The Versatiles playing it up for the camera at the Cloverdale Legion. Norma Cowley sits second from the right, in a green bonnet. Susie Francis is on the far left in pink. (Gord Goble / Black Press Media file)

Cloverdale veteran, singer remembered for ‘amazing sense of humour’

Norma Cowley met life with a ‘smile and a laugh’

The Cloverdale community is mourning the loss of 93-year-old Norma Cowley, a Second World War veteran with a wicked sense of humour.

“Sometimes you run into someone who changes your life and makes everything better from that moment on,” said Susie Francis, a longtime friend. “Norma Cowley was like that, everyone and everything she touched became special because of her.”

Cowley passed away in late April. She would have been 94 in July.

Born in Winnipeg in 1925, Cowley worked for 17 months as a hospital switchboard operator with Chorley Park Military Hospital during the Second World War. She stayed on in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps for 32 years.

In 1972, Cowley moved from Kitchener, Ont. to B.C., where she went to work at B.C. Tel.

The longtime Cloverdale resident was a member of the Cloverdale Legion, and a talented singer in local entertainment groups. There were few who had not met her “kindness and generosity without a smile or a laugh,” said Francis. She was known for her “cheerful demeanour and her amazing sense of humour.”

Norma Cowley was one of the featured veterans in the Cloverdale Reporter's 2014 Remembrance Day feature.
Norma Cowley was one of the featured veterans in the Cloverdale Reporter’s 2014 Remembrance Day feature.

Cloverdale Reporter

She was a member of the Sweet Adelines, an international group of women who sing barbershop harmonies, and performed with Club 21 before she met Francis.

“In 1999, she asked me if I would work with a group of seniors and help them put on a show,” said Francis. “She was one lady that you could not say no to.”

In 1999, the Vaudevillians were born. The seniors’ entertainment troupe consists of men and women who perform everything from burlesque to Broadway numbers.

In 2005, the Versatiles were founded. Known locally as Cloverdale’s golden-aged variety performers, the group tours community festivals, hospitals and schools to sing and dance.

Both groups were founded due to Cowley’s request, said Francis. “I shall miss my friend and mentor,” she said.

“The Society of Versatile Entertainers will keep on going, singing, dancing and laughing because seniors don’t give up. Norma didn’t and we shall always love her.”

A service in Cowley’s memory will be held at the Cloverdale Legion (17567 57 Ave.) on Saturday, July 27, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be a full honour guard, and a selection of Cowley’s favourite songs will be performed.

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