Tribute to My Swashbuckling Husband
Craig Norell grew up in Sioux Lookout under the wings of his father’s floatplanes at Slate Falls Airways. His father, Gordon Norell, a gunner on a Lancaster Bomber, was born in North Branch, and Donna Tichbourne, his mother, hailed from International Falls.
When Craig was not refueling and loading the planes, or filleting and icing fish into wooden crates bound for Winnipeg, he would be found in a canoe, out on the rivers and creeks, testing his paddling skills and fishing for walleye. With any tool in Craig’s hands, it was all about physics and trigonometry: the wide blade of a white-water paddle, a mechanical pencil, a golf club or a pool cue.
Craig’s life-work was in architecture, engineering and heavy industrial projects. Both artistic and scientific, Craig had an innate sense of systematic order for design of anything. He continuously embraced new challenges and was equally confident in laying out architecture for a recreation complex, the general arrangement for a bridge, the inner workings of an Esso refinery or a coal-fired power plant. During the boom of Potash Mines in Saskatchewan, Craig gleaned the contract of a lifetime, as a structural designer detailing steel and concrete for the six billion-dollar Legacy Mine.
He loved his work but when the rivers and lakes began to melt, it was time to bring out the maps and books, to plot and prepare for the next major canoe trip of the year, his idea of a holiday.
To watch Craig in his canoe was to see artistic precision in movement. Imagine him being in the middle of nowhere, negotiating a flimsy craft, heavily loaded with survival equipment. Imagine him steering that craft with only a flattened piece of wood through the dangerous obstacles of rushing water and rapids. It was as if he mapped in his mind a three-dimensional drawing and added the vectors of velocity and time. It didn’t matter whether it was a solo run in the icy azure of the Athabasca River in Jasper, or him sliding through the black waters of the “Ledge-o-matic” on Saskatchewan’s Waterfound River. Craig’s steady gaze ahead was always of pure concentration, in sync with the rumbling roar of the rapids. He was a master of timing and technique. At the very last second, Craig could adjust the angle of a draw stroke and disaster would be avoided.
Poetry in motion.
To Rita, his woman in the bow, he was “Captain” and to his children, Aaron and Mariah, he was Dad. Craig will be missed by all who had the privilege to know and commune with him. He was an interesting and beautiful human being who endured, and at times transcended, the wrath of his chronic disease, Type 1 Diabetes.
When Craig went on adventure in his Chestnut Prospector, his soul unleashed,
he was invincible and unstoppable.
A heartfelt thank you to Dr. Malik who understood; the Doctors of the Aurora Clinic who watched over Craig in the Hospital; and, a big hug to Nurse Monika on 1A for tucking Craig in for the last time.
The Family Norell will return Craig home to rest in Sioux Lookout next June.
See you then, when our world is safe again, all been well.