Remembering Norm McEwen

norm Norm McEwen at the 2007 CSA conference

Last week, Norm McEwen of Ottawa, a longstanding member of and valued contributor towards the Canadian Stuttering Association, passed away. His good humour, pleasant nature and devotion to the CSA and other causes he believed in will be remembered. We will miss him! Here, Richard Inomata remembers his friend Norm.

It is with sadness that I share with friends of the stuttering community that one of its greatest ambassadors and champions, Norm McEwen, passed away suddenly in Ottawa on Sunday, September 21, 2014, much too soon at the age of 74. When Norm’s daughter called to inform us, we were in shock. I had just spoken with Norm the day before and we were planning to get together.

Norm touched the lives of so many people around him. I was one of those lucky people. I first met Norm over 30 years ago as a client at the Speech Language Pathology Department of the Rehabilitation Centre in Ottawa. Later, in 1985, Norm and I took a three-week intensive program together with Marie Poulos, our SLP. We had both previously been through an intensive program. Norm and I would call each other regularly for practice. We became steadfast friends. That was thousands of phone calls ago. Over the years, we phoned each other on a regular basis for practice. Some weeks, I would speak with him every day.

Norm was one of a kind with a heart of gold and a wonderful sense of humour. He took tremendous pride in his children and his grandchildren. Whether it was picking up his grandchildren for activities or taking them for a treat or picking up family friends at the airport, family and friends always came first. Norm never forgot a birthday or special event. There would always be a card in the mail.

He was an inspiration to those around him. He did not allow his stutter to determine who he was. He retired after a successful career as a chemist in the Public Service of Canada. He kept busy, even in retirement. I would often feel exhausted just listening to what he had planned for the day.

Norm was one of the founders of the Ottawa Self-Help Group for People who Stutter which became known as Speechmasters of Ottawa. From its beginnings, Norm was the rock and cornerstone of the group. It was through his determination and leadership that the group continues to meet to this date on a regular basis as the Ottawa Association for People Who Stutter.  The OAPWS will miss his presence tremendously.

Norm was always there to help others and to give back to the program that had helped him so much. Norm would return to the Speech Language Pathology Department on a regular basis to help out on new intensive programs and refresher courses or to speak with new patients at the clinic. He gave stuttering a face through a number of media interviews over the years.

When Marie Poulos passed away as a result of a car accident, the Ottawa Self-Help Group decided to host an international conference for people who stutter in Ottawa in 1993. It was a small way to pay tribute to Marie and the many lives she helped to change, including ours. Norm was instrumental as a Co-Chair in the success of the conference. The bilingual conference brought together participants from around the world as wells as the Canadian Association for People who Stutter (CAPS) and the Association des bègues du Canada (ABC), a Francophone group based in Quebec.

Norm played a key role in the creation of the CAPS constitution at the Ottawa conference and was a long-time member of the Board of Directors of CAPS (later renamed the Canadian Stuttering Association or CSA). He was the voice of the CSA and the first point of contact for people calling the toll-free line for years. He would return calls from people seeking help or direct calls appropriately. He recently stepped down from the Board but remained as a member of the CSA Advisory Board. He also actively supported and volunteered for organizations, including the Special Olympics and Big Brothers.

When the phone rings at work, I’m sure I will be thinking that it's Norm calling for our practice. I will miss our calls but most of all I will miss our friendship. I am grateful and blessed to have had Norm in my life.  I will cherish my many fond memories of Norm. He was an example for all of us. He loved. He laughed. He lived.

Rest in peace, Norm.  I will miss you, my friend.

Richard is on the Advisory Board of the CSA. He co-chaired the Ottawa Conference for People who Stutter in 1993 and the Vancouver Conference in 1997.

If you wish to make a donation to the  CSA in memory of Norm, please use the donation button on the left.

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