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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wednesday Cardinal Couple -- In Memorandum


- In memorandum. Norma Burgess. 1938-2012

We depart from the normal UofL women's sports coverage to offer this eulogy for a huge UofL women's sports fan and dear friend....Norma Burgess. 

A year-long battle with brain cancer has taken our pal to the life ever-after. She will be missed by many. She passed away Tuesday afternoon at St Mary's Hospital in Louisville. 

Norma dedicated her life to others. 

A Navy veteran, Girl Scout employee, Zonta Club member and always willing to champion the cause of the needy, downtrodden, down on their luck and those in need. Highly involved in promoting the celebration of women in the horse racing industry. 

Norma was Title IX way before it ever was created.

Two of Norma's many friends...Jo-An (left) and Sheila
I met her years ago. A random seating next to her at maybe her favorite hangout...Churchill Downs. She handicapped the races quite well, she spoke with great knowledge on jockeys, trainers, bloodlines, trends and workouts. She rarely bet...taking satisfaction in the successful results of horses, jockeys and trainers that she would point out had better than average chances of winning races. We became fast friends. She "adopted" Sonja and would quiz me on her whereabouts and status on occasions when I was "flying solo". We were UofL fans. She loved her Cards. 

We would break into song, sometimes. She, John, Doug and I kept the patrons of the Paddock Bar and other track venues entertained with our well-meant (but far from perfect pitch) four-part harmony. If Joe was there, it was Beatles and, although we didn't exactly sound like the "Fab Four"...we weren't that bad. She, John and I formed the "picker-gnat" club...named after the pesky, little flies that would occasionally buzz around the bar area. 

She would always insist I sing "My Old Kentucky Home" with her at the end of the races when it was piped over the public address system.

And, I never refused that request. 

Norma and Mine that Bird trainer Chip Wooley
If she had been a gambler, she probably would have been a millionaire by now. She was that good. That knowledgeable...that accurate. I learned a lot from her over the years on what to look for in horses and those who rode and cared for them. She had her passions and being at the track with friends was one of them. She'd throw a $2 win ticket down from time to time. She loved handicapping "those tricky 10 cent superfectas" with me and we hit more than a few over the years. 

$6 bucks each, five horse superfecta box. She'd pick two, I'd pick two and we'd agree on the final horse. 

I also got to meet her wonderful brother Ron. A Georgia man...fascinated with the world of horse-racing and a staunch friend and supporter of his little sister. He could sing, too and it was one of the highlights of Derby Week when he'd roll into town and we'd "handicap a few" together.

Norma loved her Lady Cards. She attended women's basketball, softball and volleyball for many years. Rejoicing in victories, saddened by losses. She told me once that she loved Angel McCoughtry because of the heart and passion #35 had.

Norma was a hoops player, too....back in the days when there was a center jump after each basket and the uniforms went from under the chin to the top of the shoes.

The look on her face when I gave her a poster of Angel is something I'll never forget. You'd thought Angel herself had shown up and given her the jersey off her back. 

Brother Ron. Norma and Susan Stidham on Thursday of
Derby Week 2012
I saw her last on Kentucky Oaks day back in early May. Feeling the effects of the chemo, the radiation, the demon that is cancer...she still accompanied her brother Ron to watch the races at a simulcasting venue here in town. Kept a lively conversation with me, Sonja, her friends and even picked a few winners out. She was happy. Several days later, she was back in the hospital and it was just a matter of time. 

Cancer stinks.

I choose to remember her the way I saw her that day. Smiling and laughing. Sharing her opinion. Hugging. Living life. 

She didn't have a computer or laptop. She never saw CARDINAL COUPLE but kept a stockpile of our business cards in her purse and would hand them out to people who she thought might enjoy reading about women's sports. 

"Miss Norma" was a friend. She always will be. I wish I had many pictures to share but...sadly, I don't. Always figured there would be time for that. The picture at the top of this article was taken by our buddy Jo-Ann. Me, her and Tom  She kept a special eye on us...the Irish hoodlums. The Martin and Lewis of Churchill. If we were a "rat pack"...she was Frank Sinatra...calm, cool, collected. The "chair-woman."

Our good friend Susan Stidham sent me this picture of her and I. It is, indeed, worth 1000 words. Me and my buddy.

Farewell, old buddy. The world will be a little sadder place without you but good memories, thoughts and memories will be the way I'll remember you. Your "call to the post" is a sad day for us who knew you...but, in the end, another departure which breaks a heart but reminds us that all of us are mortal. 

Gonna miss you, pal. Her birthday was coming up on Friday. She fought hard, remained optimistic to the end that she would win the battle, defeat the big "C". Her inspiration and friendship will be missed by many.

One last song. This one's straight at you, Miss Norma.


Really gonna miss you



  1. I met Miss Norma through you, Paul several years back. She was a great lady and she is in a better place now.


  2. She was a fixture at Churchill until her health went bad. Good times. Thanks for
    writing this Paul.


  3. Can't believe she's gone. Go easy, Norma.


  4. Replies
    1. Thanks for the comments and e-mails everyone. She'll be put to rest Friday at Cave Hill Cemetery at 3 p.m.


    2. Thank You Paul, that was beautiful.

  5. That was beautiful! So glad u were guys were friends! U don't find many people that are good! But she was the best love her she will be missed by many!

    1. This is jenn

    2. Thanks, Jenn. We've developed some great friendships over the years at CD. Miss Norma was certainly one of those. Yourself as well and we treasure your friendship just as much. It's important to tell people that. You never know when the time might come when you may not have that, we luv ya, Jen and I bet I could still beat you one-on-one, game to 21, shooting ONLY from past the free throw line...I'd have NO shot at you under the hoop :)


  6. Paul,
    It breaks my heart to think of the her spot at the bar empty. Norma was a gracious lady who pulled me under her wing and helped me when I was in Silks & Champs. No doubt it would have been a rougher road had she not given me the low down. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on her life. She was a real gem of a human being as are you my friend!


    1. We celebrated Norma's life Friday at Cave Hill Cemetery. Her nephew delivered a beautiful eulogy. I did pretty good until they played Dan Fogelberg's "Run for the Roses" at the end of the ceremony. There were about eighty friends, family and cronies there to remember. I can tell where she got her great personality. A wonderful family.


      That is the key word, really. As her nephew said, she'll never really be gone as one of us are still alive to remember her.



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