Tarentum children’s author shares writing gift, family inspirations with the world
Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series that features Alle-Kiski Valley residents and the notable things they do.
Tarentum resident Cheryl Norris puts pen to paper immortalizing life experiences and family inspirations.
“There are stories to be told,” said Norris, a 1974 Highlands High School graduate. “There are people that I need to remember, and I want to remember them in the way that they touched me.”
It was that desire to keep memories alive that drove her to produce countless poems, songs and self-publish three children’s books.
Writing became her preferred medium while working on a poem about her grandmother, Germaine Rousseau, who passed away in September 1986 at 82.
It’s called “Portrait In The Sky” and features lines such as “You have always been my rainbow after the storm/I’ll never forget you so kind and warm.”
She also made a poem for her father-in-law, Ralph Norris of Lower Burrell, for his birthday called “80 Years Young.”
It touched on his service in the Navy, vacations and other family events. He died in March at 92.
Most of Norris’ works are in rhyme and can invoke a variety of emotions.
“It is a gift given to me and, like any gift, when you accept it you say thanks,” Norris said of her writing. “So, with the gifts, I am thankful and blessed with a supportive family, good friends and co-workers.”
She published three books with two of them being near mirror images. That book being “The Pajama Clause.” It tells the story of pajamas being crafted with love for Jesus in one and Kris Kringle in the other.
Her third book, and first published, was inspired by her sons, Jeremy and Jaison, titled “Who Took a Bite From the Moon?”
It shows a young boy questioning different phases of the moon and likens the celestial body to food.
He’s taken to a planetarium and learns about stars. The book was more than 25 years in the making.
“I took it to a couple publishers and sent it to a few more,” Norris said. “No one was really interested, so I just left it in a box. It’s hard to get anyone to publish you. Now, at this time in my life, I’m able to self-publish.”
All three books were illustrated by Lucy Howell, her friend and New Kensington native, now of Cleveland.
“We have a pretty good partnership going,” Norris said. “We kind of complement each other. Unfortunately, the words can’t tell the story by themselves. With Lucy, the words just come to life.”
The pair are working on a fourth book, “How the Eggs Got Their Color.”
It explains how Easter eggs and the Easter bunny came about.
Norris has read at several library and local school functions, and hopes to do more in the future.
She does not plan to become a novelist.
Norris also studied music at Westminster College from 1974 to 1978, with a major in trumpet and minor in percussion, and briefly served as its newspaper’s sports editor.
She worked as a bus driver for Laidlaw from 1991 through 2012, driving Fox Chapel Area students, among others. She also served as the company’s safety coordinator.
Her current job is transportation supervisor of Tarentum-based Community Life, which helps seniors remain as independent as possible.
Norris and her parents moved a lot when she was young. She went to nine school districts from kindergarten through senior year, including stints in Metuchen, N.J.; West Palm Beach, Fla., and at Highlands.
But she has now spent most of her life in Tarentum and does not plan on leaving any time soon.
“It’s a nice little town that still has character,” Norris said. “It’s struggling a little, but it still ignites that neighborhood feeling. You’re not just on a street anywhere. It’s still unique and the people that are trying to run it now are trying to keep the uniqueness there.”
She lives with her husband, William Norris, a retired paint mixer from PPG Paint’s Springdale facility.
They tied the knot in February 1979, and he is one of her biggest fans.
“My husband is very good with sharing me at this phase of my life,” Norris said. “He’s a really great guy.”
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .