Her friendly cheerful smile was her hallmark, this daughter of immigrant Swedish parents, Norma (Stolth) Lajeunesse, as she lived out her life in our community from the age of five in 1931. She was the youngest child of Charlie and Ida Stolth, raised on property bordering the river, far up Sooke River Road. In company with her big brother Elmer “Smokey” and sister Eleanor, she walked the four miles to attend Sooke School during the 1930s and into the 40s.
On the way stood the Sooke Telephone Office at Milnes Landing, and before long Norma had a job there as a telephone operator working under chief operator Agnes Milne Robillard. While her dad Charlie Stolth first went to work on the railway when he arrived on Vancouver Island, he soon got a job in the woods. Like many pioneer families he ran a small farm as well, using horses. One of Norma’s favorite pastimes was taking her horse riding in the Sooke hills.
While Norma’s blond good looks and fun personality attracted a number of suitors, it was Bob Lajeunesse who won her hand, and the couple married in 1951. When Bob was a student at Milne’s Landing High school, he’d become known as the handsome young rake who had his own vehicle and squired the girls about town but all that changed when he met the effervescent Norma.
Bob embarked on a career with Canadian Puget Sound Lumber and Timber Company at Jordan River and before long, the couple were in a camp house supplied by CPS. Both warm-hearted, they embraced family life, also taking a big role in enhancing the community as a comfortable place to raise children. Dances at the little community hall (an army camp building left over from WWII) were another source of friendly times for the tight-knit little company town as it was in those days.
Both Norma and Bob enjoyed a great sense of humour and practical jokes, livening up any occasion. Five children were born to the family, who were able to attend the still-existing two-room Jordan River school, just a few blocks away. As the children grew it was only natural for Norma to become a Cub Scout leader, where she went by the title of “Baloo.”
Norma also became known for her role as the official poll officer for local referendums held over the years; it seemed if there was any record-keeping or organizing to be done, it was her job. Apparently she also became renowned for a heavy foot on the gas pedal. While she learned to drive in her dad’s Model T Ford now on show at the Sooke Region Museum, it must have been her versatility in helping her husband move logging trucks and heavy equipment that gave her the lead foot.
With Bob moving from his warehouse job for CPS to “bullbucker” and then to the position of woods foreman, the couple decided to make Jordan River their permanent home. They bought a waterfront house facing out to a view of the pounding breakers that roll in from the Strait. Norma loved cooking and her house became a gathering place for youngsters. As well, with Norma as helpmate and cheer leader, Bob took a leadership role in coaching sports and driving teams to inter-community games. This meant Jordan River kids could participate in many sports, especially minor hockey and softball.
By the time Bob retired in 1987, the company had gone through name changes of CPS, Alaska Pine and Cellulose, and Rayonier, and eventually to Western Forest Products Ltd. His long service meant a big Western Forest Products party on his retirement, held at the Sooke Legion. Bob and Norma took advantage of their new opportunity to travel together, visiting throughout Canada and flying to Hong Kong.
One of the remarkable attributes of Norma Lajeunesse was her ability to remain positive throughout difficulties, demonstrating good cheer, kindness and understanding. Though she and Bob had suffered the pain of serious accidents affecting their family, they both remained a source of strength and encouragement to all throughout their lives.
Their grandchildren were a special joy to them both, and the whole family enjoyed their get-togethers at their summer place alongside the Sooke River. Norma’s zest for life is shown in the photo demonstrating that even a Harley didn’t faze her.
When Bob’s passing left her alone in 1996, Norma remained at their Jordan River beachfront home in the quiet community until her own health deteriorated, when she went into Eagle’s Bluff Lodge. She enjoyed the companionship of longtime friends at the facility. More recently she was a resident of Ayre Manor where she passed away Oct. 13.
Predeceased as well by her brother Elmer Stolth, her sister Eleanor Arden and her daughter, Alexis, Norma leaves her daughter Leslie (Bob), her sons Mark (Coleen); Dana, Lance (Deb) grandchildren Cindy (Kyle) Chelsea, Kyle and Cody, great grandchildren Togan and Matea, daughters-in-law Cathy and Lorraine. She also leaves sister-in-law Gail (Gordon Hall) brother-in-law Danny Lajeunesse and many nieces and nephews. Family services have been held.
Sooke Region Museum