Norma Rae (Denton) French

May 29, 1926 ~ January 13, 2022 (age 95)


Norma was born May 29, 1926, to Nettie and Edgar Crawford Denton at home in Promise (Wallowa County), Oregon; the tenth of eleven children. She died on January 13, 2022, at Pioneer Memorial Nursing Home in Heppner, Oregon.

Norma spent her early childhood attending the country school in Promise. Her family moved to Milton-Freewater, then to Condon, Oregon where she attended high school graduating in 1946. She was a cheerleader in Condon, and met a football named Raymond from Heppner and they began dating. Raymond graduated, enlisted in the US Navy; and their romance continued while he was serving his country. Raymond was discharged from the service, returned home; and they married October 26, 1946. They were preparing to celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary when Raymond passed away. They did however receive a Papal Blessing from the Pope and a certificate from the Vatican acknowledging their dedication and devotion to each other.

Norma and Raymond spent their first year of marriage at Vinson, Oregon before moving to his childhood home on Big Butter Creek for the next 33 years building a cattle ranch and raising their three daughters. During this time on the ranch, Norma became famous for her homemade yeast rolls and pies fresh from the oven. Many men crossing her table at branding time were privileged to enjoy her cooking and hospitality. She became a self-taught, experienced seamstress, making everything from curtains to prom dresses for her daughters. They eventually retired from ranching, moved to Heppner and she enjoyed learning and playing golf, attending the morning coffee sessions downtown, and becoming involved in community activities.

Norma had a beautiful soprano voice and loved to sing, which led her to become a member of the Condon High School Glee Club, St. Patrick’s church choir, and singing group in Heppner known as the Sentimentalists. She was also a member of the St. Patrick Altar Society and taught youth religious instruction for many years.

Norma dedicated time to serving the livestock industry, becoming president of the Morrow County cowbells and a district Vice President in the Oregon State Cowbells, an organization later known as Oregon Cattlewomen

She enjoyed social gatherings and loved visiting with relatives, friends, and neighbors earning her the honor of a proclamation on her seventieth birthday declaring May 29, 1996, as “Norma French Day’ in Heppner. She, along with Raymond, received a second honor being named Grand Marshalls of the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in 2020.

Norma is survived by her three daughters: Karen Wood (Joe) of Tigard, Oregon, Verina Schiller (Tony) of Round Rock, Texas, and Susan French (Mathew Greenup) of Heppner, sisters-in-law Dorothy O’Rourke of Pendleton, Oregon and Francine Evans of Irrigon, Oregon, 9 grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews. She is preceded in death by her husband, Raymond, parents Nettie and Edgar, 4 brothers, 6 sisters, and brother-in-law, Joe French.

A joint funeral service for Norma and Raymond is planned for later this spring. Condolence messages may be sent to the Norma French Family, C/O Susan French, 84176 French Lane, Heppner, Oregon 97836.

Memorial contributions may be made to Pioneer Memorial Nursing Home, PO Box 9, Heppner, Oregon 97836 or St. Patrick church, PO Box 633, Heppner, Oregon 97836.

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