Remembrance Day: The Norris Family

“Norris 1905. Arthur, Thomas, Sidney and Frank; Victoria, Nellie and Tot,” Taming the Prairie Wool.

Although the Norris family homesteaded and farmed in the Glendale District, they had a notable impact on Glenbow, which was located in today’s Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. They also made a significant contribution to Canada’s armed forces.

Thomas Henry Norris and his son Arthur came to Canada from England in 1903, arriving in Alberta the following year. By 1905, more of the family had joined them, including Thomas’s youngest sons Thomas Sydney Key Norris (he signed his name with two ‘y’s) and Francis Albert Norris (known as Frank).

The Norrises were carpenters and constructed several Glenbow buildings, including the home  of Glenbow’s longest-standing residents, the Wearmouths. Most importantly, the Norrises built Glenbow School. After the school’s permanent closure in 1929, it was sold back to the family, becoming an addition to Arthur’s home. Incidentally, Arthur was involved in the construction of Bearspaw School, too, hauling its lumber up Twelve Mile Coulee from the CPR’s Keith siding.

In the summer of 1916, Sydney enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force to fight in the Great War. Twenty days later, Frank volunteered, as well. Arthur, who had been trampled by a bull in his youth, was excluded from military service due to his disability. Then on August 21, 1917, Sydney made the ultimate sacrifice, when he was killed in action at the Battle of Hill 70 in Lens, France. His body was never found, lost forever in the mire of the trenches. His name is inscribed on the Vimy Memorial, along with the more than 11,200 Canadian soldiers killed in France whose final resting place is unknown. Frank survived the war, but suffered, as so many did, from what we recognize today as post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Norris family’s military service did not end there, however. During the Second World War, Arthur’s son, Sidney, enlisted in the army in 1941, and served in the UK, Italy, North Africa and the Netherlands. In addition, Arthur’s nephew, Richard Albert Norris Bond (son of Victoria Norris) served in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Remembrance Day is an ideal time to honour the brave service of military personnel and to recognize the contributions they made to their home communities. The Norris family legacy can be found in the history of Glenbow’s buildings and in Canada’s military honour rolls.

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