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Sisters honored for ‘Service Above Self’

Middlesex Rotary Club president Joe Brinkley attaches a Rotary Club pin to Ruby Lee Norris’ lapel as co-recipient Rachel Bridger looks on. The sisters were honored as the “Pride of Middlesex” for 2009 on Saturday in a ceremony at Christchurch School. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

Sisters Ruby Lee Norris and Rachel Bridger were honored as the “Pride of Middlesex” by the Rotary Club of Middlesex County at its award banquet on Saturday at Christchurch School.

It was the 10th annual recognition of those who epitomize the Rotary motto, “Service Above Self.”

Mrs. Norris and Mrs. Bridger received accolades from several speakers at the banquet.

Delegate Harvey Morgan said, “These ladies have positively affected so many areas and people of this community by their untiring efforts. We are truly blessed by them and their example. There is just no higher calling than the simple act of helping others.”

Mary Lib Hoinkes, president of the Middlesex YMCA, read a poem about Mrs. Norris that contained this phrase, “She’s elegant, charming and witty, unfailingly gentle and kind. But when she gets revved up on causes, it’s clear she has one fine honed mind.”

Helen Hopper said the Garden Club of the Middle Peninsula recently created a scholarship in honor of Mrs. Norris “for her many contributions and value to our club both as a journalist and a conservationist; but perhaps more for her insurmountable enthusiasm and perpetual optimism.”

Audio slideshow of the 2009 Pride of Middlesex Award Banquet (by Tom Chillemi and Mike Kucera)

The Ruby Lee Norris Teachers on the Bay Scholarship for $400 will be awarded annually to a teacher for a 5-day workshop on the marine ecology.

Macey White Jr. said he co-chaired the first fund-raising event for Hands Across Middlesex with Rachel Bridger, who raised more funds than he did. “I’m a professional at fund raising, but Rachel did more,” he said. “Rachel made that event a fantastic success. We raised over $20,000 the first time out.”

Kathy Sadler of EVB told the recipients, “Thank you so much for making the world a better place for all of us.”

Carlton Revere said the community is fortunate that Mrs. Bridger and Mrs. Norris stayed in the county where they were born.

Mrs. Bridger commented, “This is a very humbling experience to be recognized by your hometown folks. We can’t turn the clock back, so we just keep winding it up.”

Mrs. Norris said, “I shall never stand taller than I am at this moment.”

Mrs. Norris recognized others have given of themselves to make Middlesex better, and she thanked those who have helped her in her active life.

Susan Gordon of the Rotary said, “Rachel and Ruby Lee, I hope you know now how much your community appreciates you.”

Money raised through the Pride of Middlesex banquet will be divided. Mrs. Norris has designated her half to be donated to the Middlesex Family YMCA. Mrs. Bridger requested that her half be donated to Hands Across Middlesex.

The names of Mrs. Bridger and Mrs. Norris will be added to a plaque of Pride of Middlesex honorees that hangs in the Middlesex Courthouse.

The Pride of Middlesex was sponsored by EVB and Revere Gas and Appliances.

Rachel Bridger

After working overseas, Ed and Rachel Bridger moved to Deltaville where they built their own home in Bush Park Estates. She returned to her home church, Lower United Methodist, where she became involved in outreach programs. She served as president of the United Methodist Women’s Organization.

When the American Cancer Society started the Relay for Life program in Middlesex, Mrs. Bridger was very active in helping to raise money and was chairman for the event in 1994. She served on the board of Friends of the Library for several years where she planned the program for the annual meeting for two years.

As a member of the Middlesex County Woman’s Club, she co-chaired the Country Kitchen during the Urbanna Oyster Festival for 12 years. She is active in the senior program at the Middlesex YMCA and supports the Guardian Angel program. She is a docent at the Deltaville Maritime Museum and Holly Point Nature Park.

Her true passion is working with Hands Across Middlesex. She and her late husband Ed joined in 2001, and started the Housing Rehabilitation Program in 2004. Her husband’s death in 2005 left a big vacancy and, while she says she cannot walk in his shoes, she can follow in his steps. In 2008 she co-chaired a gala event for Hands in her husband’s memory. Through Hands Across Middlesex she said she can do what she does best—reach out and do small things with great love.

Ruby Lee Norris

Mrs. Norris was a teacher for 37 years until she retired to a Pre-Civil War family home in Topping in 1981.

In the early 1980s, Mrs. Norris was a founding member of the Central Middlesex Association, dedicated to preserving the rural landscape of the Topping area. Efforts of this organization helped to speed the adoption of zoning ordinances in the county.

She continues to work for planned rural growth as a founding member and publicity chairman of Middlesex Forward, a non-partisan group of citizens that periodically brings experts on environment and growth matters to speak at public forums.

She is one of the founders of the Middlesex Family YMCA and was a member of the first board of directors. She regularly supports the Guardian Angel program, which offers scholarships to needy children and families.

Her other community involvement includes serving as president of the Middlesex County Woman’s Club for two terms; chairman of the Day Branch of ECW at Christ Church Parish for two terms; and member of the Middlesex Red Cross Committee and Republican Party.

She maintains a Certified National Wildlife Habitat at her home in Topping.

In literature and the arts, she supported the Literary Festival at Rappahannock Community College in the 1980s and 1990s. During that time she was a founding member of the Chesapeake Bay Writer’s Club. She is a garden columnist and has written for Pleasant Living magazine since its founding more than 15 years ago. 

posted 04.22.2009

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