‘A loss for words’: Van Norman remembered by friends, colleagues throughout Vicksburg

Published 4:26 pm Monday, May 15, 2023

The flags were flying at half-staff at all Vicksburg city buildings Monday as city officials and employees mourned the loss of one of their own.

Public Works Director Garnet Van Norman, 70, who joined the city in March 1990 as city engineer and later followed his father as the city’s public works director, died Saturday at his home in Claiborne County.

Services will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Glenwood Funeral Home. Visitation is Tuesday from 5 to 7  p.m. at the funeral home.

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Monday morning, the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen held a moment of silence to honor Van Norman and its members took time to remember him before moving into their meeting.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr., who in a May 5 story about Van Norman’s retirement in The Vicksburg Post, called him “one of the most loyal and dedicated employees for this city that there ever could have been,” added to that comment Monday.

“This guy had so much institutional knowledge of the public works of this community and in fact, he inherited it from his father, “Flaggs said.

Flaggs also recalled a time during the 2017 flood when a waterline ruptured underwater off Haining Road.

“We gathered together and went and put a coffer dam around it so we get the water leak fixed,” Flaggs said, adding that during the whole process to repair the line, as he did in other situations, Van Norman “never panicked; this guy knew what he was doing. He’s going to be missed because you can’t walk away with that kind of institutional knowledge. You don’t replace this guy; you replace the function.”

Ward 1 Alderman Michael Mayfield, who also served as a Warren County Supervisor, said Van Norman “was always open to what you might bring to his attention. I appreciated that.”

As an alderman, Mayfield said, he had a good relationship with Van Norman.

“He knows the city, whether it was a gas line, or a pipeline, or a sewer line, you could ask about it and if he didn’t have the answer, he could quickly get it for you,” he said. “I appreciate knowing him through the years.”

Ward 2 Alderman Alex Monsour said he could call Van Norman and “he never got upset because you called him, but he did what he had to do and I appreciate that. He always told the truth no matter what. I’d also like to give my condolences to his family.”

Vicksburg Recreation and Parks Director Rick Daughtry said Van Norman “is going to be truly missed, even outside of work. He was a good father to his son in Special Olympics.”

Van Norman’s death, Daughtry said, “kind of took everybody by surprise; he will be truly missed. I’m kind of at a loss for words; there’s a big hole that we’ll all miss.”

“We are thankful for all the support he’s given us over the years,” said Rebecca Busby, executive director of Jacob’s Ladder. “He was a wonderful man and a good father to (his son) Garnet. We’re very sad to hear of his passing. He was a terrific guy and I really did like working with him over the years. He will truly be missed.”

Sandy Hearn with the River Region Special Olympics said Van Norman had always been a big supporter of his son, who is also named Garnet, through Special Olympics and helped the program.

Hearn said that on Saturday, Van Norman’s wife Peggy and their son were at a swim meet when Van Norman died.

“They were with us on the Coast for our summer games and (his son) did swim there. I believe he talked to his daddy and told him he had gotten a gold and a silver medal, so Garnet was happy about that,” she said.

Van Norman, she said, had always been a big supporter of Special Olympics and Jacob’s Ladder. “We’re truly going to miss (him).”

Hearn said Van Norman would occasionally bring his son to swim practice “and if (his son) didn’t swim and he was playing and not being serious, all we had to do was look at Big Garnet and he’d just have to look … and say, ‘Garnet…’ and (his son) would straighten up and start swimming.

“He was there for us if we needed him,” she added. “He always helped us keep Garnet ‘swimming’ in the straight direction.”

Vicksburg Street Superintendent Carl Harris said Van Norman “was a great person to work for in the 20 years I had the opportunity to work with him. I’m sad that it happened and he’s going to be missed. He was one of the greats I got to be able to work with in the 20 years I’ve been here; we got to be friends while he was here.”

“He was a terrific guy and I really enjoyed working with him over the years,” Downtown Vicksburg Main Street Program Executive Director Kim Hopkins said. “He will be truly missed.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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