When asked what her secret is to being so youthful at 100, she says: “Being interested in everything, getting outside and keeping active. I’m really not one to sit around.”
100-year-old Conservancy supporter
Hiking 12 miles around the crater at Volcanoes National Park in her 70s, camping and paddling a canoe in Alaska in her 80s, and running a plant nursery in her 90s—these are just a few of the ways Norma Lamprech has maintained a life-long relationship with nature.
Recently, Norma, a longtime Nature Conservancy supporter, reached a major milestone—her 100th birthday. Celebrating with family and friends, she asked that in lieu of gifts, donations be made to the Conservancy. She wanted to mark the special occasion by giving back to nature, which has always given so much to her.
Born a century ago in a Wisconsin log cabin built by her father, Norma was one of seven children who grew up with an appreciation for the natural environment. “My father had a real reverence for the land,” she says. “He came from Germany where there were only small scraps of land, but in America there was so much pristine land available—he wanted us to appreciate that.”
Her father had an understanding of conservation that was unusual for his time. He was aware that he and his neighbors were drastically changing the forested landscape with their farming practices. Although he farmed his land to feed his family, he was committed to being a good steward of his 80 acres and insisted on leaving some of it forested instead of clear cutting like his neighbors.
Norma has fond memories of growing up on that farm. She remembers working in the gardens and walking to the icy cold, spring-fed creek that ran through their property. “My mother would always say, ‘stay out of the creek’,” recalls Norma. “But of course we could never stay out of the creek. We had to be completely dry by the time mother saw us, so we’d sit out on these giant flat stones. The heat from the stones would dry us off so that it was safe to go back to the house.”
That sense of adventure stuck with Norma. In her 20s, she and a girlfriend set out on long treks. They slept in the woods with their sleeping bags nestled on fir tree branches, paddled a canoe up the Wisconsin River and continued their journey in a turbulent Lake Superior. “I didn’t realize that I should have been afraid,” laughs Norma.
After getting married in 1947, Norma and her husband moved to Illinois, where she raised their two daughters, Mary and Sandra, and worked as an elementary school teacher. Well before it was the popular thing to do, she included conservation into her science lessons. An outstanding teacher, she received several national and state awards.
Like her father, Norma instilled in her students and her own children an awareness of the environment. Her daughter Sandra recalls how her mother would lament about the changing landscape in their Bloomington, IL community: “I grew up very aware of the farmlands that were disappearing to make room for suburbia, and how these changes were affecting our resources and the lives of the people who depended on them.”
In 2001, at 85, Norma moved from Illinois to Hawai‘i to be closer to Sandra and her family, who had made the islands their home. She now lives in a beautiful retirement community overlooking Honolulu, and continues to enjoy and appreciate nature.
When asked what her secret is to being so youthful at 100, she says:
“Being interested in everything, getting outside and keeping active. I’m really not one to sit around.”
The Conservancy proudly recognizes Norma Lamprech as a member of our Silversword Society, which celebrates members who have supported our work for 20 or more years.