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Sunday, June 11, 2023
Starts at 1:00pm (Pacific time)
Norma Jeanne (Johnstone) Gibson passed away peacefully on March 12, 2023 at St. Helena hospital after beating cancer but suffering from the insurmountable damage the treatments ultimately had on her heart.
Norma was born on March 13, 1945, in Ukiah where she happily spent most of her life. Her parents Robert and Dorothy Johnstone both worked for the Mendocino State Hospital and their family settled into a new neighborhood in Talmage Court when Norma was just four years old. Her childhood was idyllic, riding horses, bikes, and climbing trees. Norma attended River Union School where she developed lifelong friendships. She graduated from Ukiah High School in 1963 and was proud to stay connected with her classmates and fellow alumni through the Ukiahi Alumni Association up until her death. She left to attend American River College in Sacramento where she studied to become a Legal Secretary but years later would return to Ukiah to raise a family. As a family they would go skiing at Donner Ski Ranch, camping on the Mendocino coast, and ride horses around the ranch that she lived on for over 50 years.
Anyone who knew Norma knows that her greatest accomplishment in life was her family. She loved being a mom and grandma, as evidenced by the many photos covering the walls of her home. Those that witnessed her caring for her daughter Heidi through her terminal illness understood just how deep her dedication to her family went. After Heidi lost her battle with mitochondrial disease in 2001, Norma found ways to continue helping those around her. When not managing the vineyards with Morgan, they were regularly volunteering for the Mendocino County Search and Rescue team. Prior to Heidi’s death Norma and Morgan had started hosting annual BBQ fundraisers at their home to support the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation (UMDF), the organization that had become a lifeline through Heidi’s illness. Norma wanted to continue to support families as they coped with mitochondrial diseases and became the Northern California chapter lead. She dedicated countless hours helping families, ultimately co-founding UMDF’s Bay Area annual Walkathon to raise money and awareness. She carried this torch for Heidi and her family and friends admired her unwavering dedication.
After losing Heidi, Norma took a watercolor painting class at Mendocino College that quickly became a passion of hers. Over the past twenty years Norma has gifted friends and family with gorgeous paintings of their loved ones, their pets, or favorite landscapes and flowers. She was a devoted friend whose focus was always on everyone else, never on herself, just ask her very dear friend Diane Rucker.
Norma is survived by her devoted husband of 34 years, Morgan Gibson, her children Tami Mee (Jeff), Michele O’Connor (Frank), Devin Daniel, and her stepson Matt Gibson (Tiffany). She was a loving grandma to Brad (Sarah), Courtney, Anika, Cate, Farrah, Ciara, Cannon, Daniel, Maisy and Capri and great grandma to Connor and Emirlee. She also leaves behind two horses, two goats and six dogs, because she was an animal lover at heart.
Norma always told her family that when she died, she wanted a party. A celebration of life party will be held Sunday, June 11th, 1:00 pm at Nelson Family Vineyards. In lieu of flowers, Norma would want you to make donations to either the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation (www.umdf.org) or the Cystic Fibrosis Research Institute (www.cfri.org).
Finally, in Norma’s own words, the most important lessons she learned in life were: Don’t be timid, but always be kind. Love animals. Lover your children to the depths of your soul. Give hugs freely.