Before she died one week ago, Norma Gorsuch received the one gift she most wanted – a visit from her great-great-grandson and a record of five generations of her family in one place.
The 100-year-old matriarch passed away from heart failure on Feb. 11, just three days after cradling 12-day-old Cru Scaffidi in her room at Sunset Village, a nursing facility in Sylvania. Also present were great-granddaughter Chelsey Scaffidi, granddaughter Kay Ziegler, and daughter Linda Gerken. By all accounts, it was a tender moment celebrating a life well-lived and the promise of another just beginning.
Ziegler, a Delta resident and Scaffidi’s mother, said, “We’ve been able to be a close family and be together. Just seeing my grandma being able to hold (Cru) and them gazing up into each other’s eyes, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, his life is just beginning as her life is on its way out, and just all of the things that she has seen and all of the things he will see in his lifetime, and how they will be so different.’”
Born April 27, 1920, Gorsuch had led a full life. After growing up in Delta, she raised her children alone while her husband, Gene, was off to war. Upon his return the couple owned and operated both Service Soft Water Conditioning and Gorsuch Plumbing and Heating in Wauseon. Gorsuch also served as president of Business and Professional Women and was active in Eastern Star and Trinity Lutheran Church, all located in Wauseon.
The Gorsuches eventually retired to a condominium at Fairlawn Haven in Archbold, where Gene died in 1993.
Norma Gorsuch suffered a stroke six years ago, but powered through rehabilitation at Kingston, an assisted living facility also in Sylvania. Then, two years ago, she fell and broke a hip. Gorsuch spent her remaining life at Sunset Village, where last year she fought and survived COVID-19.
Approaching her 101st birthday, she was excited for the birth of her first great-great-grandchild. Her great-granddaughter, 33-year-old Chelsey Scaffidi, and Chelsey’s husband, Zac, kept Gorsuch, herself a fifth generation mother and grandmother, involved in the pregnancy through face time on Amazon Echo Show.
“She was with me during my pregnancy journey,” Scaffidi said. “I was really close with her. She very much had her wits about her and her spirit.”
When Scaffidi went into labor, her female family members each lit a candle in solidarity – including Gorsuch, who was given a battery-operated candle for the occasion. When Gorsuch mentioned that she’d prematurely activated her candle, she added, “I’m trying to get this party started.”
Cru Scaffidi was born Jan. 28, 2021. A week later Gorsuch told his mother, “I just want to hold him. I just want to smell him, and I can’t wait to actually physically touch him.” Chelsey Scaffidi found the statement unsettling.
“That was kind of an odd thing for her to say because we were going to see her in the spring,” she said. “The way she said it made me think, ‘I’ve got to get home.’”
So Scaffidi, an attorney for the MacArthur Foundation, arranged to bring her newborn son to her “GG” – her great-grandmother. The family drove from Chicago to Sunset Village in Sylvania to introduce Cru to the family matriarch and so that Scaffidi could pose with them, her mother, and her grandmother for the five-generation family photo they had originally scheduled for the spring.
Scaffidi’s instincts had been good. On Sunday, Feb. 7, Gorsuch was fading, and told Ziegler, Scaffidi’s mother, “Please tell Chelsey I’m sorry to disappoint her if I (do). I don’t know that I’m going to be here for that fifth-generation picture. I hope I can stay here that long.”
The Scaffidi family arrived the next day. Chelsey could see Gorsuch didn’t look well, but the centenarian perked up, insisting on sitting up to cuddle her great-great-grandchild.
“She was in the best spirits. It, like, lifted her. It was incredible to see,” Scaffidi said. “She was so funny and lively. ‘GG’ said, ‘You’re so precious, little boy. You’re so beautiful, Cru.’ He fell asleep on her.”
Ziegler said the emotional meeting between Cru and his great-great-grandmother, 100 years apart in age, was captured in photos and on video.
“She just beamed,” Ziegler said of Gorsuch. “She was so excited, and she just loved on him and kissed the top of his head. Chelsey started crying…tears of joy that this could happen – that our ‘GG’ would be here for this. (Gorsuch) just kept saying the next day, ‘Can you believe they brought that 12-day-old baby all the way from Chicago just to see me and have this picture taken?’“
Scaffidi said watching Gorsuch come alive as she held Cru caused her to tear up. “I kept holding them both together,” she said. “It was extremely emotional and touching to see him really clinging to her, and her lighting up. She was giving him love and wisdom. It was really just a joyful and positive and hopeful moment.”
During their visit, Scaffidi had gifted her great-grandmother with a rose quartz necklace a friend had given her when she went into labor. “I said, ‘Whenever you need a physical reminder of all the love that surrounds you…I want you to hold this necklace.”
Gorsuch died three days later, on Feb. 11. Her hand grasped the necklace when she passed.
“She had a sweet personality, very kind, very selfless, always worrying about others, always doing for others,” Ziegler said.
For Scaffidi, bringing Cru to meet Gorsuch “was the best decision I ever made, because I felt at peace when I left that room. It was one of the most powerful moments, honestly, of my life, seeing him there. He really melted into her. I think he could sense her peace and her calming energy. The things that she has seen, the wisdom she has gained…I wish Cru would have been able to learn from her, and to hear from her.”
She plans to show her son the photos and video of her “GG” and keep her spirit alive in him.
“It makes me so happy that the torch that she had and lit in this life is passed onto him,” Scaffidi said. “One of the things I want to tell him and teach him is, she lived such a beautiful life…I want him to carry that torch, and learn from her way of life.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.