Norma K. Blacke Bourdeau

Norma K. Blacke Bourdeau

LONACONING — Norma K. Blacke Bourdeau, 69, of Lonaconing, passed away on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2010, at the Western Maryland Regional Medical Center.

Norma K. Blacke Bourdeau, the daughter of Marion Lydia Blacke and Roland David Thomas, was born at Atlantic City, N.J., Feb. 19, 1940. She attended public schools in Pleasantville, N.J., and graduated from Pleasantville High School in 1957. Immediately following high school, she worked at New Jersey Bell Telephone and then as a teller and loan officer at First Jersey Bank in Newark. In 1971, she entered Wesleyan University at Middletown, Conn., earning a bachelor of arts in English. She then began a career with The Travelers Insurance Company in Hartford, Conn., where she was the assistant director of training. She also taught writing courses part time at Hartford Seminary and several schools in the central Connecticut Community College system. In 1994, she completed studies at Holy Apostles Seminary in Crom-well, Conn., receiving a Masters of Theology degree. After retiring from The Travelers, she worked as a jobs search coordinator for The Urban League of Greater Hartford.

In 1994, she accepted a position as Cultural Studies Lecturer in the Departments of Philosophy and English at Frostburg State University teaching courses in African American Studies and Literature, Ethics, English, and Writing. Although she retired in spring 2004, she continued to teach occasional courses at Frostburg.

She was married to her former high school classmate, Ray Bourdeau in June 1993. Together they discovered her love of traveling to places that for her had formerly been simply references in history or literature. She and Ray welcomed the new millennium at a New Year’s Eve party in Vienna, Austria, as part of a month long tour of Europe. They vacationed in all the Canadian provinces, and Norma was looking forward to seeing Alaska and Nevada, the only two states she never visited.

The individual spiritual journey was the focus of her adult life. She was a member of Emmanuel Parish from the time of her arrival in Allegany County in 1994 until her death. There she served as a chalicist, lay reader, youth group leader, choir member and a member and officer of The Daughters of the King. She also designed and led Lenten programs. She described herself as an evangelist; a sampling of her spiritual writings can be found at her website www.redbankministries.com. Her love of her Lord was also expressed in music. She sang as a member of the combined Lonaconing chorus and also as a soloist for many churches and public events in the tri-state area. A selection of her favorite songs has been recorded by Latta Sound Works under the title “Spirit Songs.”

Beyond her spiritual life, Norma’s passion was the written and spoken word. Her published works include “Flights and Dancers” (ca. 1970) and “Change or Perish” (2004). She was recognized in both the United States and Canada as a lecturer on various aspects of the Underground Railroad and was a regular speaker at the annual Black History Event in Grey County, Ontario, the northernmost settling place of fugitive slaves.

Norma led the reorganization in 2003 of the Allegany Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), serving as its president from the time of the reorganization. In that role she organized and directed the Freedom Fund Dinner held annually from 2005 through 2009.

In addition to her husband Ray she is survived by five step-children, Arthur Bourdeau and his wife Pam (Burkeville, Texas), Carole Burke and husband George (Stillwater, N.J.), Herbert Ocansey, Jennifer Ocansey (Middletown, Conn.), Lena Ellis and husband Kirk (Middletown); daughter-in-law, Karen Bragg (Middletown); and two grandchildren, Naomi and Simone Bragg (Middletown); and numerous cousins in Baltimore, New Jersey, and South Carolina.

A memorial service will be held at the Emmanuel Episcopal Church on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2010, at 11 a.m. with the Rev. Edward Chapman officiating.

The Adams Family Funeral Home, P.A., 404 Decatur St., Cumberland, (AdamsFamilyFuneralHome.com) is in charge of the arrangements.

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