Norma Kenney (ne: Locke) was a passionate woman who was a force of nature that you just had to follow.
At 16 she had her own show on CBC radio called “I’ve Got a Right to Sing the Blues”; a 15-minute show that ran for 84 weeks. By 18, Norma was enrolled in the Toronto Conservatory of Music. In 1943 she joined the Mart Kenney and his Western Gentlemen and became their lead singer; she ended up marrying Mart after the passing of his first wife.
Upon the completion of her career in singing, Norma became a piano tuner and earned Craftsman Status from the guild; she continued to do this for 15 years and then she retired.
Through her passion to create a ‘heritage park’ for the citizens of Mission she earned the nickname “the Velvet Steamroller”. Norma walked the property that was the original site of St. Mary’s Residential School, which is now called Fraser River Heritage Park. She had a vision of this site becoming a park where people could come to learn of those who settled this area and who gazed across the panorama.
Norma became a founding member of the Heritage Park Association in the early 1980’s. Her volunteer activities included: Mission Arthritis Society, Mission Downtown Revitalization Committee, Fraser Valley Academy of Music Board and Fraser Valley College Board. She was awarded Freeman status in 1979, Citizen of the Year in 1981, Friends of Heritage Certificate in 1985 and a posthumous Pathfinders award in 1996. The park she worked so hard to create gained official status in 1988 and a red oak was planted in her honor in 1989. Norma passed in 1990 from cancer.
The Heritage Park Association developed this fund to keep Norma’s legacy alive and to support the Heritage Park Association. When the Heritage Park Association dissolved in 2017, their Board decided to turn this fund into a Community Fund for special projects in Mission.
If you would like to support community projects in Mission, donate today!