Funeral service for Norma Jo Barnhart, 99, of Nacogdoches, will be at 11:00 AM on Wednesday, April 20, 2022, at Laird Funeral Home. Burial will follow at McKnight Cemetery. Visitation will be prior to the service from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM on Wednesday, April 20, 2022, at the funeral Home.
Norma Jo Watson Barnhart was born as the fifth of eight children to RJ and Lizzie Watson in Mt. Enterprise, TX, where she lived until 1940. Norma enjoyed sports and participated in competitive sports for girls throughout her school career. After school, if the weather and chores allowed, she loved to go outside to bounce a ball against the chimney wall for hours. In 1939, she started college at SFA and earned a degree in Physical Education in three years. Because of the war, she taught marching to younger students at SFA before she graduated.
Norma officially began her career in Mt. Pleasant, TX, for two years. She remembered teaching tumbling to elementary students. While in Mt. Pleasant, a married teacher (a rarity for the time!) advised Norma to travel while she was young and single. Norma took her advice, and after two years in Mt. Pleasant, she switched districts to Amarillo, where she taught for one year. She was offered a job in Brownsville teaching PE and remained there for one semester because Gene proposed, and they married and moved to Pasadena, TX. Norma Jo worked for a time in the office at Maxwell House and soon started a Masters degree in Education. The next year, she taught and was the pep squad sponsor in La Porte ISD, after which she began teaching in Pasadena where she finished her career of more than 30 years in education in 1977.
Over the next nineteen years, while battling health problems, Norma purchased the house next door for rental income. Although she had taught and enjoyed reading, her favorite pastime was crossword puzzles, something at which she was very skilled. She also enjoyed visiting with and babysitting her grandson Aaron. Furthermore, she and Gene had a “vacation” home in Mt. Enterprise which kept both of them busy. After Gene retired, they moved to Nacogdoches in 1996 and celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary in September of 2021 before Gene passed away in October 2021.
While in Pasadena, Norma was one of the first members of Sunset United Methodist Church. After moving to Nacogdoches, both Norma and Gene joined the First United Methodist Church. Although she was unable to attend church for many years, she was a faithful television follower of the Tyler United Methodist Church and Dr. Charles Stanley.
Norma Jo is survived by her daughter Rebecca Kemble (Roy III), grandson Aaron Manahan (Crystal), step-grandson Roy Kemble IV, step-granddaughter Melissa Starr (Ed), great-granddaughter Melody Manahan, grand-granddaughter Willow Manahan, great-step-grandson Jacob White, and great-step-grandson Isaac Starr. She is also survived by her younger sisters Louneita Grubbs and Elizabeth Gramling (Ozzie).
She was preceded in death by her parents RJ and Lizzie (Palmer) Watson and siblings Margie Flanagan, Reagan Watson, Gordon Watson, Susie Loe, and Billie Wilson.
Serving as pallbearers are Aaron Manahan, Roy Kemble III, Jim Hollan, Brad Pertl, Dennis Schafstall, and Jeff Barnhart. Honorary pallbearer is Ozzie Gramling.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Methodist Children’s Home, www.mch.org; the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org; Mt. Enterprise First United Methodist Church @ W. Rusk St. &2nd, Mt. Enterprise, TX 75681; or the charity of your choice.
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