Reflections of our year 2021 #245

Reflections of our year 2021 #245

Reflections of our year 2021

In Blog 244 I talked about My son James turns 21 so I take him out. In this blog I wanted to talk about Reflections of our year 2021


So, in 2019 I started my blog. I started the blog to share my life experiences and how the footwear industry helped shape me into the person I am today. The experiences in managing people and helping them to grow were certainly a big part of that. The other side of this is the people I’ve been close to in my family that also shaped me into who I am today. I am now 62 years old. I have lost most of my close family and have been reflecting this month on them and all the great times we had. In this post, I want to talk about them since the original post, Blog #18, was  published in 2019. It’s hard to capture the essence of all these wonderful people in a paragraph so hopefully I do them all justice.


Grandma Doris


Born in Mahaska, Kansas November 21, 1912

Died September 2, 1999 Fresno, California


My grandmother Doris taught me to enjoy life. My grandmother usually played second fiddle to my grandfather who was a master storyteller. She would sit in her recliner and give me a nod for truth or a shake of the head for “not so true”. Usually once a month she would call me up and ask me to go on a “date”. I was only 8 at the time this started but it went through my teenage years. We would go to lunch at a nice place like the Velvet Turtle and a movie.


My grandfather didn’t like to go to the movies, so this was her way to do something she enjoyed. I remember her taking me to the original True Grit at the Country Squire theater in Fresno. Another notable movie was Jaws which scared me and gave me second thoughts about swimming in the ocean. We would talk about life stuff and all her adventures since they travelled extensively.


She was the best cook too. Her pie crust is still one of the best I’ve ever had. She made them all too. Pumpkin, Apple, lemon meringue, peach, berry, pecan and even a grape pie once. We would go over during the holidays and she had a spread of amazing dishes including a pie or a cheesecake. She made this jello I still try to make even today. It had black cherries and topped with cream cheese and walnuts. I don’t remember anything she made that I didn’t like. She was always interested in my life experiences. In her earlier days she was a nurse and I still have one of the hats she wore.


Her health was failing around the age of 87 so we went to see her. It was like a scene from the notebook where she didn’t recognize me and all of a sudden, I had 5 minutes of grandmother again. It was a great 5 minutes. We remanence all the great times we had together. The kids and I were going to Disneyland for the weekend, and I told her we would stop by on the way back. She passed while we were still in Southern California.


Grandpa Bill “Doc” Osterholtz


Born in St. Louis Missouri, February 2, 1914

Died January 26, 2010 Fresno California


My Grandfather, William  “Doc” Osterholtz was born February 2, 1914 in St Louis Missouri. It was always easy to remember his birthday since it was on “groundhog day”. His parents were William Frederick and Johanna Maria Osterholtz. He had a brother Henry and a sister Norma. He always told stories of how affectionate his dad was and he would imitate how his father walked.  He had fond memories of helping his father out as a vet.


He learned to drive from his father in a Model T. He Was in the army from 1931 to 1935 only in the USA where he started veterinary school. He met my grandmother Doris Hamm in college at a 10 cent dance, My grandmother smoked, which he did not like, so he made it clear he wouldn’t marry a girl who smoked. She quit and they married 2 months later in the army base in Kansas. My grandmother was a wonderful cook but at first she didn’t know how so she learned from grandpa’s mother. She made the best pies I have ever tasted even to this day. He got tired of the army so he kept in veterinary school. His father was a vet as well as his brother. He graduated from Kansas State University with a degree in Veterinary Medicine.


His first job was with the Texas Dept. of Agriculture where he tested cattle for TB. One funny story was my grandmother was with him while he tested the cattle, and someone told my grandmother to stay away from the bull. She stepped into the cows anyways and the bull started to chase her to the point she had to jump over the fence to get away.


To show appreciation for putting him through college he bought his father a 37 Chrysler which he kept until he died. He bought his mother a leather handbag too which she also kept until she died. Two years later he transferred to Michigan. Another two years passed and they moved to Vermont. My grandmother got pregnant in Vermont right before they were to move again to New York.  Their first child, my mother was born in Utica, New York April 12, 1937. They decided to name her Wilma. 2 more years passed and he moved to St. Luis as a meat inspector which he did not like. They moved to Oklahoma City where he started working for the Federal Govt. My Uncle Gary was born in 1942. He stayed there 5 years and then moved to Las Vegas in 1945.


He met Dean Martin in Las Vegas and told stories of when “Bugsy Siegel” got shot. He didn’t really want the kids to grow up in Las Vegas so they moved to Fresno, Calif. where my mom graduated from high school. My uncle Gary joined the Air Force which my grandfather was very proud of. They visited him while being stationed in Japan many years later.  He bought one of the first TV’s and commented in the early years the “tubes” kept blowing out.


Growing up as a kid, I remember how special the holidays were especially Christmas. Grandpa would dress in a red vest and each of his grandsons also had the same vest. I remember many years later I surprised him as an adult showing up in an adult version of the red vest and of course he was wearing his still. Grandpa loved telling stories every time we came over. He loved smoking a good cigar and working on cars.


I remember my first “fast” car, a 1973 Grand Torino he helped me fix up. We had the best time together in his garage and had some great talks about life and the future. We really bonded during those years. We would go to the auto store, and he’d be dressed in his oily overalls and say he was from “Holt motor company” to get a discount.


He liked to “nickname” people, my grandmothers name was “skip”, my uncle Gary’s nickname was “Bud” and my mom’s nickname was “Sis”. I remember when my kids came over one time he called my son James “Jimmy” and My daughter Jennifer “Jenny”. They were really young at the time and they both blurted out “that’s not my name”.


My brother Doug was getting into trouble as a teenager while my parents were going through a divorce, so he took my brother away to Texas for a year to straighten him out. I don’t think he liked the music my brother listened to because he commented “how many times can you listen to a song that just says “let the good times roll” over and over.


My grandfather was a very warm and loving man, we would go to the store, and he would be very friendly with all the clerks. And if they were young and cute, he would flirt with them in a harmless way. Always laughed and had a good time.


My grandfather retired from the Federal Government and began to work for the State of California. He retired again for good in 1976. He traveled to Europe and Asia with my grandmother. We lost my grandmother in 1999 which broke his heart, they were married for 66 years. Ten Years later my uncle would pass away, June 2009. He was always so proud of my uncle and loved visiting him at his ranch in Crawford Texas. My grandfather was pretty sharp up until the time he passed. I remember going out to dinner the last time I saw him and we had a great talk much like the ones in the garage. While we were waiting for our table he decided to sit on this curb. When it was our time, he stood straight up. I was amazed how nimble he still was. I miss those garage talks…


Uncle Gary & Aunt Brenda Osterholtz


My Uncle was a lifelong Air Force man. He lived in Texas so I didn’t get to see him as much as I would have liked. He had many stories like my grandfather and his, were mostly around his travels in the Airforce and fast cars. He was a great guy and I looked up to him with awe, being a dedicated servant to our country. His wife was really easy to talk to and like my grandmother, let my uncle do most of the talking. I’m sure it was different at home. They had a daughter, Shauna who also lives in Texas today. Sadly my uncle passed away at an early age from MS and his wife from diabetes.


Grandpa Bill Normart


Born July 20, 1910 Fresno California

Died February 8, 2006


My Grandfather, William Normart was born on July 20, 1910. His father was Onig  Normart. My Grandfather would often tell stories of how when he was only 5 years old that he would go to the firehouse where his dad worked and he would get to slide down the pole to the first floor. When the fire alarm would go off the firemen would light the fire under the steam pumper and then drop the harnesses on the horses and off they would go. His father was the first assistant chief.


In 1917 his dad quit the fire department and bought a ranch in Madera so he actually did have to walk a mile to school! Christmases were very eventful and he recalled his Uncle Armen putting 5 dollar gold pieces inside the walnut shells that would hang on the tree and each child would get one. He went to elementary school at the Fresno Normal school which eventually became Fresno State College. In 1920 his father started taking him to the mountains, Yosemite, Sequoia and Huntington Lake. It would take them a day and a half to get there in the Model T they had (as compared to 1 1/2 hours now). He recalls times that they would have a tough time getting the car up the mountain and would have to push a ways then put a big rock behind the tires so they could rest a bit before they started up again. 4 cylinder Dodges would pass them by often so his dad eventually bought one and solved the car problem. They often camped at Will O’ the Wisp store (which I also remember as a child).


He held different jobs as a young man and working at a service station he joined a fraternity in which he met his future brother-in-law Mike Avakian. My Grandmother Sevart (Si) Avakian met my grandfather at her brother Mike’s service station where grandpa asked her to a dance.


Grandpa would go to plays my grandmother was in with Mike and soon they found themselves seeing each other more often. After a year of courtship they married November 9th, 1935. Mike Avakian was grandpa’s best man. They went to San Francisco for their honeymoon. My Dad was born October 19th, 1936 and Grandpa was so proud he named him after his name. On May 7, 1942 they had a daughter Linda. Grandpa was learning to become a machinist, so he worked 8 hours at one job then another 8 hours learning the trade. He did this until 1944 then having enough money he started his own shop. 6 months later he became the machinist for Sandstorm Mfg. Co. Grandpa would often make his own parts to fix peoples machines.


In 1970 the company sold, and grandpa retired a few years later. In 1958 My grandmother wanted a cabin at Huntington Lake, so they bought a shell of a cabin and the family pitched in and did all the work to get it ready. They travelled the mountains getting various rocks and made a retaining wall and BBQ pit. They travelled Europe, All over the USA and Hawaii. The fondest memories however were from the Cabin at Huntington Lake.


Like I mentioned earlier he was a machinist by trade which I always found fascinating because his hands were so big. Picture an old timers catchers mitt with the big fingers and that was his hand. Yet he could do the most intricate detail. He would always explain everything he did, he was an amazing teacher. Part of that also was he had a very gruff voice sometimes. Seriously he would scare the hell out of you when he raised his voice but he was also a gentle teddy bear. He taught me to clean a fish, bait a hook, split wood, use a jig saw to cut wooden fish and bears for his cabin. He also played a mean game of horseshoes.


I spent a lot of time with him every summer at their cabin at Huntington lake. I think fondly of those summers even now. Grandpa was a great role model for me, very hard working, and very loyal to my grandmother. I remember catching my first fish with him and he was so patient in teaching me what he knew. I miss him so much but feel very fortunate to have had him in my life for so long. Grandpa passed away February 2006.


Grandma “Si” Servart


Born January 4, 1914 Fresno California

Died September 28, 2008


Grandma Si made all her grand kids feel like they were the favorite, she was amazing. She was seriously the most incredible person I’ve ever met. She made the best Armenian food, from grape leaves to pilaf which I still try to replicate now. Like my Grandma Doris she was an incredible cook. Her specialty was Armenian food, and she did it well. The way she did it was an all day event because she did most everything from scratch even the yogurt or “Madzoon” as she called it in Armenian. She made this incredible dish called “Soo Berag”which basically was Armenian lasagna except instead of lasagna noodles she used phyllo dough. I was going to try to make it myself, but it was complicated so haven’t yet tried it. I loved watching her roll the grape leaves and hollow out the vegetables for dolma. I have done a pretty good job in making her famous pilaf which my daughter now makes as well.


She was always in a good mood except when grandpa would beat her at cribbage. She was gentle, kind and very attentive to listening to you no matter what age you were. When we went to the cabin my brothers and I would want to go fishing, my grandpa in a very gruff voice would say “ you can’t catch fish in this lake right now”. My grandma in the most calm and compassionate voice would say “oh Bill, take the boys fishing”, and he usually would.  She taught me the box step one afternoon ( which to this day is the only thing I’m confident of lol) and many years later I danced with her at a wedding and she asked me how I learned this step and I proudly told her “ you did grandma”. It made her proud.


My grandmother called me every Sunday at 10 am and would always start out with a “Michael…” in the most cheerful voice you could ever hear. We talked about life stuff, and she always gave great advice and told me how proud she was of me every time. She did this until she passed away at the amazing age of 95. I miss those talks.


My Dad,  William Normart jr.


Born October 19, 1936 Fresno California

Died October 10, 2015 Spokane, Washington


My Father, William “Bill” Normart Jr., died Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, he was 78. I remember Tamara calling me while I was at the gym. “Your dad is being rushed to ICU!”. my father had survived a triple by-pass three months earlier and the doctors thought he was strong and would be ok. “Do I need to fly out there?” I said? She said the Doctors thought he would be ok. 30 minutes later I get the call, “Michael, he’s gone…” I was crushed. How could this be. We had so much more to do together. Luckily I have no regrets as we were really close.


My dad’s parents were Sevart “Si” and William Normart and his sister is Linda Garvin who still lives in the Clovis area. He attended schools in Fresno and served in the U.S. Army, returned to Fresno and attended Fresno State College


In 1959, my parents were married and my dad went to work for Sears Roebuck and Co.  This was also the year that I was born December 18th.


He worked his way into management and was a loyal employee for 40 years. My parents divorced in 1979 and my dad moved to Idaho as manager of the two catalog stores, one in Lewiston and one in Clarkston. In 1987, Sears built a new retail store and he chose to stay with the Lewiston location and moved from catalog back to the retail division of Sears.


He married Roberta “Tamara” Rose in 1993. He retired in 1999.In 2006, my dad agreed to manage the Habitat Store that was opening in Lewiston. He planned to spend a year and loved it so much he worked until June 2010.


My dad loved tennis, having played with the 6 a.m. tennis group since the early 1980s. He was also an avid fisherman and golfer. My dad planted a garden every year and was always delighted at harvest time. He loved living in Lewiston because sports/fishing was only 10 minutes from home and tennis only seven minutes; plus there are multiple golf courses to choose from in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley.


My dad shared his love of fishing, tennis and golfing with his family and friends. He also enjoyed spending time traveling with his wife, Tamara, visiting friends and family across the country as well as attending U.S. Open tennis tournaments. He would often “stop by” in Vegas on his way to Indian Wells tennis tournament as well.


I remember fondly all the fishing trips we had, he would often say at the beginning “we’re gonna murder em!” sometimes we did and other times not so much. The best part was just spending time with him all day. He loved black licorice and before his heart problems he would get a bucket of KFC mixed original recipe and crunchy.


When I was younger he would take me hunting, ducks, dove, pheasant were the main ones. We would get up at 4am, he would make piping hot tomato soup and put into a thermos and get the KFC he bought the day before and we were off. We had so much fun together and he was a great teacher on how to do things.


The fact is he was good at almost everything. He could fix anything, whenever he used to visit when I purchased my first home half the time he would help me install things like ceiling fans or fix the plumbing or electrical. Later on I would tell him what I needed as I just wanted to spend time with him.


My dad was super competitive too, when I was a young man in my twenties I was able to keep up with him and we shared beating each other equally. As time went on I didn’t play as much but he still continued playing in tournaments almost every year.


I started playing a little bit in my 50’s and I remember him calling me out one day while he was visiting from Idaho. He said “ I bet you won’t even get one game on me today”. Problem was I feared he would be right. I had been taking lessons to get my groove back but he knew how to run me around, dinking shots here and there to get me winded. It worked…It was 0-5 my serve, if he broke me again he would be right. I dug real deep. Imagine the deepest cavern in the ocean deep. I aced him with my power serve 3 times in a row. I knew I had him. He got the next point but I wanted to put him away so I did. I cant believe even to this day I was so happy to prove him wrong.


My dad was pretty frugal too. I remember one time I was coming up to visit with him and I bought him a bottle of Grey Goose vodka. He loved vodka drinks so I thought I’d treat him. I knew he was still drinking the cheap stuff so I told him I was going to bring some premium vodka for him. We get there and he tells me he has Premium vodka. I looked at him kind of bewildered like “since when?” he pulls out a plastic bottle that says “Premium vodka”, always the comedian.


While he was frugal with the vodka his wine choices were even more so. He would try to say “Pinot Noir” in a way it sounded fancier but it was still a $4 bottle. Everytime I went up there I’d send a case of good wines for us to enjoy together. One year for his birthday I bought him a 150 dollar bottle. I told him to save it for a special occasion. He says one night “tonight is special” after several bottles already. We open it up and decide only one glass each then he could enjoy the rest during the week.


One year later we come up again and go through the case I sent. And he gets up and says. “I think I still have a good bottle you sent me”. He brings out the corked $150 bottle we opened the year prior. “Dad that will be like vinegar now”. He drank it anyways which probably wasn’t too far off from his 4 dollar bottles lol.


My dad was pretty funny. I think I definitely took that trait on as did my younger brother David. He would often send me jokes by email and preface it by “who sends me this stuff?” he liked comedy records and I loved watching him crack up at the Pink Panther movies.


(click the link for a good laugh)That was the best.


I learned a lot from my dad early on as I stated in earlier blogs, teaching me the value of attention to detail. He also taught me to believe in myself and “if it’s to be it’s up to me”. My dad was my biggest cheer leader it made me happy when he was proud of me, I tried my best to make him proud often. I would often call my dad especially the last 5 years, on the way to work. We would talk retail and life stuff for twenty minutes each day. I miss those talks….


I often get choked up now when I think of him. He was such a strong force in my life, I think that’s why I try my best to do the same with my kids and my extended family at work. This usually happens when I have a drink outside and am barbequing something as he loved to BBQ.


Love you dad…


Uncle Joe Garvin


Born May 2, 1940 in Fresno County

Died December 20, 2021


My Uncle Joe was always someone I looked up to, mainly because he was huge, especially when I was a little guy. He was just a big muscular guy who loved the outdoors. Definitely a gentle giant and man could he bbq!


He would make the best tri-tip ever. He taught me how to use a “Pigs tail’ utensil which is a bbq tool with a little hook that resembles a pigs tail. Great for flipping steaks. He would press on the meat while he cooked to be able to tell how done it was. He gave me the run down using the thumb test which I use today and they always come out great.


I have fond memories of going to their house in the country part of Clovis, California which was right next door to Fresno. They raised livestock and he also was a beekeeper as a hobby. He was an avid hunter and always had venison on hand.  We would ride horses and shoot clay pigeons with our shotguns.


He never raised his voice except if there was a story going on he was passionate about. He made his career at PG&E and did well for himself. He had the mindset, work hard and it will pay off. It worked for him as he could do all the things he loved. I always admired him for that and think part of my work ethic I have now I learned from him too as well as my dad. Two great role models.


Sadly we lost my uncle this year. I went to go see him as we knew it was his time but he passed a few hours before I was able to say goodbye. My memories of him and that handlebar mustache he sported for so many years are still intact though.


Aunt Linda Garvin


My Aunt Linda is the nicest person I’ve ever met. She is always calm and has the personality that always makes you feel loved and welcomed. She was very close to my dad so we saw each other frequently growing up. She’s the type of person you immediately feel comfortable talking to, which is why she can talk to anyone with ease. I learned a lot from her on how you should treat people with kindness. She is always thoughtful of others especially around the holidays. She is an amazing cook as well, keeping with the traditional Armenian cuisine my grandmother would make. I love spending time with her and just wish we lived closer. She still lives in the Clovis area


My Mom Wilma  “Osterholtz” Normart


While my Father was my mentor as I explained in blog 14, I learned alot from my mom too. She was very artistic being a Teacher for art class in Fresno. Unfortunately she let her credentials expire but she still enjoyed painting.

She was also talented in making flower arrangements. Mom made all the decorations we had in our house. And they all looked amazing. My brother Dave and my son James must have recieved her Artistic gene as they both are artistic too.


Loyalty trait


My Mom was very loyal to my father and later was my brother Doug’s champion when he got into mischief. Always there for him no matter what. Probably some interesting stories she hasn’t told us yet and not certain I want to even know.


Enchiladas and Meatloaf were my favorites that my mom made. Her Enchilda casserole will end up on my website as part of the favorite recipes tab. It’s still one of my favorites.


She was a “Shoe Dog” for a minute. She finally worked as a shoe salesperson when my parents got divorced. She sold kid’s shoes at a Stride Rite store. Her stories were pretty comical because I lived them too in my own career.


Muttly was our family dog growing up and the bond between my mom and her was unbreakable. More than likely, it’s what kept that dog around for 16 years. Mutt had a comical personality just like my Mom so they were perfect for each other.


2021 & 2020


Covid has changed alot of things for everyone. it’s been a crazy few years. It doesn’t matter what side of politics you are on, we can all agree it hasn’t been easy for anyone. From wondering if we will have enough toilet paper or even food, to the ever on going mask and vaccine debate. It has torn families and friends apart.  I think reflection is a great tool to bring yourself back in. I know for myself I have changed over the years and maybe just maybe, people around me haven’t so much.



In closing


I still feel fortunate to have both my brothers, three couisins, my kids and and a really handsome grandson who carries my first name. My brother’s kids and my cousins kids, so our family is still quite large but just different generations now. Part of growing as a person is learning from the people you are close too.  Also friendships are important as well. I am blessed to have many amazing people I call my friends.


What I’ve shared about my Influencers growing up as a kid doesn’t do them justice. But I lived it and the memories are still fresh. Memories can be good or bad sometimes and fortunately for me, most of mine were good. I learned different things from all these great people and it has helped mold me into the person I am today.


The other piece of this as I’ve realized recently is it’s easy to get caught up in your own life especially if you move away. It’s important to let people know you are thinking of them and that they are special to you. Life seems long sometimes but is relatively short in the grand scheme of things, make sure the people who have made you feel special also know they are special too.


…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career.

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