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Staff Spotlight: Norm Reese

Today we want to share with you the story of a longtime staff member, Norm. Norm has worked at the VFW National Home for over twenty years, but he had a rich and colorful work history before that. When Norm first sat down for his interview, and I asked him how he came to work at the National Home, he said, “I never figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up.” Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Norm graduated with his Engineering degree from Febb College (now Cleveland State University) and worked for Cleveland’s local power company for about ten years. He ended up in Michigan working for Jackson Commonwealth Associates, and his twelve-year career with the company took him on adventures all over the world. “I spent two years in Brazil, six months in Pakistan, and two really miserable weeks in Saudi Arabia.” He said with a chuckle. When Norm decided to leave Jackson Commonwealth Associates, he opened his own hardware store and did electrical wiring on the side in the Jackson area for about a decade. During this time, he also taught at Michigan State University in their electrical apprenticeship program; he continues to teach math at MSU part-time. After this chapter in his illustrious career, he worked for almost another decade as a fire inspector. He was often called to testify as an expert witness, and his experiences taking the stand led him to choose another career path, which is where the National Home comes into the picture. Norm ran into Todd Marriott (Facilities and Grounds Director at the VFW National Home for Children). Todd, the Maintenance Supervisor at the time, convinced Norm to join the National Home team as the Fire Inspector for the National Home’s Fire Department. The department was closed only a year or two later, and that’s when Todd, who was newly promoted to Facilities Director, hired Norm to take the Maintenance Supervisor position. “I hated it!” Norm said. “I didn’t like managing people.” He went to Todd and begged him to push him back to being the electrician, and that’s what he has done ever since. He’s 82 years old and has gone down to part-time, but he still serves as the National Home’s chief electrician. “I want to continue working for as long as I’m upright,” says Norm. “These young guys around here take good care of me.” Norm has been married to his wife Judie for sixty years and has two sons, a granddaughter, and a grandson. He plays bagpipes in the Lansing Glen Erin Pipe Band, which may lead you to think he might be Scottish, but nope, he’s Hungarian. Click here to see a video of Norm playing his bagpipes for the Early Education Center kids. Norm is an asset to the National Home and an absolute pleasure to work with. He keeps himself busy, always thinking of the next thing he wants to try out, and always with a smile or a chuckle. Thank you, Norm. We’re glad your journey of figuring out what you wanted to be when you grew up led you to us.

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