A Smithers woman whose generosity and humour were well-known in the Bulkley Valley has posthumously inspired an art project for the homeless.
Downtown business owners and community organizations knew Elizabeth Norton for her love of conversation, songs and jokes.
Although Norton lived at The Meadows, an assisted living facility, she went downtown every day to visit staff and volunteers at Main Street shops and services, including the The Salvation Army, Dze L Kant Friendship Centre and Two Sisters Cafe.
Since Norton passed away on March 11, her sister Aileen Norton Swift has been inundated with questions and comments from the public.
“She connected with so many people and I’ve had countless people approach me on the street asking … when is the memorial going to be,” said Norton Swift.
“They’re so sorry to hear and some were shocked to hear, and some were crying.”
Norton Swift said her sister loved giving gifts so much she gave away her own things, and that she sometimes collected food to give to members of the town’s homeless community.
She also described Norton as “a stand up comedian at heart,” who would frequently break into song to lighten the mood.
According to Norton Swift, Elizabeth helped bridge the divide between different groups in the community by treating everyone equally.
“She has touched so many people’s lives,” she said.
“The connection with the homeless; she treated everybody equally … she just treated everybody on the same level.”
Norton Swift said her sister was also a gifted painter who impressed local artists with her natural ability.
She plans to set up a nonprofit in Norton’s name to support art workshops for the homeless community.
Friends and family who attended a memorial service on March 24 were asked to bring art supplies instead of flowers.
The supplies will made available for people who use the Salvation Army’s Smithers drop-in centre.
Norton Swift said she knew Elizabeth would have loved the idea.
“I know she would be so excited and happy about that,” she said.
“This is such a beautiful thing that they are doing because [The Salvation Army] was her touchstone.”
Norton’s friends at the memorial recalled her love of thrift shopping, her faith in Christianity, and her unfailing smile.
They recounted her generosity and love of gift-giving. Members of The Salvation Army also sang some of her favourite songs, including This Little Light of Mine and What A Friend We Have In Jesus.
Owners of the Two Sisters cafe posted a tribute to Norton on their website.
“She would visit us often three and four times a day in the summer, always with a smile, and always so grateful for whatever we had to give her,” they wrote.
“We’ll all miss hearing her voice at the back door asking, ‘Hello? Hello? Is anybody there?,’ in the middle of a rockin’ summer day, no less!”