Amherst Magazine

Norbert F. Winter, Jr. ’58

Norbert F. Winter, Jr. ’58 died July 19, 2011.
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[Note: This remembrance of Norb should be read in conjunction with the eulogy delivered by his daughter Nicole which is posted immediately after. Nicole’s is a warm and rich piece and, in my judgment, deserved to be included whole, with this class remembrance crafted to dovetail with it rather than taken as a source of material.-hdg]

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Norbert Forester Winter, Jr. was with us just freshman year, but his star was as bright for us as had he traveled our whole route together.

He was first and foremost "a nice, sweet guy."  We remember how much fun he was, how no unkind word ever came out of him, how much we and people around him liked him just for who he was, how different he was in wonderful and extraordinary ways.  (Having met him just once, for years after Mrs. Gold would ask Marty what he knew about Norb’s travels in life. Just as Karen Ann, Norb’s wife, remembers Norb talking often about his experiences with Marty!)

We remember a young man of slight physical stature, but great athletic accomplishment. While he was no gymnast, he had mastered the pratfall.  His Beta pledge mates remember an awful - but completely staged – fall he performed on the front staircase at the end of which he calmly stood up with considerable panache and just brushed himself off!  Those very same capacities he parlayed in touch football as he would repeatedly slither through the opposition and present himself wide open as a receiver. He was already a very good golfer and captain of our freshman team, but over the years he would become really great winning numerous club championships, playing great courses, and accumulating eight holes- in-one one of which, on the par 4 13th hole of the Town and Country Club, earned him an on-site, boulder-mounted memorial plaque. 

Jamie Slade was a fellow first grader of Norb’s at St. Paul Academy (the  semi-military school Norb attended through high school and at which he proved way more successful with the uniform than Jamie).  Staying best pals for years, Jamie remembers taking the train with Norb to Chicago where they saw Paul Newman in the Silver Chalice (the film that Jamie felt could very well have destroyed Newman’s career) and then the two took the New York Central overnight to Northampton.  Freshman roommate Marty Gold fondly recalls, despite Norb’s gifts, that he was never too proud to ask for help when he needed it. Like more than a few of us, Norb was deeply challenged by Physics/Math. Came time for the spring finals he and their third roommate, Jim Northrop, greeted Marty with his study chair placed squarely on his desk with a bold sign reading “King Marty” as their invitation to persuade him to lend his Bronx High School of Science background to their further enlightenment. (At some point early on that year the three roommates from such different parts of America and of Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish backgrounds wondered what the common criterion was that got them assigned to the same suite.  It was a while before they discovered that the one item on the sub-freshman roommate questionnaire they had all answered the same way was that they each liked to sleep at night with the windows wide open!

 

So Norb did have difficulty with the course of study that year.  Furthermore, he missed St. Paul a lot. Late in the spring he came back to his suite in Stearns, pounded his hand on the table in seeming anger saying explosively, “If Dean Wilson doesn’t take back what he said to me, I’m not coming back!!” “Well, what did he say to you?” he was asked.  “He told me not to come back next year,” Norb said with a wry smile.  He went home to St. Paul and Macalaster College where he earned his degree. But he never forgot his Amherst experience; his daughter said he talked about it often, so much so that she had been left with the clear impression that he had been there more years than just the one, an impression that was finally adjusted only as a result of our conversation together.

 
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Norb and Karen Ann stand at the center and are flanked on their right by Norb III, his wife Debbie, and their daughters Julia and Addison, and on the left by Nicole Winter Tietel, her husband Mike, and their children Shelby and Riley

A few years after graduation he met and married Karen Ann Mullin, the love of his life.  She gave him two children, Nicole and Norbert III, and their kids produced four grandchildren only expanding the reach of Norb’s family commitment and delight.  He went into his father’s insurance business but apparently he had a lot to learn.  Early on John Carpenter remembers asking him to write $20,000 worth of life insurance, but Norb only knew how to write $10,000 worth so he wrote John up a pair of 10K policies instead.  But learn he did! Norb spent his whole very successful life in the firm, and he eventually succeeded Norb Sr. as president.

To his deep capacity to read people his daughter credits not only his success in insurance sales but his demand as a speaker in his industry, as an MC , contributor, and fund raiser to a host of philanthropic and humanitarian enterprises, and to the frequent requests to eulogize friends and colleagues.

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Norb possessed an always surprising sense of humor; his capacity to speak just like Donald Duck, for example,  would send his classmates into gales of laughter, and when he got to joshing with you, you could never quite tell which leg he was pulling – you just knew you were hilariously off balance.  We remember his slightly nasal Minnesotan voice, his droll manner of speech (which often obliged self- reflection on what one had just said to him – a useful experience), and the absence of a malicious bone in his body.  It foretold what was to come for him.

By the time he died July 19, 2011 having lived, as a friend told his daughter, a “hundred years in the 75 he was allotted,” Norb had become a man of strong faith, great accomplishment, high regard, and deep family commitment. We are proud to acknowledge him one of our  own.                                                                                                      

- Hendrik D. Gideonse ‘58
I had lots of help in pulling this together for which I am very grateful. I was in touch with all the members of Norb’s immediate family and with nearly two dozen classmates, but the principal sources of those classmates proved to be Marty Gold, Jamie Slade, John Carpenter, Mickey Schaenen, Peter Bennett, and Peter Madden.

Nicole Winter Tietel’s eulogy for her father.

For Dad

Norbert Forester Winter, Jr. was born on June 9, 1936 to Norb Sr. and Louise Eliason Winter.  The Winters lived at 708 Goodrich in St. Paul, MN and the mutual adoration between Norb and his parents was always evident.  Norb remembered his mother fondly and she would always hug him and say “that’s my boy.”  Norb’s older sister Marnie was also his pal and life long confidante.  Norb was a skinny kid that constantly needed fattening up.  His mother would send him to the soda fountain at Grand and Dale every day for chocolate malts- Norb loved his chocolate malts.

As he grew up, Norb attended St. Paul Academy and graduated in 1954.  His love for SPA never faded and he spent countless hours of his adult life, fundraising, planning reunions and even sending his own children there.  Two of his grandchildren are entering 7th and 5th grade there today.  After SPA, Norb attended Amherst College for a year where he was a member and captain of the 1955 freshman golf team.  He always said Amherst was “just too hard” so he returned to St. Paul to graduate from Macalester College in 1959.

A few years after graduation Norb was introduced to a woman unlike any he had met before.  Her name was Karen Ann Mullin and she was from Edina.  The daughter of a commodities trader knocked his socks off and he couldn’t think about anyone else.  Norb proposed to Karen 8 months later, stranding her in an elevator, by pressing the emergency stop button while in-between floors – he always told us it was so she had to say yes in order to be released from the elevator.  May 19, 1962 marked their wedding day and the start of a love affair that never ended, and will never be forgotten. Norb was known to chase Karen around the dining room table trying to steal kisses. As newlyweds, their first apartment was on Chatsworth Avenue and in 1968 they bought their dream house together at 97 Otis.  Karen and Norb have led a joyous life with you, their many wonderful friends and family members in his favorite city St. Paul, Minnesota where he lived almost his entire life.  In later years, Norb and Karen bought their beautiful vacation home in Florida and spent many good years there in what became his second favorite city, Naples.  The mutual respect, support and love that Norb and Karen showed each other over these 49 years are an inspiration to everyone. 

Speaking of family daughter Nicole (that’s me) arrived March 15, 1967.  Son Norby III followed 18 months later on August 5, 1968.  Norby and I couldn’t have been luckier kids to have a Dad like Norb.  Can you imagine all the fun we had growing up with him?  Now this is a man with a sense of humor!  Norby, Mom and I remember great times golfing, getting ice cream at DQ, playing tennis, swimming, taking trips and singing Frank Sinatra at the top of our lungs in the car.  We decorated junker cars to leave in people’s front yards on milestone birthdays and played in golf tournaments in the middle of the night with glow in the dark golf balls.

While there were a lot of fun and games there was also a serious side to Norb.  He was always there for us and often called several times a day to tell us how much he loved us and that he was proud.  He gave us braces, work ethic, fully paid for college degrees and constant support.   He taught us to always try our hardest, be honest and never give up. 

Upon his college graduation, Norb went to work for his father in the life insurance business.  Is there anyone in this church who DOESN’T know Norb Winter was in the life insurance business?  What you may not know, however, is that his career spanned 50 years.  He was a life and qualifying member of the Million Dollar Round Table, earning perennial Top of the Table status which places him in the top 1% of life insurance producers in the world.  Many of the people here today probably “contributed” to his success.  You know his passion, enthusiasm, and persistence for the industry were unrivaled.  Over his lifetime he put $250 million dollars of insurance in force.  There are many philanthropically minded individuals, but to have the privilege of providing $250 million dollars to widows, orphans and businesses that lost their owners and key employees over the years is remarkable – talk about making a difference in the world.

Norb had incredibly funny stories from 50 years in sales.  In his early days he and his associates would drive around on 90 degree July days with all the car windows rolled up, but they wouldn’t turn on the air conditioning until they made a sale.  He gave clients phony million dollar bills with his picture on them that read “In Norb We Trust,” and was known to turn the office into an 18-hole mini golf course during business hours.  Norb worked diligently by his father’s side until Norb Sr. passed away in 1980.  Norb Jr. then assumed the role of General Agent for Minnesota Life.  Our company, Winter & Associates has enjoyed a relationship with our many friends and associates from Minnesota Life and Securian, which encompassed his entire career and still continues today.

Norb tirelessly gave speeches about the industry all over the world.  His famous suitcase speech is legendary.  He went to great expense having a giant “suitcase” made for these speeches, from which he would pull out different humorous props that exemplified the lessons he learned from 50 years in the insurance business.  At the pinnacle of his career, Norb gave the suitcase speech live to more than 3,500 people in Florida and it was translated into 11 different languages.  Many of the audience members were from Japan and spoke little English.  After the speech these charming Japanese men would walk up to Norb, point at him and say “AAAHHHH, SUITCASE GUY!”

During his career Norb also volunteered passionately for his other favorite organizations Children’s and United Hospitals, St. Thomas Academy, The National Association of Life Underwriters, Compas, Hope Academy, Rotary, and Evans Scholars.   He was a long-time member of Town & Country Club, White Bear Yacht Club and Somerset here in Minnesota, along with Royal Poinciana in Naples, Florida.  At his clubs he could legitimately partake in the only thing that rivaled his love for my Mom and his family, golf.  Norb was a remarkable golfer with a string of club championships, 8 hole-in-ones, rounds at Pinehurst, Pebble Beach, St. Andrews and Augusta.   Some of the greatest times in his life were spent on the links.  Of course one of his most notable golf memories was the 13th hole of Town & Country club, where he got a hole-in-one on a par 4.  It was considered such a remarkable feat that the club placed a plaque in his honor which is still there today.  But you all knew Norb well enough to understand that humility was one of his great personality traits.  One time when he got to bragging to a caddy at Town & Country about the fateful shot and the stone that marked it, the caddy remarked, “you got a hole in one there – Oh, I thought your father was buried there.”  Talk about a slice of humble pie.

While his sicknesses never ruled his life, Norb sustained a life changing heart attack in 1994.  That was treated with a quadruple bypass.  Over the next several years, Norb had a pacemaker, defibrillator, and 3 stents installed.  He underwent a second open heart surgery in 2006 and had 2 valves repaired.  Maybe it was because Norb gave a little piece of his heart to every single person that he met he needed so many repairs and fixes to keep it beating.  The blood disorder, Myleodysplastic Syndrome, diagnosed in July of 2008 eventually got the better of him as his bone marrow stopped making new blood.  Norb’s frequent transfusions at United Hospital and Naples Community Hospital in Florida brought the opportunity for him to bond with the incredibly caring and compassionate nurses and doctors.  They kept him comfortable in the last years of his life and our family is grateful to them.

In honor of Norb, my Mom, Norby and I have a few props that we wanted to remove from his life’s suitcase here on Earth as we know Norb would want to take these items with him to heaven.

  • A bottle of Heineken – his favorite drink. 
  • A sleeve of Titleist NXT golf balls, for his most competitive sport. 
  • A Frank Sinatra CD – his old blue eyes. 
  • A Lexus Keychain – his relentless pursuit of automobile perfection. 
  • His bible – a demonstration of his lifelong faith. 
  • A picture of his family with wife Karen, Norby with wife Debbie and their children, Julia and Addison, and me with husband Mike and our children, Shelby and Riley. 

Norb cherished his 4 grandchildren and we know their lively costumed plays at the holidays and trips to Starbucks for coffee and lemon bread are what kept him going towards the end of his life.  They are lucky to have known him and we are confident his legacy will live on in them.

It is often said that life comes full circle and in the end we return to that which was in the beginning.  As Norb’s appetite waned, my Mom smartly remembered the chocolate malts that had fattened him up as a kid so we started feeding Norb chocolate malts almost every day.  They comforted and sustained him and could always make him smile.  So we’re also sending a chocolate malt with him to heaven.  With all his accomplishments and who he was as a person, there are many ways you could remember Norb. We think Norb would want you to remember the simple things. The next time you, our beloved friends and family, find yourself enjoying a chocolate malt, we hope you remember Norb fondly and smile.

 

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