The LCSTARs page was established to recognize the achievements of team members who have gone above and beyond the necessary requirements to be a professional search and rescue person. They are truly an inspiration to other team members. It is also about getting to know our fellow team members and getting a peek at what makes them tick and some insight into the diverse kinds of people that join the SAR community and what they find so captivating about their experience.
Written by Sarah Babbitt
Norma Govan, the gentle yet intense lady who keeps us all sane! Like many of you my first experience with Norma was during my BASART CISM Class. Later I learned that a LCSAR tradition is when she opens her home to us for the LCSAR Christmas party. Classy, caring, generous! Skilled, professional! We have had a number of interviews/bios. with our male teammates so I though it time that we honored some of the women who make our team special. Who better for me to lead off with than Norma?
A quote sits on Norma's desk, one that she tries to live by and that she teaches in CISM is: If you don't like something, change it…if you can't change it then change how you look at it. How this wonderful lady looks at life is truly inspirational. As I sat across from her, asking questions and being drawn in by those penetrating, yet gentle eyes, I was struck by the strength and grace that she exudes.
Norma was born in Dumont and raised in Bergenfield, New Jersey. After completing high school she got a job at New Jersey Bell Phone Company, working there five years. She married Dave Govan, six months after he graduated from the Naval Academy. Soon they had four wonderful children: Donna, Eileen, Terry and Dave. I'm sure that the challenges of working and motherhood were there but as Norma tells the story it all seems to have flowed for them.
Did they have challenges? How about a Navy guy, a graduate of "the Academy", choosing to end his career after only one tour of duty because to do otherwise would mean that the kids would be without their dad too much? Or, the challenge of Norma going to college at night…she calls it "Last Chance" college, where she majored in Family Relations and Child Development (night school at Rutgers University-New Brunswick).
While balancing being a dedicated wife and mom Norma began teaching and working with schools using her credentials as a pre-school director and substitute teacher. Dave was working for New Jersey Bell, has the chance to move to Colorado to work for Mountain Bell. It is 1973 and the challenge…er, opportunity here is that he will work for half as much and their expenses would be almost double. Sounds about right?
Not allowing the difficult financial times in Fort Collins, or a daughter about to start C.S.U., or anything else to be a burden to them, Norma and Dave decide to become real estate agents. The way Norma describes this adventure makes a person want to go into business with their spouse. She explained how they used each other's strengths, a strong work ethic, and lofty values, based on serving the client's interests, to build their business.
So, in a few short years they had moved, started a new business, and probably lots of other stuff (like being involved parents belonging to Parent-Teacher Organizations, helping in the schools, that kind of stuff), when Norma starts following news articles about searches and rescues. Being doers both Dave and Norma joined LCSAR. The year is 1981. Now we're not talking about a couple of footloose young kids, we are talking about "mature" people with responsibilities that love to serve and to learn.
Norma admits that the technical stuff was not her strong point however she mastered the knots she needed to know, a couple of anchors and was ready to contribute. Twenty-two years later and Norma is still contributing.
I asked Norma if she liked the important place that she has carved out for herself with the team. Although CISM is a critical element in our SAR team it isn't enough for Norma. She would like to be in the field, in the trailer, where the action is. O.K., use your fingers, Norma was in her 50s when she joined the team in 1981 and still this petite lady wants to participate in all aspects of search and rescue. From what I can tell it is only her great sense of balance: family, work and team, that keeps her less involved than she'd like to be. Norma told me that when she comes back, assuming she ever goes "on", she's going to come back as two Normas, so she can do it all.
The tender heart of this fine lady showed when she answered the question about what was the most meaningful mission for her. It was the Dusty Milton search. This was a lost little boy in the Estes Park area who was found after two or three intense hours of searching. Sadly, he had drowned.
What do you like about SAR? Norma said that she loves the focus that is necessary to have a successful search or rescue, something that brings people together working toward the same goal: finding or helping someone who needs us whole blocking out all other distractions. Being part of a team, in its finest sense, where people trust each other, can count on each other, each doing their part, and the bond that results.
Is there anything you'd change about the team? "No, not really", was the answer. Then, after a few moments of reflection she said, "Well, only one thing…communication". It seems that Norma feels that with good communication a team will grow, relationships grow, effectiveness grows. You know, all that good stuff that we kind of overlook so that we can become more proficient technically. Does she have any ideas on how to accomplish this? You bet, just ask her!
Recently, Dave, Norma's husband fell and hit his head. This was potentially a very, very serious injury. Anyone who had the chance to talk to Norma during this time, and during Dave's subsequent recovery, had to be aware that Norma's glass is always more than ½ full, showing how she lives the quote on her desk. At a chance meeting outside of Sam's Club, Norma told me that their lives had taken on an even more special meaning after going through this rocky time.
O.K. Norma, what's next?
Spending time interviewing Norma was really a joy for me and I drove home really uplifted. Thanks, Norma, for staying on the team and including us in your life' balance. Ed