Norma Flair Fitzsimons Brown, 1929-2016

Norma Fitzsimons Brown

We lost my dear mother last week, unexpectedly but peacefully, just a few days shy of her 87th birthday. She wasn’t a Rice person especially, although she did enjoy a nice tale of academic futility and she once, hilariously, knitted me a blue and grey scarf for Christmas. For many years she owned a girl’s clothing store in the Chicago suburbs and working with her there provided me with my earliest lessons in human folly and how to meet it with a smile. (There’s nothing quite like managing a 13 year-old and her mother trying to choose a new fall wardrobe for insight into the dark struggles of humanity.)

Going through some of her things I was surprised to find a 1946 article from, I believe, the student newspaper of Nazareth Academy in La Grange, Illinois, where she attended high school. I’d never seen it before but in it I clearly recognized my own mom, the exact same person 70 years later:


To the very end, even with limited ability to talk, she had the nurses and doctors laughing. I will miss her terribly.

Norma Rae Flair. Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine on her.

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25 Responses to Norma Flair Fitzsimons Brown, 1929-2016

  1. Bob toone says:

    Very sorry for your loss. She looks like she was a very interesting person.

  2. Matt Schreck says:

    So sorry to hear, Melissa. The greatest tribute to a person is the family they leave behind. By that measure, I’m sure you’re mother was a gem.

  3. marmer01 says:

    Mine made it to eighty-seven, too. I know how tough it is. Wishing you and your family warm thoughts of peace and comfort.

  4. rbrazile says:

    Sincere condolences, that’s so hard. But what a wonderful tribute.

  5. R White says:

    Condolences and prayers from Fort Worth, TX.

  6. Gloria Meckel Tarpley says:

    Melissa, I’m so sorry! She sounds wonderful and you, as historian, will be very well poised to keep her history vivid and alive, which I hope will provide comfort. I’ll keep you both in my prayers.

  7. joelmt says:

    So sorry for your loss, Melissa. It is so hard to lose a parent. I will keep you in my prayers.

    Joel Schindler Turvey, ‘73

  8. John Polking says:

    Melissa, I am very sorry to hear of your loss. From your remarks, I am sure that I would have liked her very much.

  9. Bill Johnson '57-'58 says:

    Although my mother was 103, it was still a loss and I think of her frequently. As a historian there will be a lot of questions that you will wish you had asked her. Thank you for the wonderful comments on Rice and glad we could meet your mother.

  10. Tasso Triantaphyllis says:


  11. joni says:

    So sorry to hear of your loss – your mother sounds like a wonderful lady and I appreciate getting to know of her. Blessings to you and your family.

  12. barbara smith says:

    What a lovely tribute. I grew up partly in Western Springs, IL, one town over from La Grange, so Nazareth is a familiar name to me. Sincere Condolences. Barbara

  13. Kermit Lancaster says:

    Wishing you peace at this time of loss.

  14. francis eugene 'gene' pratt says:

    Condolences, Melissa.
    Cherise your time together, and all your fond memories of her and her life.

  15. Beverly Schorre says:

    Praying for you over the loss of your mother. May you feel God’s presence in the days ahead. Her amazing legacy lives through you.

  16. Joan Schell says:

    My thoughts are with you. No matter the age, hers or yours, it’s always tough to lose your mother. She was beautiful and I’m sure she was very proud of you!

  17. Liz Brigman says:

    Your mother’s “lovable personality and sense of humor” live on in you. Wishing you many happy memories and the peace of understanding.

  18. Jean Packard says:

    Thank you for sharing your mother with us at the History Corner, Melissa. What a delightful lady!
    May your grief be brief and your memories long.

  19. Barney L. McCoy says:

    What a fine person. You are obviously as proud of her as she was of you. It’s been 20 years since my mother died, but I think of her every day. God bless.
    Barney L. McCoy

  20. Kathleen Amen '71 says:

    I echo the sorrow and sympathy of the other commenters. I think losing your mother is the hardest thing that each of us ever have to face. She sounds like a wonderful lady…enjoy your memories of her.

  21. Lou Ann Montana says:

    So sorry to hear of your loss, Melissa; may you find much comfort in your memories. I love her maiden name, and can easily imagine she had a flair for fashion!

  22. Leslie LeMaster Jensen says:

    “Two LeMasters and three Fitzsimonses!” Your mom hauled us to the pool and the zoo, got us to school on time, and helped me get my first job. Along with the 13YOs and their mothers selecting a fall wardrobe, I’m sure you remember those same preteens slinking in and instantly recognizing that they were there for their first (gasp!) bra…the dark struggles of humanity indeed! I laughed out loud at your assessment: “She was a real doozy.” Truer words were never spoken! I feel deeply for your loss and am sending lots of prayers your way.

  23. Julie Billingsley says:

    Remembering your wonderful Mother very fondly. I am also one of the several who she gave a first job to, and truly enjoyed my Patty Page experience. I remember her laugh so well, and her great sense of humor, which is my favorite quality in a person! When I lost my Mom, she called me, and said. “You’re next!” SO like your Mother!
    I bet she is wearing lots of turquoise in heaven.
    Prayers and Love.

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