Norene B. Sundal, 89, Austin

Published 10:17 am Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Norene B. Sundal, 89, of Austin, Minn., died Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, at the Cedars of Austin.

Norene B. Sundal

Norene Bee Marshall Sundal was born in Cushing, Okla., on Aug. 12, 1923. She was the oldest child of three born to Bernard and Georgia Gephart Marshall. She had two younger brothers, Clifford and Dale. Norene’s dad worked in the oil fields of Oklahoma and Norene’s mom was a cook at the naval hospital during World War II. Later, her mother started her own book bindery business which she did for several years before becoming a secretary at the County Extension Office in Norman, Okla. The family moved to accommodate Bernard’s job so Norene attended three different high schools, graduating as Valedictorian in 1941.

It was during her childhood Norene fell in love with music. She began playing the violin and became an accomplished musician. Not only was she a talented violinist, but she learned to play many other instruments and became an excellent oboe player, as well. After high school graduation, she attended the University of Oklahoma in Norman and she paid for her schooling by playing violin for weddings, funerals, symphony orchestras and various occasions. After college graduation, one of her professors went on a leave of absence and she got the opportunity to teach violin to students at the University of Oklahoma. It was at this point in her life that she decided to get her master’s degree in music. After she received it in 1947, she sent out job applications and received a telegram from Sam Neveln, the superintendent of schools in Austin, Minn., asking her to come teach music at Austin Public Schools. Norene left the south and bravely traveled north to accept her first teaching assignment.

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Norene enjoyed her teaching job, and met many new friends. A few of these friends set Norene up on a blind date with a handsome young man who had moved from Brookings, S.D., to work at the Hormel Company. It was through this blind date that Norene met the love of her life. She married Orin Sundal on Aug. 6, 1950, at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. Together they had four beautiful children: three sons and one daughter.

Music was always central to her persona. Norene taught music in the Austin Public School system and taught private string lessons for many years. She loved classical music and enjoyed attending concerts. She was a founding member of the Austin Symphony Orchestra where she was concert mistress for 21 years. She played in the orchestra until 1997. Her influence in the music community is still felt today. She was passionate about music, especially strings, and her legacy lives on through the many students she taught.

In 1994, Norene’s life changed when her dear Orin was diagnosed with colon cancer. It was through this difficult time, that she showed us all her steel resolve and her courage as she helped Orin through treatments and his two year battle with cancer. Orin died Nov. 8, 1996. Through it all, it was her faith that gave her strength. She looked for ways to help others and share her love.

Norene worked in her son’s privately owned printing business as a graphic designer. She was very artistic and creative and enjoyed helping people with their printing needs. She started helping David in 1986 and continued until 2011. Norene worked until she was 88. She was proud of the fact the she was the oldest employee in Mower County as stated in an article done about her in the Austin Daily Herald. She took pride in the fact that she was able to continue working well into her 80s.

Norene had recently moved into the Cedars of Austin, in May, having to leave her home of 42 years. As with everything else, Norene graciously accepted changes in her life without complaint. She was the eternal optimist and was sweet and kind to everyone. Her faith, gratitude, loyalty, sense of responsibility and work ethic, along with her love of family were the things that shaped her and positively impacted those around her. She was very family oriented and loved her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

How we face our finality, in many ways, is our last gift to our families. We thank Norene for showing us such grace at the end. As Norene’s health deteriorated in the past month, she maintained a gentle, loving and caring attitude. In her final days, she was longing to “go home” and be with her beloved Orin. She spoke of her gratitude for the life she lived and the beautiful family she had. As we grieve her loss, we rejoice in the fact that she has made that final journey and is reunited with those who have gone before her. We praise God for her life and cherish the beautiful memories imprinted on our hearts.

She is survived by her three sons, David (Ann) of Austin, Kevin (Wendy) of Mankato, Minn., and Marlin of Ely, Minn.; and one daughter, Karen (Ralph) Bartz of Austin; eight grandchildren, Cara, Tim, Christy, Cheri, Jennifer, Daniel, Andrew, and Emily; seven great-grandchildren.

Memorials may be sent to Westminster Presbyterian Church, or Austin Symphony Orchestra. A memorial service will be held Thursday at 11 a.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Austin. The Rev. Michael Olmsted will officiate.