July 13, 1926-May 23, 2018
SARASOTA, Fla. — Norman I. Rich, of Sarasota, Florida, formerly of Rock Island and Davenport, passed away, Wednesday, May 23, 2018, from complications after surgery at St. Mary's Hospital of the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota. He was 91. Norman was born to Louis H. and Ida Fox Rich, in Rock Island, on July 13, 1926. He attended Rock Island Public Schools, and graduated from the then-Morgan Park Military Academy in Chicago in 1944. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, and in 1946 returned to the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. Upon graduation, he entered the University of Illinois Medical School in Chicago, but Norman decided to forego medicine and join his father's poultry business, the Rock Island Produce Company, which had plants in Rock Island and West Liberty, Iowa. After his father became ill and retired in 1960, he and his younger brother, Martin, changed the name of the business to Louis Rich Foods Inc. and concentrated their efforts in the processing of turkeys in West Liberty. With help from their dad, they built this once small business into the largest further processor of turkeys in the world, and was called by many of his industry associates and competitors as “an innovator,” “a visionary.” Norman was instrumental in changing turkey consumption from once a year on Thanksgiving, to a year round food, bringing to the market hot dogs, bacon, pastrami, salami, bologna, breakfast sausage, and other meat products made from turkey for the first time. Louis Rich Inc., as the company became known, after acquiring plants in Newberry, South Carolina, in 1972, and Modesto, California, in 1973, merged with Oscar Mayer in 1979. Two years later, after Oscar Mayer was acquired by General Foods, Norman and Martin retired from the turkey business, but continued in other business ventures, including Stokeld Health, a pioneering mail order pharmacy.
Norman married Doris Sue Dockterman in 1949 in Davenport, and their marriage produced his son, Miles Warren Rich. In 1965, he met the love of his life, the former Sandra Lee Frey Nessen of Chicago. They were married on January 22, 1966, in Rock Island. Along with Sandy came her daughter, Caren, then age 10, who Norman raised as his own. Three years later, in 1969, Sandy and Norman welcomed their daughter, Elisabeth, into the world, making his family complete. Norman and Martin were as close as brothers could be, and really looked after each other for the entire 86 years they spent together. Even when they were on different sides of the world, they tried to talk by phone every day.
Norman was loved by all who knew him and he had a “father-son like” relationship with his two nephews, James and Tomas Manson, after their mother, Roselyn Rich Manson, Norman and Marty's older sister, and their father, William Manson passed away in the 1980s. Norman lost Sandy to cancer in 1996 after 30 wonderful years. A year later, he married Jeanne Harrison Davis of Rock Island, a longtime friend of his and Sandy's, and the widow of one of his boyhood friends and Sigma Alpha Mu college fraternity brothers, Henry J. Davis. Unfortunately, Jeanne was also stricken with cancer a few months after their marriage, and after she passed away in 2014, he married another friend of both Sandy, and Jeanne, Phyllis Sherman Kaufman, formerly of Bettendorf.
Norman loved sports, and was a real Iowa Hawkeye fan. He played football at Washington Jr. High School, and at Morgan Park, and then as an adult took up tennis, but later switched to golf, a game which he enjoyed into his late 80s. During the '60s, he spent many hours on the Mississippi on his Chris Craft cabin cruisers. Norman was an avid card player, enjoyed bridge and gin rummy and had regular games with his friends in Sarasota. A pillar of his community, he was a member of the Tri City Jewish Center, Temple Beth Sholom (Sarasota), the Davenport Country Club, Crow Valley Country Club, B'nai Brith, the Center Men's Club, the Young Men's Social Club, the Sailfish Point Country Club and Yacht Club, and the Longboat Key Club. He served as president of the Quad Cities Jewish Federation, and the Davenport Club, and served on the board of the First National of Rock Island, the Tri City Jewish Center, and Oscar Mayer Corporation.
Norman was featured in a Forbes Magazine article in 1977, and has been recognized by many civic and business organizations, including the West Liberty Rotary as an Honorary Rotarian, the National Turkey Federation as a Hall of Fame inductee, the USDA International Trade Development Board, the Dairy-Deli industry, the Iowa Turkey Federation, and as Man of the Year by Israel Bonds. Norman also received the Presidential “E” Award for exports achievement on behalf of Louis Rich from the US Dept. of Commerce in 1975. After retiring from Louis Rich, Inc., Norman and Sandy became “snowbirds,” building a home on the beach in Stuart, Florida, and downsizing into a duplex-condo in Davenport. In Stuart, he was a founding member of Temple Beit HaYam. After he and Phyllis married, they left Stuart, and moved to Sarasota where his brother, Martin, has spent most of the year since his retirement.
Norman was a prince, and will be missed by all who knew him.
He is survived by his wife, Phyllis, Sarasota, and her daughters, Shellie Abel (John) and Lori Siegel (Jon); his son, Miles W. Rich (Elisa Levy), Atlanta, Georgia; his daughter, Caren Nessen (Rob Gould), LaSelva Beach, California; his daughter, Elisabeth Duckett (Matthew), S. Salem, New York; his brother, Martin, Davenport and Longboat Key, Fkorida; grandsons, Louis Rich, Leo Rich, Steven Nessen (Danna), Phillip Nessen, Ike Radin, granddaughters, Meredith Rich and Sandy Radin; sister and brothers-in-law, Anne Sugarman, Phyllis and Norm Engelberg, Joe and Terri Frey; two great grandchildren, nephews, nieces, great nephews and nieces, and cousins.
Norman was preceded in death by wives, Sandy and Jeanne; his parents; his sister and brother-in-law Roselyn and William Manson; and sister-in-law, Barbara Slivken Rich.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to Mayo Clinic Louis Rich Family Endowed Fund in Cancer Research, or the Louis and Ida Rich West Liberty Child Care Center.
Funeral services are 1 p.m. Sunday, May 27, 2018, at Congregation Beth Israel at the Tri City Jewish Center, 2715 30th St., Rock Island.
Burial is at Hebrew Cemetery, Rock Island.
Wheelan-Pressly Funeral Home and Crematory is assisting the family with services.
Online condolences may be left for the family at wheelanpressly.com.