Updated 12/22/04

Tribute Poem


Your friend, Syl’s love, my mother.
How we miss her here with us.
We know, however, that her indomitable spirit will endure.


Norma Alexander Robichek
Born December, 1925
Did weather her storms
In a way we would strive.

Originally Oppenheimer
In a life former
And to her brother Richard
She was always his Normer.

Daughter of Esther and Bert
Stubborn, some might say
Pushing her mother’s buttons
Each and every day.

For she just wouldn’t eat
Esther’s carefully prepared meals
Food flew out the window
As if on wheels.

She was quite thin
And her mother was concerned
After a visit to the doctor
The prescription was learned.

It was to be bananas
Morning, noon and night
She came to detest the fruit
Declaring “Not another bite!”

Of course, her mother didn’t know
At friends she would dine
Lapping up every last morsel
It was all just divine.

Then there was the matter
Of those cigarette butts
Held together with bobby pins
What she did was just nuts.

She and her friend would light up
A little makeshift toke
Giving new meaning to the term
Second-hand smoke.

She was a good student
And captained her basketball team
We agree that’s surprising
Perhaps it was all just a dream?

Not at all, she claimed
It was because she was tall
Too bad she had problems
Though, with catching the ball.

Then it was on to Queens College
A subway ride away
From her home in Manhattan
An exciting time, she would say.

For young Frankie Sinatra
Had burst on the scene
He was skinny and pimply
Yet attracted every teen.

Our Norma was quite taken
With this cool master of swing
She would have traded all her men
To have just one fling.

Alas it was not to be
So she did not tarry
She found a handsome lad to wed
His name was Larry.

They had a little girl Jane
Three years hence
And a home in Levittown
It all made such sense.

Then one fateful day
Illness just appeared
It was a dreaded disease
That everyone feared.

The next years were rough
So when it was all said and done
Norma and Jane packed up
And settled in the land of sun.

It was there she met Alex
At a Jewish Center dance
Immediately she decided
To give love one more chance.

For Alex was a gem
She knew that was true
So only a few months later
They both said “I do.”

Now Norma had a husband
And Jane a dad
In short succession they produced
Another lass and a lad.

The family was complete
With Jane, Mark and Sue
And heaven forbid we forget
Curley, Pooky and Noush too.

She was proud of her children
So different from each other
Yet alike in their belief
That she was a great mother.

Alas those years were marked
By a personal style lost
In the failed effort to sustain
A perm and a frost.

Another memorable misstep
Was her penchant for Jean Naté
To Sue and Mark its odor
Was like month-old paté.

She was a professor’s wife
Yet to her plants she did speak
An interesting dichotomy
For diversity she did seek.

She reveled in motherhood
Did yoga pre-aerobics
And in her spare time
Worked with felons and phobics.

It was a wonderful life
As Jimmy Stewart would say
Nineteen years of happiness
Nothing stood in the way.

There were hikes in the mountains
And trips to the sea
Wherever the family went
Was the best place to be.

Tragedy again did strike
When Alex passed away
Everything seemed so bleak
But then came a new day.

She met an interesting man
By the odd name of Syl
He divorced, she widowed
They both knew the drill.

A date here and there
An occasional sail
Until she was ready
To forge a new trail.

Set sail they did
To Europe, to Brussels
They traveled all over
And ate lots of mussels.

Then Jane met Bobby
New Yorker, liked Fois Gras
After the stamp of approval
He became S-I-L (son in law).

Norma was bursting with pride
Walking Jane down the aisle
Typically non-traditional
Yet very “Norma” style.

Now the family expanded
With kids Alex and Emily
She became Grandma Norma
And was filled with such glee.

New subjects to teach
How to do the “shoulders dance”
Oh, those African drum beats
She would strike a stance.

A memorable technique
One shoulder up, one down
Neck turned to the side
With only a smile, nary a frown.

Syl would look on bemused
To dance he was loathe
Good thing that Norma moved
Enough for them both.

They took exotic excursions
From Thailand to Turkey
Inhaling Turkish hashish
Made Norma’s mind a bit murky.

Eventually they decided
Of Palo Alto they’d had plenty
They migrated down south
To lovely San Clemente.

A sleepy town on the ocean
With relaxed attitudes
Lots of sun and sand
And bleach blond surf-dudes.

They settled in nicely
Watching sunsets off the pier
A new tradition enhanced
With a gin and a kier.

She appreciated nature
And spoke to her plants
The fact that they thrived
Was not just by chance.

Her plants had the life
But soon got the jitters
As Norma began collecting
Her stuffed little critters.

Her plants and Syl did now share
The house with teddy bears
Soon the family expanded
With small gorillas and hares.

She volunteered at the thrift shop
To do good works
Being able to shop
Was just one of the perks.

“One for you, one for me”
Was her unofficial line
She derived such pleasure
In buying $2 Calvin Klein.

It was only last fall
That she met Sue’s guy
“Dear Karl,” she called him
It was instant love, no lie!

But that was our Norma
If she liked you, you knew
A people enthusiast
Through and through.

So who could have conceived
That we’d gather one day
Without this fine woman
Who paved her own way.

In this celebration of life
We speak little of dying
The Norma we knew
Would not want us crying.

Everyone who knew her
Would immediately find
That she certainly made hay
While the sun shined.

A life sprinkled with sadness
Yet filled with great joy
Each day an adventure
Something new to enjoy.

A sea of superlatives
In a lifelong quest
To discover the newest
Of what was always “the best!”


Sue Robichek
April 7, 2001

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