Your Story: Norma Williams’ final farewell
THE death occurred in Royal North Shore Hospital of Norma Jean Williams (formerly McQueen, nee Dobbin) on January 15, 2015. Norma was a native of Grafton and was born on May 27, 1922, to Rupert (a Gallipoli veteran) and Florence Dobbin. Norma was a distinguished musician, teacher and accompanist. Her musical career began under the tuition of her mother, also a music teacher in Grafton. She was something of a child prodigy, winning a medal for violin at the age of four at the Grafton Eisteddfod.
Educated in Grafton, the 16-year-old Norma was awarded a violin scholarship to the then College of Music in Sydney, from which she graduated with honours.
In 1938, Norma was awarded a Licentiate in Music by the Australian Music Examinations Board. She added to her qualifications by passing examinations set by Trinity College of Music in London, achieving a Licentiate and qualifying as a violin teacher in 1941.
Norma taught violin and piano in Grafton and later in Maclean, following her marriage in 1944 to Murdoch Graham McQueen. The wedding took place at the Grafton Free Presbyterian manse. The couple lived happily in Maclean and made lasting friendships, including those forged through association with the Maclean Little Theatre.
Following the sudden death of Graham in 1963, Norma returned to Grafton and thereafter to Sydney. This later move proved to be a great success and resulted in an enduring involvement with the Sydney Male Choir. Her role as accompanist began in 1972 and continued until 2000, a total of 28 years.
At her memorial service at the Dougherty Village in Chatswood, where Norma lived, several present and former choir members led the singing. One choir member had observed that in all of the 28 years, Norma never missed a performance or hit a wrong note. She served under six Musical Directors of the choir, adding glamour to stage performances by her choice of elegant clothing and jewellery.
During this time in her life, Norma met a fellow musician, Jack Williams. Their wedding took place in August 1969 at St Andrew's Cathedral. They enjoyed playing with orchestras and attending musical performances.
Sadness again entered Norma's life when Jack passed away in June 1988. Norma carried on as an accompanist and later assumed such a role with the Chatswood University of the Third Age choir, continuing until shortly before her death.
The Professor of Saxophone at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Mark Walton, paid tribute to Norma after her death, commenting that she followed music with accuracy and led with gusto and that he could not think of a more gracious lady.
Norma lived her Christian faith and was, for many years, a faithful member of St Paul's Anglican church at Chatswood. There, she was a vital part of the church's music.
Despite having moved from the Clarence district many years previously, Norma maintained her interest in it. It was her wish for her ashes to be interred in the Maclean Cemetery. She was held in high regard and deep affection by remaining family members.