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Brower

DANVILLE, Va. — Norma Brower, a pillar of the Danville community, has died at age 58.

On Aug. 30, the community held a memorial service in honor of her character. Notable speakers such as Danville Mayor Alonzo Jones, Danville NAACP President Tommy Bennett and Westmorland community advocate Clyde McCoy all told of the strength they found with Brower.

Brower served as vice president of Danville’s NAACP chapter. She also worked within Danville’s housing department to give those without a home a roof over their heads.

According to McCoy, Brower was a selfless woman who voiced her opinion when she felt it was right and kept others accountable for their actions.

“People that she worked with would say that she didn’t really want that recognition for herself,” McCoy said. “She was a person that wanted to do for all and she spoke her mind when she thought somebody wasn’t doing all that they could do.”

McCoy also mentioned that Brower taught him how to work and engage with the community.

“Norma helped me get into being ready for the work that comes with keeping a community together,” he said. “She showed me how things could work.”

Bennett has been struck by Brower’s passing.

“I have been at a loss since the day she passed,” Bennett said. “She was fantastic. She helped everyone.”

Bennett went on to remark how Brower showed respect to everyone.

“She had five kids and 22 grandkids, but she treated everybody like they were family,” she said.

Bennett also noted Brower’s contribution to the surrounding neighborhoods.

“She would go out in the community and buy these old houses from the City of Danville,” he said. “She had them refurbished so that people with low to moderate income can have a beautiful home.”

Brower extended her talents to help the NAACP.

“She even helped me,” Bennet said. “NAACP had never had their own building in Danville.”

Brower would not stand to have the NAACP without a physical space.

“Norma came to me and said, ‘I’ve got a historical grant on Holbrook St. and I think it would make a wonderful NAACP office,'” Bennett said.

With so much support from Brower, Bennett thought it only fitting to ask Brower to be a part of his team.

“When they came to me and asked me to run [for NAACP president], I told Norma ‘I won’t run for president unless you be my vice president,'” Bennett said. “She said, ‘I will.’ And we pulled it off. It was one of the best days of my life.”

Mayor Jones shared a story about one of the community kindnesses Brower contributed.

“On Jefferson Street and Jefferson Avenue, right there on the corner, there was a home that was flooded. When that home was flooded, we had no idea there was a senior citizen that was living in that home,” Jones said. “There was a tremendous amount of water damage to that home.”

The water issues for the home were due to malfunctioning pipes.

“There was a piping issue and the water from the city was leaking from underneath the ground. They would have to tear the house down.” Jones said.

When the family asked the city for help, Brower jumped into action.

“Norma said, ‘I’ve got good news. There’s a home on Holbrook Street. We’ve got grant money to remodel the house,'” Jones remembered. “’Would this be a place your mother would like to live in?’ And the mother, at 95 years old, fell in love with the house.”

Jones described that this was not a unique action by Brower.

“Oftentimes people would call me as the mayor and asks me, ‘Is there any money any grant, anything that would help me as a home owner? I really don’t have a lot of finances,’” Jones said. “I would call Norma and she never told me no.”

According to Jones, this level of kindness and respect was common for Brower.

“She would meet with them; she would call them back [about the homes]. This is the type of personality she had. Even though she was from New Jersey, she came to Danville and had a passion for Danville.” 

Susie Powell, the daughter of the woman whose house had flooded, remembers Brower fondly.

“She was a wonderful person and she’s going to be dearly missed,” Powell said.

Powell described the story of her mother’s home being flooded in a little more detail.

“My mother’s home was flooded twice and my mother owned the home,” Powell said.  

The former home was left in the family by Powell’s father.

“My mother and father were married 73 years. Daddy made sure that momma had a home when he left,” she said. “But after the flood came in, I don’t know where the water came from. Nothing like that had ever happened [for over two decades] in that house.”

The way that Brower treated Powell’s mother’s relocation was remarkable to Powell.

“Norma told me she would treat my mother like her mother,” she said. “Norma helped us right much and I really appreciate all she’s done for my family. I thank God for Norma getting a place for my mother.”

Staff Writer

Tom Dixon is a staff writer for the Star-Tribune. Tom graduated from Longwood University and is a Chatham native.

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