“I’ve been very fortunate in my life,” Norma Schatz says with a smile. “I had a wonderful marriage, have wonderful children, and am very blessed in whom I know…As I said, it’s been a most fortunate life.” Indeed it has.
Norma was born in New York and grew up in both Manhattan and Long Island. However, in between stints in New York, Norma and her mother moved abroad to live in Paris — twice. The first time was for a year and a half when she was very young, and the second was at the age of 14 for six months while her older sister studied abroad in Europe.
After returning to the U.S. and finishing high school in Manhattan, Norma attended Cornell University, where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She then went on to work for MGM Studios doing movie research. She and her late husband, Michael, were married in 1945 and settled down in his hometown of Hartford, Connecticut. They had three sons and two daughters.
Norma spent a few years working in personnel for a department store. Then, as Norma says, she “kept working, but not for money.” She became involved in the local community and in politics.
“I can remember carrying my first child in a bassinet to a League of Women Voters meeting,” she laughs.
Norma went on to run for (and win) a seat on the West Hartford Board of Education and for the state legislature (and lost). She was also involved with the Community Council in charge of their Legislative Information Service, worked with the Connecticut Child Welfare Association, was on the board of Planned Parenthood, and chaired a study of the juvenile justice system. This resulted in an appointment by the Governor to the Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee as a citizen representative, where she served for nearly 30 years.
In her time on the committee, Norma says she was very much aware of the different, and disproportionate, way children were treated if they were “from the wrong side of the tracks.” Her mission was to help bridge this gap, sharing research and information from her experiences in the community to help improve the system.
Similar to her own upbringing, Norma incorporated travel into her children’s lives as well. “I wanted them to know that they were a part of a big world,” she says. “To get to know and appreciate other cultures.” While they never lived abroad, Norma and her husband took many trips traveling through Europe. She fondly remembers one trip in particular where the family spent an entire month at a home in Spain — for what cost only $450 at the time.
In the early 2000s, when she and Michael decided to move full-time to Longboat Key, Norma stepped down from her post on the Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee. Again, Norma immediately became an active member of her community. This time, however, she focused on working with Planned Parenthood and the Sarasota Democratic Party, rather than focusing specifically on children’s issues. “I write a lot of letters,” she laughs. Along with nearly 10,000 others, Norma even participated in the Sarasota Women’s Solidarity March across the John Ringling Causeway on January 21st.
When asked why she chose Sarasota, Norma shares stories of visiting her parents here in the 1960s, discussing the growth of the local community and citing the influence of the arts, even then. After moving to Sarasota, Norma reconnected with childhood friends Richard and Marian Kessler, for whom she was the Maid of Honor at their wedding. In 2007, Norma, then widowed, joined her longtime friends and moved into Plymouth Harbor.
When she’s not volunteering, Norma enjoys the local arts, including ballet and theatre. At Plymouth Harbor, she serves on the Library Committee and Residents Association Executive Council as Executive Associate Liaison to Residents. Norma jokes that she was never able to learn bridge, but she does manage to play Scrabble once a week with friends.
Most importantly, Norma enjoys spending time with her four children and nine grandchildren, located all over the map — from Kentucky to Pennsylvania and New York to England. With an upcoming trip planned for Paris in March, it’s not likely that Norma will be slowing down anytime soon.