Celebrating Our All Saints' Stories - Norma Kohout
Note: As stewards, we are called to share ourselves and our lives with others. We at All Saints have much to celebrate, including each other. In the spirit of celebration and giving thanks, what follows is the first in the series “Celebrating our All Saints’ Stories” which will help us learn more about each other and our community.
Thirty-five years ago, on July 1, 1987, Norma and her husband, Bill, and grandson, Hardy Grewel, found their way to All Saints “quite by happenstance,” Norma recalls. They had just moved from San Francisco and then Modesto, where Norma taught language arts at Mark Twain Junior High, to Sacramento due to Norma’s retirement and to be closer to Bill’s customers in Reno. They needed to find a church. Norma and Bill had been active in the Deanery at their San Francisco parish and they wanted to find a new Episcopal home. They identified All Saints as being the closest Episcopal church to their home in South Sacramento. They decided to give it a try, planning to try other Episcopal churches before making a final decision.
They were delighted to find that the Rector at All Saints, Father Foxworth, was also from San Francisco. Then when he delivered a sermon that included, “This morning I saw a man begging, and I looked him in the eyes and greeted him,” Norma and Bill felt they had found their new church home. “We never did visit any other churches,” relates Norma.
At All Saints, Norma joined the choir where she remained for 15 years. Hardy became an acolyte and Bill did a term on the Vestry. Norma enjoyed many activities and events at All Saints, including organizing a group that explored topics such as the tapestries at the Cloisters in New York. This group provided companionship, community, and education. Norma remembers that Della Knowles and Page O’Connor were part of the group and that Nancy Metzger and her husband, Bob, contributed the most fascinating topics including information gathered from their trips to Russia and Indonesia.
“I loved being in the choir,” Norma proclaims, “and working with Scott Nelson, who was so witty and clever at choir rehearsals. I admire Scott enormously for all he does for the church.” With regrets, Norma left the choir when Bill had kidney failure and needed her care.
Currently, Norma enjoys All Saints “for the companionship with my contemporaries and visiting everyone at coffee hour. And I enjoy the service, too.”
As most of you know, Norma is a published poet. She started writing poetry in Modesto for friends and teachers for special occasions. When she came to Sacramento, she took classes at City College and began writing poetry more seriously. At City College, she ended up working under Maria Hernandez, the re-entry counselor, to help re-entry students, like she had been herself. She found herself attending a poetry group and, after a few years there, she was asked to lead the group. Even though Norma retired a second time, the poetry group is still in existence today and Norma continues to write poetry.
Norma also remembers fondly her five years working with the San Francisco Boys Chorus supervising 50 boys and their costuming and make-up for various performances, including major operas. “Standing in the wings listening to and watching famous opera singers perform was a memorable experience.”
Currently, Norma enjoys sharing her home with Oliver, her 14-year-old cat, and the hummingbirds and sparrows who she feeds.
Most of you know that Norma turned 101 on May 21st of this year. Last year she celebrated her 100th birthday with all of us at All Saints, where Norma finds joy in her Daughters of the King group, the music, the family feeling of All Saints, and Reverend Portia. “All Saints has come to be a loving community. People really do love each other—you feel it and it’s nourishing. That atmosphere makes it a joy to be there,” proclaims Norma, “and I love the coffee—it’s good!”