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She saw possibilities where others didn't

By STEPHANIE HAYES, Times Staff Writer
Published December 7, 2007

Norma Valk and her husband had a vision for Palm Harbor before it became developed.
[Family photo]

PALM HARBOR - She saw the possibility in love.

When Norma Valk was 12, her parents, Scandinavian immigrants, divorced. But she knew they were perfect together.

Years went by. Then, at her high school graduation, she arranged for both parents to show.

After reuniting, Inga and John remarried. They loved each other forever.

* * *

She saw the possibility in her family.

She had three children with her first husband. She wanted them to shine, but when they faltered, she didn't judge.

If she was mad, they knew. Her jaw hardened, and she didn't speak. Her look would "drill right through you," said her son, Doug Johns, 54. "The silence spoke volumes. Believe me, you would pray for her to yell."

But more often, she was sweet and charming - in high school, she was voted most popular, prettiest and best personality.

Like her father, she was always calm.

* * *

A man saw possibility in her.

Don Valk, a loud, gregarious man, met her at a single parents meeting in Clearwater. Between them, they had eight children.

She calmed him. Once, when they were first dating, Mr. Valk fell asleep in the middle of the floor, dressed in a full suit.

"He's sound asleep like a baby," said his son, Neil Valk.

Mrs. Valk sat nearby, quietly knitting.

* * *

Together, they saw possibility in a small town.

After marrying in 1972, they moved to an undeveloped patch of country called Palm Harbor.

The Valks were Realtors. Friends laughed. Why move somewhere with no homes?

But as the town grew, they sold hundreds. They helped found the Palm Harbor Chamber of Commerce. Their influence shaped the Palm Harbor Fine Arts and Crafts Festival and the Pinellas Teacher's Appreciation Breakfast.

Mrs. Valk was modest about her work, Johns said. But she got things done.

* * *

She saw possibility in creation.

She painted still life pictures. She raised roses. Her passion was quilting. She was a perfectionist. After hours of sewing, she'd rip off a border and start again.

She had dozens of quilt projects under way, even as she became weak with osteoarthritis.

"Every day was an opportunity to express herself, explore her world and make a statement," said Johns. "That was how she lived her days."

Mrs. Valk died Monday. She was 84.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at or 727 893-8857.


Norma Valk

Born: Nov. 12, 1923.

Died: Dec. 3, 2001.

Survivors: husband, Don; children, Barbara, Robert and Douglas; stepchildren, Neil, Drew, Melinda, Christine and Alan.

Services: Visitation at 10 a.m. Saturday with service at 11 a.m., Moss Feaster Funeral Home, 2550 Highlands Blvd. N., Palm Harbor.

[Last modified December 6, 2007, 23:23:05]

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