By ERICA ROSS
The obituary in the Feb. 1 Driftwood said that my friend, Norm Elliott, had died. But it didn’t speak about the difference his life had made to our island community.
A bit of a rough diamond, with a perfectionist work ethic, Norm made many friends on Salt Spring and left his fingerprints everywhere.
Under Norm’s leadership, Permasteel, the company he joined at age 22, became an industry leader in Western Canada. He is also a fine example of a successful businessman who loved giving back to his community. Norm proudly supplied and erected several quality metal buildings on Salt Spring. The product was good and prices honest. Some of those local landmark structures are: the Community Gospel Chapel, the BC Hydro works building, the North Salt Spring Waterworks building at Central and the ones housing two indoor tennis courts at the Salt Spring Island Golf Club.
Down-to-earth and generous, Norm’s defining gift was spotting a thing needing to be done, and stepping up to help fill the need. Years ago he lent a hand making a skateboard park for local kids. Later, he was pivotal to the Salt Spring Sailing Club’s enormous dredging and dock re-building initiative. Norm made it possible with a no-interest loan, as well as several months’ unconditional use of his land for their construction project.
He quietly supported some island businesses to grow and expand so they could offer more to our community. Norm always had an eye to the future. After personally witnessing the good work being done by Gulf Islands Families Together Society in 2016, Norm gave them the security they needed: a generous financial donation, allowing them to purchase the building they had rented for so long.
In 2012, the Salt Spring Tennis Association (SSTA) bought a Permasteel building to cover a court. The steel arrived on the exact day Norm promised, and it was up in 9 days. Punctuality and excellence were Norm’s pride. No wonder he had “Permasteel” tattooed on his chest (he told me this, I did not witness it myself!) He was integral to every part of that construction.
Six years later, the SSTA was hoping to buy another. Although by then the company had passed to his son, Norm was an amazing benefactor to that project. His over-the-top donation helped enable construction five years earlier than expected. His reason? He was so delighted to see how many island kids were keeping entertained and busy in the tennis buildings.
From our early meeting, Norm and I remained good friends. I could never leave his place without an armful of apples from his fruit trees or tomatoes or flowers from the garden. He was a giving person. His last years here were enriched by relationships with other giving people: Chris and Marilyn, Gloria, Brandy and Denise.
The man departs. His legacy remains.