As of Tuesday, August 2, 2016
KOOSKIA Known by “Grandma Norma” by many, Norma Brandt hasn’t moved more than 10 miles from her birthplace. And she’s quite content with that.
The 86-year-old will serve as Kooskia Days grand marshal, leading the parade Aug. 6.
“I was born and raised on Tahoe Ridge where my parents owned a farm,” she said.
Her Swedish grandfather and grandmother who was from Denmark moved with Norma’s father when he was just 6 months old in 1894 to homestead the property. Norma’s mother was raised in Red Fir. Norma grew up on Tahoe with cows, pigs, chickens, gardens and crops.
“I learned to shovel manure, milk cows, gather eggs – everything a farm girl should know,” she smiled. She shared those duties with her three siblings, attending the school on Tahoe until it burned down in 1949. Kids were then bussed to Kooskia where Norma graduated high school. It was also there she met her husband, John.
Together, she and John Brandt raised three children: sons, Lucky and Skipper, and daughter Amee (Coulter).
The family moved down to Kooskia and in 1956 her parents sold the Tahoe Ridge farm and moved next door to the Brandts.
The Brandt family purchased Stites Hardware from the Hartman family in 1962.
“It was attached to a bar across the street from where it is now,” she explained. “We then built the store – and kept adding on – where it is located today.”
Norma said all three of her children worked in the store throughout the years and the family continues to own and run it. She and John were divorced after about 50 years of marriage, she said, but she has remained in the Kooskia home along the Clearwater River. She worked at the store, then took care of her parents for a decade. Now, that house next door belongs to her granddaughter and her family. In addition, her daughter and sons all live within walking distance.
“It’s wonderful to have my family so close. Everyone checks on me and tries to boss me around a little,” she laughed. “Really, though, I do appreciate all of them.”
She said she enjoys watching her great-grandsons walk to school as well as having everyone pop in to visit, say hi, get some water, a snack or use the bathroom. She has 10 grandchildren and seven great-grandkids.
“Have you heard of ‘heaven on earth?’ she asked. “That is really what I have here.”
She enjoys her garden area, as well, and keeps up with her lawn and other chores – all with the help of her family.
One thing she doesn’t miss, she said, is something she has never had: a computer.
“I have never turned one on and this is my phone,” she pointed to a landline in her living room, shaking her head. “I am not sure it’s all good how fast information gets around.”
Norma has spent time throughout the years as a Cub Scout volunteer and for 16 years made desserts for The Old Opera House Theatre productions.
“That was really my social outlet, the Opera House,” she said. “I love the music and talent and I made many desserts, of course.”
Norma said she will most likely ride in an old car driven by her son, Lucky, for the parade.
“I am truly honored to be chosen,” she said. “Kooskia Days has been part of my life for many, many years.”