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The number of items on Elizabeth “Libby” Norris’ to-do list was extensive. She volunteered with the Warhill High School Athletic Booster Club, coached volleyball, spearheaded fundraisers and developed programs for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
And she did it all while battling cancer.
Mrs. Norris, of Toano, died peacefully on July 2, 2015, at the age of 49.
Cathy Koon, a longtime friend, said it was Mrs. Norris’ busy schedule and lack of complaining that left many in shock at her passing.
Mrs. Koon’s husband Greg agreed, saying as much suffering as Mrs. Norris felt, others never knew. She was very easy-going, “one of those special people,” constantly helping others no matter what she was going through personally.
“There’s just not enough good things to say about her,” Mr. Koon said.
Mrs. Koon wasn’t sure where her friend found the strength to keep going despite her struggles, but she thought of Mrs. Norris as brave because of the trials she had to overcome, especially because of the way she dealt with them. Those who knew of Mrs. Norris’ diagnosis assumed she was in pain, but assumptions were all they had – she never let the pain show. She never let cancer get in the way of her life.
“Nothing got her down. She just never stopped,” Mrs. Koon said.
That don’t-stop attitude was put into play with every volunteer opportunity she found, especially when it came to the sports her two daughters played.
Shortly after her diagnosis, when the Warhill High School Athletic Booster Club was short-numbered and asked for help, Mrs. Norris was one of the first to throw her hand up, said Mr. Koon, who is also the varsity volleyball coach at the school. She handled the annual Warhill High School volleyball doughnut sales and led the fundraiser for new benches in the softball dugouts.
In addition, Mrs. Norris was actively involved with the Williamsburg Starz and Virginia Venom Volleyball teams as well as the Warhill High School and J.B. Blayton Elementary School PTA where her daughters, Colby and Dylan, attended school.
Mr. Koon said Mrs. Norris’ husband, David, eventually asked her to “let other people do something,” but she enjoyed the work and kept going.
Even so, Mrs. Norris always put her family first, according to Mrs. Koon. She did whatever it took to keep her husband and daughters happy and always made time for them.
It was her mother’s devotion and unending support that made her a role model in Colby’s eyes. Mrs. Norris used her experience playing volleyball and basketball at Southeast Missouri State University to help her daughter with volleyball, basketball and softball.
“She was my coach for as long as I can remember,” Colby said.
Mrs. Norris also showed her daughter the importance of advocacy through her 10 years of work at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Colby said her mother was passionate about improving the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay.
“The water quality really affects millions of lives, and if she could make any part of that better with what she could do, she was willing to try it,” Colby said.
Mrs. Norris built relationships with farmers, worked with landowners to install management practices and developed programs to put the foundation’s plans into action, Colby said.
Mrs. Norris gave her all for the foundation and with organizations, but she gave just as much to having fun,Mrs. Koon said. Her favorite memory of Mrs. Norris was watching her let loose at an Imagine Dragons concert. Their daughters wanted to watch the band, but Mrs. Norris had never heard of them. She purchased the band’s CDs, so she knew the words to almost every song by the night of the concert.
She went all the way with absolutely everything, Mrs. Koonz said.
Joe Henzel, a Williamsburg Starz softball coach, knew of Mrs. Norris’ go-all-out attitude from experience. For years as he coached from the field, Mrs. Norris kept up morale in the dugout. She made sure the girls stayed “pumped up, positive and rallied,” Mr. Henzel said. She reminded them there was no pressure and to have fun.
Colby is thankful for the time her mother spent coaching her, both on and off the fields and courts on which she played. Her support and dedication paid off: Colby signed her official letter of intent in November 2014 to play college softball at Bryant University in Rhode Island.
“[She] definitely helped shape me into who I am today,” Colby said.
Mrs. Norris is survived by her daughters, Colby and Dylan; husband, David; mother, Debbie Bonacci, of Omaha, Nebraska; brother, Michael Bonacci, of Ft. Calhoun, Nebraska; and many nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her father, Don Bonacci and brother, James Bonacci.
A celebration of life service will be held from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, July 10, 2015, at Legacy Hall, 4301 New Town Ave., Williamsburg.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials be made to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Please leave online condolences for the family at Nelsen Funeral Home.
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Amanda Thames is the obituary writer for WYDaily. Reach her at 757-565-1079 ext. 222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.