Norma Deering 1939-2023

Born on a Dundee, Ohio farmhouse kitchen table on June 30, 1939, Norma June Herman grew up as what the Amish call “English.” She was a member of the Winesburg Church of Christ. Until she was in high school, her classmates were mostly Amish boys and girls.
Norma was the only child of Raymond and Martha Herman and the only grandchild of Charlie and Lucy Wingire Stotzel. Norma lost her mother when she was 6 and her father died when she was 15. She was attending high school at Beach City, Ohio but moved to live with her father’s sister, Erma Shaw and her husband Worthy on their farm near Strasburg, Ohio. At Strasburg High School, she played the trombone and acted in the school plays.
Norma graduated as valedictorian of her high school class and enrolled at Kent State University, graduating Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology. She followed up with a Master’s Degree in Bacteriology from Purdue University.
Prior to graduating from Purdue, Norma had set a goal to obtain her PhD at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. However, after several months there, her major professor informed her and her friend Judy Gerber, that he wouldn’t be awarding them doctorates because “women deny opportunities to men because they get married and have babies.”
Norma walked out.
She moved to the University of Cincinnati where she earned her PhD in microbiology under a woman, Dr. Emily J. Bell.
One Sunday Cincinnati evening, Norma provided “wheels” to her Jordanian roommate, Diana Sahla, so she could speak to a young adults group at Clifton United Methodist Church about Jordan. It was there that Norma met Rollie Deering, an associate editor for The Farm Quarterly magazine.
Soon thereafter, Rollie returned to Yuma to farm and Norma accepted a fellowship to do post doctorate research in virology at the University of Michigan where she hoped to find viruses that would have appetites for bacteria. She discovered a bacteriophage in the Ann Arbor sewage ponds that had a taste for Acinetobacter strain 78, a Gram-negative bacteria that is frequently involved in pneumonia and wound infections. The P78 phage specifically attacks Acinetobacter strain 78.
Norma presented her findings at the national American Society for Microbiology convention. Her work was published in the Journal of Microbiology in January 1974.
Meanwhile, Norma and Rollie continued to correspond by letters during her time in Ann Arbor. Later, she applied and received job offers from both the University of Arizona and Fort Hays – Kansas State University, She accepted the offer from Fort Hays where she taught microbiology classes to premed and predental students for three years.
Norma and Rollie made reciprocal trips East and West. One weekend, Norma caught a millet seed hull in her eye while they were feeding cows. She needed to have Dr. Jack Pearse remove it.
On another occasion, on their way their way home from a Saturday night date at the Yuma Theatre Norma asked, “What is going to become of us?” Rollie said, “Is that a proposal?”
“Yes”, replied Norma.
Rollie then said, “Let’s do it.” They announced their engagement the next morning at breakfast to Rollie’s brother Ward and their father, Artie.
Norma continued to teach microbiology at Fort Hays for another year before Artie, Ward, and Rollie washed out their cattle trailer and hauled her belongings—including her upright piano—to 606 South Birch Street where Rollie had purchased his Grandma Christina Olsen’s house. They were married at the Yuma United Methodist Church on June 15, 1975.
Although they had intended to build a country home, Dr. Pearse encouraged the Yuma Hospital’s laboratory director, John Patterson, to give Norma a call. She was soon working in the lab as a volunteer but was not officially hired for another six weeks. She stayed on for 23 years.
Rollie and Norma’s only child, John Arthur was born on January 19, 1978, in the Yuma Hospital after she drew patient’s blood as a phlebotomist earlier that day.
Although she was frequently called out in the dead of night, she found hospital work highly satisfying, especially when she could find a “bug” and recommend a treatment. Yuma was one of the few rural hospitals with someone of her qualifications. The Yuma doctors were comfortable faxing ahead recommendations to Denver physicians.
She stayed on at YDH until she began to think about a career that was less demanding, allowing her to spend more time with her family. When Farmland Industries established its hog farms, Norma applied.
One perk she had with Farmland was training in the Netherlands and John flew to Holland with her. He was able to travel with artificial insemination technicians breeding sows in Holland and Belgium. He wrote home, “It won’t be long before I have piglets running all over Europe.” After 10 years with Farmland, Norma retired and looked forward to spending more time with Rollie and John while awaiting the biggest joy of her life, grandchildren.
The open class baking competition at the Yuma County Fair is fierce, but it was no match for Norma. Her biggest joy was in scheduling the cooking appointments for each of the four grandchildren so they could get some serious one on one cooking lessons from Grandma. Her biggest joy in recent years was to spend time watching the grandchildren in their activities, or simply hanging out with them at home.
Norma leaves behind her husband Rollie, her son John and wife Tiffany and their children Hannah, Addison, Grace, and A.J., brother-in-law Ward Deering, numerous Ohio and North Dakota relatives, plus friends far and wide.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday, at 10 A.M. on October 7th at the Yuma Methodist Church. Interment will be in the Yuma Cemetery.