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People Out Loud: Exceed expectations – Remembering Silverton’s flower lady

DixonBy Dixon Bledsoe

When a mural is painted in your honor and your nickname is “Silverton’s Sweetheart,” you are officially a an honored and respected citizen.

Norma Jean Branstetter was all that and more.

The “flower lady” passed away Feb. 3 and a town mourns. Norma owned and operated Silverton Flower Shop on Water Street for 55 years.

Norma Jean was a talented florist, a provider of “exceed expectations” service and a counselor of sorts. She helped one future columnist wrap his mind around an unheard of concept at the time – a corsage that the girl who said “yes” to a prom invitation would actually wear on her wrist. Norma Jean advised him that this was cleverly called “a wrist corsage.” And what a relief it was not to have to try to use a straight pin to attach it to a dress.

Norma Jean graciously assisted many stumbling, bumbling husbands and boyfriends with their last-minute Valentine’s and anniversary gifts. She quietly reminded sons the importance of giving flowers on Mother’s Day.

There was a sign I recall on a tax attorney’s desk – “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”

That saying was definitely not one Norma Jean would utter. And fixing poor planning on a customer’s behalf was when Norma Jean shone brightly.

One has to wonder how many marriages she brought back from near-death experiences, and how many 16-year-old boys were made to outshine Romeo in the love department because of her last-minute flower saves.

She could whip together a bouquet for the ages in nanoseconds and never once did the words “poor planning” cross her lips. Oh, she would tease, and use some kid-gloves sarcasm at these last-second rescues, but it always was fun.

Watching her receive her honorary diploma from Silverton High School was a treat. She was so proud to graduate with the Class of 2008.  Being recognized with the Silverton Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008 nearly brought her to tears, but those watching her receive the award weren’t so lucky as the floodgates opened in joy that the town she loved so much honored her in such a way.

She was one of a kind – generous and remarkably big-hearted, funny and witty. Norma Jean leaves behind a large family and a small town who adored her. A true character, she was one of the good ones.

We have been blessed with a lot of rain and snow in February which will be much appreciated later this year when the water tables need an IV. The ski resorts have enough snow to make even the most discriminating resort owner, snowboarder, tobogganer, tuber, and skier smile.  But as I write, Mike Bothum is golfing in short sleeves and “taunting by texting” because my “other” work is demanding and his retirement is playing out beautifully. A week of 60 degree temps and a high of 64 degrees in the middle of winter?  What’s not to love?

And a word of appreciation to the letter writer who did not like my column ridiculing Donald Trump as a walking comedy of errors and insults and with the depth of a bike rut, and encouraging the Malheur occupiers to go home. It was remarkable how you were able to get so many vitriolic slams into just two short paragraphs. But you had me at “Dixon is entitled to his opinion.”

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