THOMASVILLE, N.C. — John “Havie” Norris is a tough guy, but when it comes to his family, he’s never been short on love to give.
“He’s a Korean War veteran,” said Havie’s son, Kent.
In 1964, Havie and his wife Virginia moved into a home in Thomasville. The couple had four children. But, in 2006, that home was destroyed in a fire. In a testament to how the couple strived to keep their family close, they rebuilt on the same spot to keep their “family home” intact.
“He worked until he was 76 years old, and then reluctantly gave it up because of failing eyesight,” Kent said.
In 2020, his toughness was truly put to the test, as Virginia passed away in February. The couple had been married for 62 years. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic began, separating him from his family.
“So, this is a very difficult year for him with all that’s going on plus losing mom,” Kent said.
Normally, the family would have all been in the family home for major events, such as birthdays. In addition to his four children, Havie has nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
“If it weren’t for COVID and restrictions, we would have a house full of family and friends,” said Havie’s daughter-in-law, Lynne Norris. “Cake, dinner, balloons and lots of singing.”
Wednesday would have been one of those occasions, as it marked Havie’s 90th birthday.
“We can’t all go give him a hug and kiss, tell him how much we love him and appreciate him and all he’s done for us over the years,” Kent said.
Although his family wouldn’t be able to embrace him on his milestone birthday, they weren’t going to let him celebrate alone.
“We’re gonna make the best of what we have to, and I know a lot of people are doing that right now and so that’s what it’s all about,” Lynne said.
So, Havie’s family gathered in his front yard to surprise him and broke out singing “Happy Birthday” as he stepped out of his front door.
“Well thank y’all, but it makes it sound like it’s gonna be the last one,” Havie said, laughingly.
Although he struggled to see them, he felt his family’s support through their words. While his vision isn’t sharp, his mind certainly is.
“They said do you have any words of wisdom so they can make it to 90,” his daughter told him on his front porch.
“No,” Havie responded. “If I did I’d make it to 100.”
After a short celebration and plenty of love shared, Havie’s daughter led him back into his home. With a fighting spirit like Havie’s, chances are that soon, when he walks back into that home, the rest of his family won’t be far behind.
“He has been an amazing father-in-law for me for over 25 years,” Lynne said. “I think that 90 is quite a monumental occasion.”