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Sword served his Lord, and loved his family and friends

June 04, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail will run "A Life Remembered." The story will take a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Norris Eugene Sword Sr., who died May 24 at the age of 80. His obituary appeared in the May 26 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

Throughout his life, Norris Sword was steadfast in his love for family, for friends and for his God.

In his own words, Norris wrote in 2001: "My faith in God has grown. The God I serve is the same, yesterday, today and forever."

An ordained minister who served many churches in the Tri-State area, Norris died May 24 at the age of 80. At the time of his death, he was serving as visiting minister at Paramount Brethren in Christ Church north of Hagerstown.


Norris expressed his religious devotion and other deep feelings in a special journal, which was a Christmas gift to him from Melissa Sword, one of his four grandchildren.

"Pappy started filling out that journal on New Year's Day 2001," Melissa said. In it, Norris expressed some thoughts and feelings that he might have had trouble saying out loud.

In the chapter marked "Life as Newlyweds," Norris spoke lovingly of his years with his wife, Peggy, which numbered 56 at the time of his death.

"Share everything, no secrets, hold no grudge - agree to disagree," Norris wrote in the journal, adding that he and Peggy never had a fight during their marriage.

Just 9 years old, great-granddaughter Kendall Werner said she loved being with her Big Pappy.

"We ate peanuts and rode bikes together," she said. Kendall and Katrice Dickson were Norris' only great-granddaughters.

Melissa said it was her grandfather who taught her how to ride a bicycle when she was little.

"He always had a workshop out back of his house," she said. "I'd draw pictures for him - they are still hanging there."

Throughout their marriage, Peggy said, Norris struggled with his desire to be a minister.

"All his life, he felt the call," she said.

But instead of pursuing the ministry as a full-time job, he worked 38 years at Pangborn Corp.

"We were in the final assembly department together," said Norris' brother, Grover, who worked at Pangborn for 42 years. "We never had an argument."

Peggy said she and Norris met on a blind date when she was just 20.

"He was 24, just back from the service - he made a country girl out of me," Peggy said.

Norris' youngest brother, Jimmy, remembers going along with Norris and Peggy when they were dating, on one occasion taking him to the Alsatia Mummers' Parade.

For 42 years, Norris and Peggy lived in a house on Mercersburg Road - a house he built for his family, which included Peggy, and then their son, Gene, and daughter Judy (Larson).

"Our kids brought their friends home with them," Peggy said. "There were always cookies in the jar and ice pops in the freezer."

Over time, Norris took home study in the ministry, and when ordained in 1988, he served a variety of churches, performing weddings, visiting shut-ins and officiating at funeral services, among other duties.

"He was a great man," said Gene. "There's not a good enough word in the dictionary to describe him."

Judy, who is 4 1/2 years younger than Gene, described herself as a tomboy who enjoyed being with her father in his workshop.

"Every house I lived in had his mark on it," Judy said of her father's carpentry skills.

Most members of Norris' family, immediate and otherwise, have custom wood items in their homes that Norris built - cradles, rocking horses, teddy bear chairs, etc.

Grover said Norris learned from their father, who was a carpenter.

"A lot of people came to Norris for custom furniture," Grover said.

At the May 29 memorial service, the Rev. James Stauffer of Paramount Brethren in Christ Church asked those in attendance to raise their hands if they had anything in their homes that Norris had made.

Nearly every hand went up.

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