Barbara Norris: 72 years young

BY RAVEN JOY Shonel, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – The community came out to celebrate the birthday of Barbara Norris Sat., Nov. 7 at Sylvia’s Soul Food Restaurant in a big way. Guests packed in to share her special day and praise this woman of God.

Born in Tallahassee on Nov. 9, 1943, to M. T. and Annie J. Brown, Barbara was one of five children from this union.

Always an excellent student, when she graduated from high school she moved to St. Pete to attend Gibbs Junior College in 1961. She then matriculated to the University of South Florida where she majored in early childhood development.

Barbara’s first job out of college proved to be very fulfilling. Instead of getting experience and moving on to bigger and better things, she worked at Happy Workers for 18 years as a preschool and kindergarten teacher.

While enjoying her time at Happy Workers, she got married and had her daughter Bridgett who now resides in Atlanta. In 1990 she accepted her next assignment at Central Christian and taught there for 16 years, retiring in 2004.

A member of Mt. Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church, she is not one to let grass grow under her feet. Since retirement she continues to mentor children and volunteers at hospitals and nursing homes. Barbara is very active with the National Council of Negro Women where she once held office as the communications secretary. She is also an ardent member of the Gibbs Junior College Alumni Association.

Loved one after loved one couldn’t stop talking about what a kindhearted person Barbara is. Her long-time friend Deloris Johnson thanked her for helping her grandchildren grow up to be productive members of society.

“I can’t thank her enough for how good she’s been to all three of my grandchildren. She didn’t just help them get through kindergarten, she followed them through high school and college and she’s still taking care of them,” said Johnson.

Everyone who knows Barbara knows that she believes in eating well and exercising. Planning to live past 100 years old, she walks five miles a day and does 100 deep knee bends to boot.  When she visits out-of-town relatives, she makes sure they are eating right while she’s there.

 “Whenever she comes to our house she buys food and cooks versus us cooking for her. She has lots of advice for everybody,” said her cousin from Tallahassee, Sylvia Livingston.

Making sure that everyone is fed is a priority of hers. Her close friend Carolyn Macon remarked that every time she’s in her neighborhood, she stops by with goodies. “She brings water, bananas, chicken, and says, ‘I just want to make sure because you have this lovely family and you need to feed them.’”

The lady of the hour held court and friends and relatives from near and far expressed how they can’t wait to share her 73rd next year.

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