Norman Smith

Born prematurely during a January 17, 1937, blizzard eight days after his father died, Norman Arnold Smith, of Hettinger, ND, passed quietly from this life on Thursday, August 15, at West River Health Services hospital in Hettinger after a four-month challenge with cancer. He was 82.
The youngest of nine children, Norman grew up around Hensler, ND, living for a time in the double length log cabin on the grandfather’s 1880 homestead. The cabin, roof alive with blooming cacti, stood until the early 1980s. As soon as he could, young Norman sold his horse for a radio, a precursor of things to come.
He attended country schools in his early years, spending his junior high years in New Salem, ND. They then moved to Dickinson, ND, where he entered Model High School on the DSTC campus, becoming highly involved in instrumental and vocal music groups, student government, and some sports.
He graduated from Model High in 1955, entered college that summer and graduated with honors from DSTC in three years. He was a frequent soloist with the college choir, played tuba in the bands and served as student body president in both high school and college, working his way through college in the cafeteria.
He completed a Masters Degree in Music Education from Drake University, Des Moines, IA, in 1967, and an administrator’s credential from the University of Montana, Missoula, in 1973.
Through his 41 years in education (two at Taylor Public School, Taylor, ND, and 39 at Hettinger), Smith maintained strong professional connections, belonging to, and serving as an officer on boards of, numerous local, state and national educational organizations and receiving numerous educational honors. Over those years, his choirs and music students continued to earn high honors and, in 1970, his HHS choir was named Governor’s Chorus of the year. He received the Golden Apple Service award from the ND Assoc of Elementary School Principals in 1989 and in 1997, was one of 18 in the state chosen to be trained in the new state model of accreditation.
He had a lifelong commitment to the arts and humanities at both local and state levels serving on the Prairie Public Broadcasting Board of Directors for six and a half years, as president of the Dakota Concert Association, Hettinger’s Diamond Jubilee Chair in 1982, co-chair of the 1976 Bicentennial and in the 1960s, Hettinger Cowboy Band director.
Always active in church and community, he directed the Hettinger Lutheran Church choir for over 50 years, the Borderline Singers men’s group for over 25 years, was president of the Dakota Concert Association and served on hospital, state AARP, cemetery, City Council and other
boards, being one of the first Adams County volunteer ambulance drivers.
Grateful for sharing his life are his wife of 54 years, Bonnie, with whom he sang duets, their son Steven (Steph Wall) Smith and their daughter Kristen Smith Knutson (Paul Knutson) and grandchildren Samuel, Jacob, Henry and Louis Smith, and Emma, Jasper and Penelope Knutson all of Minneapolis, MN.
He loved his family, his trees, his yard, his dog and his woodworking and was known for the sparkle in his eye, his crazy humor and the 246 ft stone wall he and a couple of friends built.
Preceded in his death by his father, Benjamin William Smith, his mother Lula Angie (Cleveland) Smith Olson and seven siblings, he is survived by his sister Nellie Harris, Helena, MT, and numerous beloved nephews, nieces, in laws, friends and colleagues.
A Celebration of Life service will take place Thursday, August 22, at 11:00 am MDT at Hettinger Lutheran Church, Hettinger, ND, with a family and friends’ prayer service at 7:00 pm at the church the night before.
Condolences to Norman’s family can be sent through our website at

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