How do you know when you have the Furniture Disease?
When your chest falls into your drawers.
Norm Reeves told that joke.
He kept notebooks full of corny jokes, and everywhere he went people asked him for a joke. That’s one of the reasons he was a beloved character on Hilton Head Island, right up until his death Wednesday at age 102.
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But Norm was serious about his faith and public service.
He had 100 percent attendance at the Rotary Club for 73 years. He met Rotary founder Paul Harris. That sounds like a joke, but it’s not. He joined in 1945, right after his service as an engineer in World War II. And he was at the Rotary Club of Hilton Head’s weekly luncheon meeting last Thursday.
Two years ago when club members roasted and toasted his 100th birthday, the man of a thousand jokes warned them sternly: “It’s not a luncheon club. It’s a service club. Unless you want to serve, I say get out of the club.”
The joke thing started when Norm told his third granddaughter a joke and she started calling asking Pop Pop for more, said his daughter, Cristy Robertson.
What do you call two bananas?
A pair of slippers.
They became a public service when he joined Island Chaplain Dean Johnson and others doing weekly Bible classes and entertainment for residents at the Preston Health Center at the The Cypress on Hilton Head.
For many years, up until Oct. 12, Norm was there every Friday. He would tell six jokes, never the same, to an audience that rarely acknowledged them.
What is more fantastic than a talking dog?
A spelling bee.
After others sang or played music for the audience, Norm would come back with six more jokes.
Why do the French like escargot?
They don’t like fast food.
He would then go to the Memory Matters nonprofit that helps families dealing with dementia (he drove until he was almost 100). And he would tell more jokes — never the same as the ones he told at the nursing home.
What do you get when you cross an alligator and a camera?
Rotary and Presbyterian
Norm didn’t get to Hilton Head until he was 75. He came in retirement with his wife, Maude, who died in 2001. He had used a degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business to run the family construction business in Pennsylvania, now run by his son.
Here, he got linked into two old faithfuls — the Rotary Club and First Presbyterian Church — and as Cristy said, “he just flourished from there. It was like a second life for him.”
He volunteered at the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing golf tournament for years. He rode the bus for fans from the Honey Horn parking lot to the Harbour Town golf course — telling them jokes and local history along the way.
He taught an adult Sunday school class with attorney Otto Ferrene for more than a decade. He loved to participate in the College Ethics Symposium at the church, which just finished its 41st edition.
Norm was of the generation that always dressed for success, and his 6-foot-3 frame, smile and glasses helped him fill the bill, even his favorite madras sports coats.
He definitely had a stern side. His four girls and a boy called him “Stormin’ Norman” when he directed family projects.
“He was always thinking of ways to improve things,” Cristy said. “He was very logical. How do you make it more efficient, more beneficial to people? Service to others was his main thing.”
Norm had a stroke right before Labor Day. He improved, but then got pneumonia. He passed away peacefully. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, at First Presbyterian Church on Hilton Head. His remains will rest in Abington, Pennsylvania, where he was born.
Even in death, there’s a place for one more of Norm’s jokes.
What are the three ways to wear your hair?
Parted, unparted, and departed.