By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE — For decades, former Selinsgrove Mayor Richard “Dick” Norman has been an avid supporter of local youth and the driving force behind Kidsgrove.
“Kidsgrove wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for him,” Mayor Sean Christine said.
It was Norman’s vision to build the Sassafras Street playground. He rounded up hundreds of volunteers and raised thousands of dollars in donations to build the structure in five days in September 1997.
More than 15 years later, Norman remains active in the community and making sure the community playground is well-maintained.
But at age 81, Norman said it’s time to take it easy.
He recently stepped down as a member of the borough’s Park and Recreation Commission, a position he’s held for 25 years.
“I’m starting to slow down a bit,” Norman said. “I’m cutting down on a lot of things, but I’m still involved with Kidsgrove.”
Born in Middleburg, Norman was a sophomore in high school when he moved with his family to Selinsgrove.
He and his father operated Selinsgrove Auto Parts for many years until Norman decided to retire following a fire at the business in 1989. By then, Norman had become politically active, serving first on Borough Council and then as mayor for a couple of terms.
“I enjoyed judging cookies and cookoffs,” he said with a grin.
As a member of Parks and Recreation Commission, Norman had an idea to create a family-friendly playground where young and old could gather.
Over the years, the community has generously donated money to expand Kidsgrove. A dog park was added to the site a couple of years ago and this summer two new pieces of playground equipment valued at nearly $40,000 will be installed.
One of Norman’s gifts is finding volunteers. Over the years, the Boy Scouts have donated their time and energy on 14 different projects at the playground.
Christine credits Norman with making sure projects are completed and maintained.
“If it weren’t for guys like Dick, some things wouldn’t be done,” he said. “He’s not just a talker. He rolls up his sleeves.”
Norman, the father of four and grandfather of six, said he hopes his departure from the Parks and Recreation Commission will prompt new volunteers to get involved.
“It’s hard stepping down, but we need to get some young blood in there,” he said of the board that meets six times a year.
Board chairman Rocky Baer said losing someone as involved as Norman is difficult, but he hopes to fill the seat soon.
“It’s not easy to replace someone,” Baer said. “Dick is always willing to help and he’s a great source of information.”
Anyone interested in serving as a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission should contact Baer at firstname.lastname@example.org.