We lost a dear friend in Norm Kreuz the other day after a great life and a long illness [with Ellie by his side through every lasting moment].
I use to love to get Norm talking. Whether it was about old haunts on Niagara Falls Blvd, his childhood before life on the farm, fixing the disposal, falling in love with Ellie, moving the family from Ohio to Buffalo [with the oft-told road-kill story], or just the vast repertoire of remembrances from raising 6 kids – Norm always shared his zest for life with whoever would listen.
Norm was the consummate salesman. He was old-school, and he was the best of a dying breed. I haven’t met a ‘Norm’ in years. Today’s salespeople are all about metrics and Tony Robbins’ hype. Norm had the charm to go along with the facts. He knew his customers, and they knew him. But it wasn’t the way we know customers today. Norm’s customers were never data, they were his customers and his friends – and he would see them year after year. It’s a lesson Joe learned well. Even today, Joe’s guideline for his business is still about building relationships that last a lifetime.
I remember one night back in 1983, when Norm passed by the original Stereo Advantage at around one in the morning [after a little too much gin rummy at the Red Carpet]. Norm walked into our warehouse [which was an apartment living room behind the shop] and he saw Butch doing the work of five guys. Butch was just a 19-year-old kid back then, and he was deciding between the Stereo Advantage and Buff State – and Norm just looked at him like he was crazy – but the pride was undeniable. Norm always knew the difference between shit and Shinola, and he always knew his kids would be successful. But success to Norm [for himself and his family] was never measured by how big your farm was – it was always measured how big the love in your family was.
I’ll leave you with two great moments I had with Norm. The first one came a dozen years ago from a simple phone call from Joe asking me if I had seen JoJo. No one knew where he was, and they were trying to get ahold of him. Turns out that he just dropped by Norm’s to catch a football game with grandpa. That’s all you need to know as a grandparent. That’s love – and that’s the kind of love Norm gave and received in abundance.
And my last endearing moment with Norm came at a Christmas party at Frank’s several years ago. Norm sat me down and told me he just didn’t understand why people were killing each other. He wanted to know why there was so much bloodshed. After 80 years of living, he just didn’t understand all the dying. He truly wanted to know if I could explain it. For a man who loved life so much, he just couldn’t understand how it could be wasted so mercilessly.
For Norm Kreuz, it was a full life – and he never wasted a drop of it. He is an inspiration to all that knew and loved him. We would all do well to share his zest and appreciation for the gift of life.