The seemingly irrepressible Norma Jean Bauerschmidt, 91 — the much-loved ‘star’ of the Facebook page ‘Driving Miss Norma‘ — has died in bed in her motor home, in the midst of enjoying her life on the road with son Tim and daughter-in-law Ramie.
Bauerschmidt had joined the couple in their peripatetic lifestyle after receiving a diagnosis in June last year, aged 90, of stage-4 uterine cancer. “A tiny woman at 101 pounds and under five-feet tall, an exhausted Norma looked the young doctor dead in the eye and with the strongest voice she could muster, said, ‘I’m 90-years-old, I’m hitting the road,'” Ramie wrote on Facebook, about the meeting in which her mother-in-law was presented with her treatment options. Bauerschmidt’s husband of 67 years, Leo, had died two days earlier and so, instead of cancer treatment, the nonagenarian decided to spend her own remaining days touring the United States in an Airstream trailer.
With Tim and Ramie and their poodle, Ringo, she visited national parks, attended county fairs and whale-watched off the coast of Washington, as millions followed her odyssey via the Facebook page. An obituary in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quoted from an earlier interview with Bauerschmidt, in which she said that of her adventures to that point — ziplining, riding in a St. Patrick’s Day Parade, being VIP guests at an NBA game, getting her first and next tastes of lobster and Key lime pie — her favorites included a hot-air balloon ride (a dream her husband had shared) and touring the new U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier.
She died last Friday and her family announced her passing on Facebook with an image of Bauerschmidt’s clasped hands, and a phrase from the Persian mystic poet Rumi:
“Life is a balance
between holding on and letting go.”
“We are letting go,” they added.
By Saturday afternoon, the Facebook post had been viewed more than two million times, and been commented on by more than 30,000 people, according to Mashable.
There will be a celebration of Bauerschmidt’s life and a memorial tree planting of a Japanese Maple on Friday at Overlook Park in Friday Harbor, Washington. Her wishes were to be cremated and buried in Michigan beside her late husband, and for people to “just spread joy in the world.”
“So, if you are inclined to send flowers,” her family wrote on Facebook, “please send someone a surprise bouquet and tell them about Miss Norma. Donate to a charity of your choice. Pay it forward in your own community; pay it forward in your own family; take your grandmother out for lunch; heck, take her out for a beer!”