Norma Jarvis wasn’t very demonstrative, but her family always knew where they stood with her.
“She wasn’t the huggy, kissy type,” said her daughter, Fay Griffith, 83, of Hillsboro. “But I never doubted for one second how much she loved me.”
Mrs. Jarvis died Feb. 10, just shy of her 100th birthday. She ran Norma’s Beauty Shop in De Soto for more than 40 years.
Norma Lewis grew up in De Soto and went to the De Soto public school. She met Norman Jarvis when his brother dated her sister.
The couple dated for a short time before they eloped in 1936, when Norma was just 15.
“My mother wasn’t one to do rash things, so it’s tough for us to picture,” Fay said. “They lied about her age and got married down in Potosi. Her parents, especially her mother, were horrified.”
The young couple settled in De Soto and had Fay in 1937. Sons Larry and David followed, and daughter Jackie was on the way when Norman went into the Navy in 1944.
“My sister was born the day he shipped out,” Fay said. “He got on a train in the morning and Mom didn’t tell him she was already in labor. He didn’t get to see Jackie until she was a year old.”
Norma brought the new baby home to what Fay calls a “drafty, old two-story farmhouse” in De Soto with no insulation, heat or running water.
“There was a pump outside the door, and we had to bring in water to cook and wash,” Fay recalls.
A few months later, a stray cat wreaked havoc when it began acting funny and bit and scratched the children before being diagnosed with rabies.
“My mom, three kids, and a baby in a buggy had to walk to the doctor’s office every day for three weeks to get rabies shots,” Fay said.
The Jarvises worked at several jobs when their children were young.
“Mom worked at the De Soto Shoe Factory; she and my dad both worked at the small arms plant in St. Louis; then they both worked at PPG,” Fay said.
The family moved to Hematite in 1951.
“My dad worked as a parts manager at Dugan Motor Co. in Festus, then as a security guard for Pinkerton,” Fay said.
Shortly after the family moved back to De Soto in the early 1960s, Mrs. Jarvis decided to be a beautician, serving a brief apprenticeship at a beauty shop in De Soto before passing the state licensing.
“She opened her shop on Easton Street and was there for 41 years,” Fay said. “She was 81 when she closed it.”
Wherever she lived, Mrs. Jarvis was active with the Christian Church. A self-taught pianist, she played for services and taught Sunday school until well into her 90s.
“My dad was ordained as a lay pastor in the Christian Church,” Fay said. “He used to marry people, usually unchurched people, in our living room. My mom would play the piano, and sometimes he would sing.”
In 1969, the Jarvises were involved in a serious automobile accident.
“They were going to Big Springs for the weekend with another couple, and a car going over 100 mph hit them head-on,” Fay said. “My dad had a collapsed lung, back injuries and was in the hospital for maybe a week or so. The other couple weren’t seriously injured.”
But Mrs. Jarvis suffered a deep facial laceration and her leg was splintered. She spent several weeks in the hospital and then went to Fay’s home to recuperate.
“She went back to work, fixing hair in her shop using a walker,” Fay said.
Mrs. Jarvis was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and enjoyed genealogy research.
“She was a direct descendant of Merriwether Lewis,” Fay said. “And our ancestor was one of the founders of the city of St. Joseph. My dad traced our lineage back to England.”
Mrs. Jarvis also was a prolific writer.
“She did journals – we have stacks and stacks of them,” Fay said. “And she wrote notes and cards to people – shut-ins, prisoners. And not once did she ever miss sending family members, even extended family, a birthday card.”
The Jarvises maintained a large vegetable garden, and Mrs. Jarvis also enjoyed growing flowers.
She was a good cook, famous for her vegetable soup and dinner rolls.
“She worked every day, but I don’t remember a day when we didn’t sit down to a table with a tablecloth on it and have a meal together,” Fay said.
After the death of her husband just before their 50th anniversary, Mrs. Jarvis began to feel the combined effects of age and her accident.
“Her leg was never the same,” Fay said. “She was in and out of the hospital the last few years with congestive heart failure, edema, infections. When she was released from the hospital the day after Christmas, the doctors gave her just a few weeks to live.”
Mrs. Jarvis went to live at the de Greeff Hospice House in St. Louis County.
“We moved her there on Saturday and she died on Wednesday,” Fay said. “She really wanted to be free of the pain. She was ready to go be with Jesus.”
Fay said her mother was a simple, kind, caring person.
“She was never idle; she was from the old school of making the most of what you had. We never had an abundance of money, but we never thought of ourselves as poor.
“She left quite a legacy.”