his community better.
Among his many accomplishments, Normie is credited with helping win approval for construction of the Fauntleroy Expressway and the high-level West Seattle Bridge, for establishment of South Seattle Community College, and for development of Seacrest Marina as a city park.
"There wasn't anything going on in West Seattle that he didn't know about," says Earl Cruzen, another of Normie's kids. "He was one of those guys who could walk up, shake a guy's hand and get to know him nothing flat. He was enthusiastic, optimistic, an all around wonderful man. We were pretty proud of him, he'd done darn well for a local boy."
Normie grew up on Queen Anne Hill, but he considered West Seattle his home. "When I was just 10, I rowed across (Elliott Bay) in a rowboat, and almost drowned, from the foot of Queen Anne Hill to see what it was like in West Seattle," Normie is quoted as saying in the book "West Side Story," published in 1987 by the West Seattle Herald.
The book is dedicated to Normie, as is Rotary Viewpoint Park in West Seattle.
"There were so many projects dad was involved with, but I don't think he was honored for what he did as much as how he did it," says Bev LaVeck of Seattle, Normie's daughter. "He had so much enthusiasm, so much optimism."
And he couldn't imagine not working to make the community better. Most of all, he wanted to help kids.
"Dad really wanted to be a positive influence on kids," his daughter says.
"Early on, Dad quit school to go to work in the shipyards, but a man there urged him to finish high school and go on to college. Dad went back to school, and was always grateful for the advice. I think Dad wanted to make sure other kids had a second chance."
He is survived by his wife; his daughter; two granddaughters, Amy VanderVeer in Ellensburg and Jill VanderVeer Garza of Othello; and a great-grandson Santos Garza. He also leaves a sister, Verna Meagher of Seattle.
Services for Normie Beers are scheduled for 3 p.m. tomorrow, at Fauntleroy Church, 9260 California Ave. S.W. Arrangements have been made through Howden-Kennedy Funeral Home of West Seattle. Contributions can be made to the South Seattle Community College Foundation Scholarship Fund, 6000 16th Ave. S.W., Seattle 98106.
Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.