Residents far and wide were in mourning after the passing of Norm Leonard. A well-known and well-loved figure in the community for many decades, Norm's impact was felt across generations. He will be missed.
NORM FRANCIS LEONARD: 1931-2020
By Barbara Hickson
Many residents of Mudgee and surrounding towns will remember Norm Leonard. Almost all will have a funny or interesting story to tell of this man who touched many lives. A master builder, one-time Mudgee Councillor and Mayor, a motelier at the Wunderlight Motel, Chairman of the Mudgee Abattoirs, churchman and in recent decades an inspiring cyclist. Still cycling at 89 he inspired many others to cycle too.
Born at Rexton in Douro Street, Mudgee, Norm was the fourth child of Kathleen and Arthur Leonard, and five more followed. It was 1932, the beginning of the depression. Times were hard, and the family had moved to Mudgee from Gungal where farm failures due to floods had sent them looking for a better life.
At the age of 10 Norm got a job with the Mudgee Mail on the paper run. On a borrowed bike and often starting in the dark, Norm would cycle many streets in Mudgee delivering the Mail. At times Mr Cohan, the editor would let him proofread, which made him love reading papers all his life.
Track and road cycling were very popular and many people would come to watch the young men of the town compete for prize money. His brothers were all keen cyclists. In Norm's first win away in the Dubbo Easter Cycling Carnival. he had borrowed a bike for the event from his brother-in-law John. Norm came first in his event and won 16 pound on the track. Returning to Mudgee he said to John 'what do you want for that bike of yours'. '15 pound' he replied. 'Here it is 'said Norm; and he was able to take home the one pound left.
The Leonard boys thrived on cycling, travelling great distances from Bourke to the Riverina to compete. On one trip to Lithgow they had to cycle home after the events. When they got to Cullen Bullen a man they knew stopped by in his large Bentley car and offered them a lift - they were delighted but couldn't take their bikes. They popped the bikes on the Cullen Bullen Railway Siding with a note - 'please drop these off at Mudgee'! And sure enough - the bikes arrived!
Norm's younger brother Leo Leonard excelled at cycling becoming the Australian Champion Cyclist. But there was one event when he shared the glory with Norm. As a team they were the fastest tandem in the west and the two took out the 'The City of Sydney Championship'.
Norm loved his church of St Marys. From his early years he served as an altar boy for the priest Monsignor Flanagan, and in his middle years was on Parish Council, sometimes able to do various building alterations or repairs for them.
In his late teens Norm went to Sydney to study carpentry and joinery, attending classes at Ultimo Technical college and staying at Bondi with his sister Mavis and Una. His apprenticeship was with a cabinet maker and Norm reckoned he turned many thousands of cabriole legs for china cabinets.
Still cycling Norm would ride his bike to tech and home again in the dark, and most Sundays he went in races at the Sydney Boy's Town Carnivals, at the Sydney Sports ground. In one race at Boys Town there was a fall involving 30 cyclist and Norm went down along the top of a fence! He was treated on the spot by St. Johns Ambulance; patched up and back to work on Monday.
Returning to live in Mudgee Norm became a member of the Mudgee Cycle Club, and there helped organise fundraising events such as dances at the Mechanics Institute, now the Perry Street Hotel.
Norm and his cycling partner, Percy Player, started a building business in Mudgee in the 1950s with a small loan from his friend priest Con Duffy. The 'Mudgee Woodworking Company'. They went on to build many houses in Mudgee, Rylstone and Gulgong, And later commercial and community buildings such as Kellett's Store, church buildings at Goolma and Dunedoo and schools, including St Matthews and Gulgong High. His pride and joy were the front additions of St Malachys Catholic Church at Rylstone, matching the original stone church so well that many today have no idea that it was extended.
In the mid-1950s Norm married his young love Margaret Loy and they raised a family of six children, Joanna, Angela, Kelly, Dominic, Rebecca and Gabrielle. Two daughters, Angela and Gabrielle still reside in Mudgee, and are well known to many.
The Mudgee Woodworking company grew and there was not a street in Mudgee without some of the 'Woodworking boys' houses. Then Norm decided to run for Mudgee Council. He was subsequently elected and spent many years in the role of a Mudgee Alderman and then as the Town Mayor in 1975. He oversaw the amalgamation of the Cudgegong Council with Mudgee Council, and the construction of the present Mid-Western Regional Council chambers, still in use today. He was elected to the Mudgee Abattoirs and served as Chairman for many years.
Branching out from building, Norm constructed the Wanderlight Motel in Market Street with helpful advice from Marie and Barry Trounson at the Fairways Motel in Kandos. This was Mudgee's second Motel.
Norm joined other business and social group such as the Mudgee Golf Club and was on the Construction Committee for Kanandah Retirement. As the construction representative he met and later married the architect for the job, Barbara Hickson, and they have had 24 years of happy marriage.
A tribute from his niece and carer
By Hannah Gerrard
Author Tia Walker once said 'To care for those who once cared for us is one of life's highest honours'. And I feel honoured.
I have been lucky enough that when I think back to my most earliest memories of my life I cannot remember a time without Norm. My uncle, my godfather, and quite possibly one of the most admirable men that I've ever had the privilege of knowing.
But the last 18 months or so have been incredibly special to me. Combining my nursing degree and my sufficient milkshake making abilities I have many new memories that will certainly stay with me forevermore. Time is priceless and being able to spend time with this great man in the final phase of his life on a very personal level and as nurse has been nothing short of amazing.
Norm will be survived by his amazing and incredibly strong wife, Barbara who will never forget how incredible you are and time you spent together.
Carers of individuals living with dementia seldom realise the positive impact they make on not only the lives of that individual but also on the lives of all around us.
We see you, we appreciate you, and your love does not go unnoticed.
Your love is like none other.