Remembering Norman Williams
By: Alisa Williams
My father’s obituary says he was loved by many and will be sorrily missed. This is an understatement. There is so much to say about Stormin’ Norman who would try to always bring a smile to people’s faces.
I have always said this about my father - do not underestimate me. I know more than I say. Think more than I speak. Notice more than you realize.
My father knew not only about law, but about life, and how to handle the experiences that came with it. He was warm, funny, and he touched many lives. He gave people hope. He fought for those when no one else would. When he entered a courtroom, you could feel his presence. He tried to keep positive. His response to most things was: ‘fabulous or marvelous’. He tried to be kind even if the other side wasn’t. He tried to teach all other lawyers to do the same.
While in the hospital we changed his name on the whiteboard to ‘normal’ from Norman. This was our attempt to make him normal instead of sick. It clearly was unsuccessful, but the concept arose from his younger days when he was teaching a course at Mohawk College in deviant behaviour. The school advertised it as deviant behaviour taught by Normal Williams. My dad was anything but normal.
My father was flamboyant and full of life even when his body was not. My brother speaks about him having 9 lives since there have been so many brushes with death in recent years. He had a quintuple by-pass and many falls. One of them was when he was throwing something in the ravine, and he forgot to let go, so he ended up in the ravine with it. Three firemen had to remove him from the ravine.
I have several passions and loves of my father to talk about. The first was his love for my mother. They started dating as teenagers going to Westdale High School. They lived around the corner from each other. In high school he was tall enough to go to the window of her class and beckon her to leave so they could talk in the hall. That is how the corruption of my innocent mother began.
They broke up while my mom was in her first week of her first year at the University of Toronto. My father was not happy with this and arrived at her dorm and caused a scene, embarrassing her. Well, that closed the door for my dad for many months. He continued to pursue her. Then they got back together, eventually married when my dad was 23 years old, and they stayed married through thick and thin for almost 56 years. My father’s love for my mother was so strong that if she was not happy, then he was not happy. He learned over the years that to keep her happy he would recite her favorite words of ‘yes dear’. The follow-through was more difficult for him, but he tried his best. He loved to introduce her as Dr. Williams since she had a PhD and two Masters of which he was so proud.
Norm just loved and was very proud of his 7 grandchildren. He actually named trees in his backyard after each grandchild. His proudest and happiest moments were at the grandchildren’s bar mitzvahs. He taught the grandchildren it is okay to cry even when conveying a meaningful story that was not sad. He had a big heart.
If it wasn’t for his love of his assistant Lois, he would have stopped working a long time ago. Lois was with him for 34 years. Lois kept him in line. Thank goodness for Lois.
He had a great love for his family. His son, me, his brother and sister and cousins. They were his source of strength as he knew he could always count on them.
Judaism up to the last day was his core. He wanted to be a Rabbi and went to study in the US at a Yeshiva. This only lasted only a few days. He left after learning that he wouldn’t be able to hold a girl’s hand.
Norm loved to joke around. Lots of people have a funny story about my dad. I can only name a few here. His brother is also a lawyer. Their voices are similar. Norm would call his brother’s assistant and give instructions as a joke.
In high school, his parents were staying at a very expensive hotel in Toronto for New Year’s Eve. He took four other couples to the hotel for dinner and drinks, and he charged it to their room without asking or telling his parents. He got into a lot of trouble.
At an apprehension hearing where a baby was taken from her mother and father by the state, my dad represented the father, and another lawyer represented the mother. My dad and the other lawyer entered a bet of who could use the word ‘suckle’ the most during the apprehension hearing. My dad won $30.00.
Norm loved fishing. He never had enough time for fishing. When asked about his most favorite memory it was the fishing trip with my brother, his brother and cousins and their children, where they portaged. Apparently, they ran out of water and juice, so the children had to drink beer.
His work dominated his being. We were working in the hospital until the day before he died because he cared. He cared about the clients no matter the life station or circumstances. It didn’t matter if the client was charged with murder or was a dangerous offender. He strongly believed in the principal innocent before proven guilty. He cared. He wanted to help. Even after 50 years of practicing law he would still get nervous before a motion or trial.
My father kept a hallway of newspaper articles of his cases. The most recent one that he wanted included was from just last month, the murder by a father of a son. He was proud of his work. We were all proud of the work he did. Proud of his steadfast resolve to assist the underdog.
He was a man of determination and high principles. On the Easter weekend, his car was destroyed by Molotov cocktails at his home. Likely file related. When asked if he would no longer represent the client that he thought the fire was related to, his response was: ‘of course not, I must be doing a good job for my client. I am not stepping down from the case because after all, who will represent my client.’
One time he stood up for a complete stranger in a Toronto court who was being chastised by a Judge who threatened to hold her in contempt for being disruptive, when she was not the culprit. A reporter coincidently was in the room from the Toronto Star who ran an article about it because of Norm’s courage to do the right thing when many other lawyers who were present did not speak up.
Dad – your kindness, intelligence, humor, generosity, wit, and graciousness will all be missed! Love you forever and always!