Norma Burnham

Norma Burnham

Norma Burnham


Norma Burnham was born to Otto and Alma (Paxson) Mortensen in Coon Rapids, IA on August 24, 1932. She grew up on a farm near Anita, IA, during the Great Depression. When Norma was a child, she had appendicitis which scarred her reproductive tubes and prevented her from having children until later in life. She often had to walk several miles to and from school. Norma was voted most likely to succeed by her graduating class at Anita High School.

Norma met Robert (Bob) Eugene Burnham through her sister, Grace and Orville Gard. Bob and Norma married on May 6, 1951 in Atlantic, IA. Bob contracted tuberculosis shortly after. Norma worked as a legal secretary in Atlantic and took a train to Iowa City to visit Bob. He lost a lung during the recovery process.

Bob and Norma moved to Kansas City, MO where Bob studied electronics and Norma worked as a legal secretary. After Bob graduated, they moved to Marion, IA. Bob worked as an electronics test technician at Rockwell Collins and Norma worked as a legal secretary at Shuttleworth & Ingersoll in Cedar Rapids. In 1962 they had a house built in Marion and later that decade Norma had an experimental surgery at the University of Iowa which opened her tubes so she could have children.

Norma and Bob were blessed with two boys, Robert (Bobby) Merle in 1969 and Chris Eugene in 1970. She stopped working to raise them and returned to work as a legal secretary when they became teenagers. Bob, Norma, Bobby and Chris went on several vacations from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, visiting the 48 connected states and sleeping in a van that Bob engineered to make beds in the back. Bob passed away from heart and lung failure in 1990. Norma was always there for her boys and finished putting Bobby through college (he earned a BA at University of Northern Iowa in 1991). Chris was attending Kirkwood Community College when he passed away in an automobile accident in 1994.

Norma retired in the late 1990s. She enjoyed traveling and took a trip to Denmark (her father’s home country), Norway and Sweden. She regularly attended United Methodist Church services in Marion until shortly before the COVID pandemic. After that she listened to The Lutheran Hour on Sunday mornings. She loved her independence, continuing to live in the house that she and Bob had built, planting flowers, putting food and water out for the birds in her backyard. She enjoyed driving her car to run local errands until contracting Guillain Barre Syndrome on March 16, 2024. She spent her last two months working hard to recover from GBS before suddenly succumbing to pneumonia on May 17, 2024.

Norma was preceded in death by her husband, Bob and son, Chris; father, Otto and mother, Alma; sister, Bea and brother-in-law, Lester Suplee; sister, June and brother-in-law George Haley; sister, Agnes and brother-in-law, Harry Kauffman; brother, Charles and sister-in-law, Evelyn Mortensen; sister, Helen and brother-in-law, Andy Moore; sister, Grace and brother-in-law, Orville Gard; brother-in-law, Bob (Karen) Kaiser; sister-in-law, Harriet (Burnham) and brother-in-law, Bill Jipsen; several nephews and a great-niece; and close family friends, Jim and Joy Dahlberg.

Norma is survived by her son, Bobby and daughter-in-law Nittaya (Toom); sister, Karen Kaiser; many nieces, nephews, great-nieces, great-nephews and other family; godson, John Dahlberg and the rest of the Dahlberg children, grandchildren, and extended family.

Norma enjoyed writing to stay connected with family and friends. She also enjoyed reading, sports, music and theater. She was a very loving and giving person with a beautiful smile. Norma touched the lives of everyone around her with her kindness, generosity and humility. She will be deeply missed.

Graveside Services will be at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, May 24, 2024 at Atlantic Cemetery in Atlantic, with Pastor Jerry Neal officiating. A luncheon will follow the service at the Schmidt Family Funeral Home community room.

Visitation with the family will be from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 23, 2024 at Schmidt Family Funeral Home, 1804 East 7th Street, Atlantic, IA 50022.

Additional Visitation will be from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., with a Prayer Service at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 30, 2024 at The Chapel at Carnegie, 1298 7th Ave., Marion, IA 52302. Reverend Mike Morgan will officiate.

Memorial contributions may be directed to the family for future designation.

The Schmidt Family Funeral Home of Atlantic is caring for the Burnham family at this time.

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