Norman William Perluss, June 18th, 1924-April 7th, 2009

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end

– Shakespeare

It has been a long time since I have blogged. The main reason being that my energy has been focused on my father who passed away this week. Because of his influence on my life and the lives of others, I felt compelled to add his obituary to this blog. Truly, my love for the natural world was nurtured by our many camping trips throughout the Southwestern Untied States and Mexico.

Fathers have a way of inspiring (or crushing) Spirit in their daughters. Spirit, which for me, translates to the sense of wonder in the unseen magic of  “things”, is certainly a gift I gained from my father. But, it’s not all personal.  For whatever reasons, mostly unknown, Norman Perluss, my dad, stimulated an archetype in me that I can barely touch. Perhaps, it was the way he would fly his small airplane overhead and wave his wings at me while I hiked the hills of Catalina. Perhaps, it was the way he could fix anything (and I mean “anything”), or perfectly clean a fish. Or maybe it was the way we used to chase monsoon storms during the summer, intoxicated by the smell of rain in the desert.

Whatever the reasons, I don’t want to psychologize or pathologize, but I will romanticize for it is the nature of Spirit to do so .  And, yet, when I hold this box of ashes that once made up his body, I am reminded that my father was also a man of bone and flesh, so utterly human, and as painful as it is, this too is a mysterious gift.


The following was published in the Catalina Islander and Avalon Bay News.

Norman was born in Hollywood, CA. He moved to Avalon with his family as a young child and there spent the greater portion of his life. He graduated from Avalon High School in 1942 and soon after enlisted in the Army Air Corp, which fostered his love for flying. On the G.I. Bill he attended the University of Southern California where he pursued a degree in Cinematography and later, Education. It was during this time that he met his future wife, Mary “Toni” Thibodaux.

Norman lived a diverse and adventurous life. In 1948, he and Roger Upton opened a bar called “The Attic” which became one of Avalon’s finest restaurants. Simultaneously, he owned and operated a small farm in Hemet, CA and taught at Hemet High School.

In 1962 the family moved back to the Island where Norm continued his teaching career at Avalon School. He taught a variety courses including English, Music, Photography, and eventually served as the School Counselor. Norm often recalled memories of when he coached a soccer team by the name of “The Poor Devils”, an unassuming group of students he was particularly fond of.

Although Norm kept busy in Avalon working for the school district and managing his restaurant, he also found time to serve his community. He held a position on the City Council from 1969 to 1980 and was the Mayor from 1974 to 1976.

There was never a question that Norm’s favorite activities involved flying. Nearly everyday after work, he could be found at the Airport in the Sky. He flew in nearly all weather conditions, day and night. If there was any place he preferred to be, it was in the clouds. He taught many Avalon residents how to fly.

After retiring in 1980 Norm and Toni moved to their home in La Quinta, CA, but spent their winters living in a thatched hut in Baja, Mexico on an isolated beach south of Mulege. In Norm’s “Jack of all trades” manner, he used solar panels to power up the high frequency radio so that he could check in with his children each Sunday. Over the years, the beach in Baja became more populated by foreigners and eccentrics, and Norm and Toni were no exception. As the longest standing “gringos” on the beach, they were sought out and loved by both Baja locals and visitors.

Norman Perluss died peacefully, surrounded by his family, in his La Quinta home on April 7th, 2009. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Toni Perluss, and his children, Michele Perluss, Stephen Perluss, Mandy Johnson, and Betsy Perluss, along with their spouses, Greg Knowlton, Patti Perluss, Rody Johnson, and Joe Coppin. He had eight grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren with one on the way. He was dearly loved by all.
A private memorial service will be held for his family on his birthday, June 18th.

In lieu of flowers, Toni Perluss has requested that donations be sent to the Animal Hospital of Catalina at P.O. Box 2533, Avalon, CA 90704.

The Perluss family wishes to express their gratitude for the kindness and support during this time of loss. Although there have been many tears, we are so grateful for the joyful memories.

3 thoughts on “Norman William Perluss, June 18th, 1924-April 7th, 2009

  1. It is great to see Betsy back at her blog and so fitting that her wonderful father Norman, whose care took all of her attention so that she had to stop, is the muse who brings her back. I know he would approve.
    There is a particular way that she moves in this entry that I think has so much to do with her approach to being a person in the world and so much to do with the intention of her blog. It is the move of always turning inward and outward at the same moment and for the same reason–to know and to be in the deepest ways possible. Betsy’s psyche is always finding its way in the landscape. The splits most of us create between inner and outer truly recombine in her work. Nice gift. Again, I think Norm would approve.

  2. I’ve seen this site before, and really like your story. Not sure when you were born but we were neighbors on McDowell street in Hemet around 1960,1,2.
    “Mr. Perluss” was my library science teacher at Hemet High, that is what I remember the most about him besides when he came back to your “farmhouse” across the street from my house, after you guys moved back to “the Island”. I went over and he was working, trying to get his jeep started, we talked and he told me he would fly me over to Catalina anytime I wanted to come since he regularly flew to the “mainland” for supplies. I just didn’t realize what a great oportunity that would have been.
    Tomorrow I will make my first trip to Catalina by boat from Dana Point, and will see Michele for the first time in many, many years. “Thanks for the memories” Don

    • Hi Don,

      I was born in Hemet in 1962 but the family moved back to the island soon after that. I’m with my mom now in La Quinta and she says she remembers you and your family. Thanks for writing. I hope you have a wonderful time on the island. I have many fond memories of flying with my dad around the island. It was the normal thing to do back in those days and, in fact, I used to envy those who got to take the boat. Now, it is always the boat and I miss the days when we flew.
      Take care, Betsy

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