Renfrew has lost a community icon in Norm Anderson.
The long-time economic development officer of the Renfrew Industrial Commission, died Monday after a brief illness. He was 70 years old.
Born in Gateshead, England, Anderson immigrated to Canada in 1966.
It was while working for a Montreal aviation firm that he met his future wife, Barbara Butson, in Renfrew.
Anderson retired from the Renfrew Industrial Commission (RIC) in 2010, when Dave Lemkay of Douglas came on as the commission’s executive director. During the transition, Lemkay remembers Anderson as outgoing and supportive.
“He took a caring approach to make sure I was well tutored in the procedures and the business side of the commission,” said Lemkay.
“The last month or two on the job, we attended conferences together, and Norm was a gracious host and introduced me to people he’d been working with for up to 20 years. He was very gregarious.”
“He was a great Renfrew builder,” said Mack Wilson, who has been RIC’s chairman for 21 years.
“He did a great job for the Town of Renfrew. Our mandate was jobs and taxes and he was very conscious of that.”
Not only that, Wilson says, “He was a nice guy. I’m just saddened to bits.”
Some of his key work with the commission as general manager, said Wilson, included moving Scapa Tapes, now Scapa North America, into its current building on Barnet Boulevard; the purchase of the former Wrangler jean factory from Vanity Fair of New York to create a new home for Madawaska Hardwood Flooring; and the quick identification of a new home for Deslaurier Custom Cabinets after a Jan. 1, 2009 fire destroyed its Hall Avenue business.
Barry Breen, who has been industrial commission secretary for 15 years, interacted with Anderson regularly.
“Norm and I saw each other maybe twice a week (when he was working for RIC), and I was always impressed with his open style and innovative ideas,” said Breen.
“I know the Renfrew Industrial Commission is involved with doctor recruitment, and it was he that kind of put the plan together.
“It was through Norm’s initiative that things turned out in that regard.”
Renfrew clerk Kim Bulmer started working with the town in the early 1990s.
“We worked well together, and I thought highly of him,” said Bulmer. “He brought a lot of passion and energy to the commission.”
Anderson, whose deep love of soccer included his fanatical following of Newcastle, was also a key developer of Renfrew minor soccer several years ago.
“The thing about Norm,” said close friend Dan Gilchrist, “is he was quiet about the things he did in the community.
“He was far more active than people realized … He was always a community guy who was doing things that were beneficial for the people of Renfrew. And on a personal note, he was always the first person to be pitching in.”
Anderson and his wife moved out of Renfrew about two years ago, when they spent winters in Mexico and summers at their Ottawa River home near Arnprior.
He is also survived by daughter Melanie, who lives in Finland, and son Lee, who lives in Minnesota.
Other family members include grandchildren Bricker and Lily-Rose, son-in-law Wilson, daughter-in-law Heather, sister Elsie Cooper and husband Ronnie, sister-in-law Gail Haines, brother-in-laws Bill Butson (Lois) and Richard Butson (Carol), and nieces and nephews.
There was no funeral or memorial service. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations to the Renfrew Public Library.