Hospital, schools, seminaries lose benefactor

Norman E. Demers, a supporter of St. Patrick's School and other Catholic causes, dies at 92.

Published May 25, 2007

LARGO - Philanthropist Norman E. Demers, who donated more than $1-million to Morton Plant Mease Health Care and supported many Catholic causes, died Tuesday (May 22, 2007). He was 92.

"We were able to transform the education here at St. Patrick's through technology because of Mr. Demer's gifts, " said longtime friend Sister Veronica, SSND, the development director and incoming principal at St. Patrick's School in Largo.

Thanks to Mr. Demers, St. Patrick's dedicated a new computer lab two weeks ago. The school's outdated computers, electronic equipment and antiquated wiring was replaced with state-of-the-art technology, and laptops were given to all faculty members.

"He made the world a better place, especially for children, " Sister Veronica said.

Providing scholarships to students in Catholic schools was another focus of Mr. Demers. Students from St. Patrick's were selected annually for such a scholarship, based on factors such as community service, how well they embodied the school's philosophy and whether they put forth their best effort.

Mr. Demers also sponsored the education of Catholic priests and nuns, and his support spanned the globe and provided funding for seminary school.

At Morton Plant Mease in Clearwater, the Demers name graces the Gamma Knife Center in recognition of the family's support.

One of Mr. Demers' favorite sayings was, "I have so much more that I want to do, " said Beth Hardy, Morton Plant Mease's public relations manager.

A native of Berlin, N.H., Mr. Demers met his future wife, Cecile, while in the Army, and the couple married in 1942. They settled in the Panama Canal Zone where Mr. Demers worked for more than three decades for the Transportation and Terminal Bureau. He retired as deputy director and received the Presidential Management Improvement Award for excellence in improving government operations and saving taxpayers $1-million.

The Demers family moved to Largo in 1972 and he took a job with H&R Block. He worked there for 25 years, preparing personal, corporate and estate tax returns.

In addition to his local philanthropy, Mr. Demers also contributed to the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer & Research Institute in Tampa, the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami and several American Indian schools.

Mr. Demers died at Hospice House Woodside in Pinellas Park. He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Cecile; and a brother, Joseph F. Horton of Michigan.

Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. today, and a vigil service will begin at 6 p.m. at Moss-Feaster Funeral Homes & Cremation Services, Serenity Gardens Chapel, 13401 Indian Rocks Road, Largo. A funeral Mass will take place at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Patrick Catholic Church, 1507 Trotter Road.