Norman Lester Opp

Norman Lester Opp

Jan. 16, 1936 – Nov. 8, 2021

Norman Lester Opp was born on January 16, 1936, in Hebron, North Dakota, and died at his home in Lovell on November 8, 2021. 

He was born to Christ and Matilda (Schrenk) Opp. Growing up, they lived on a farm north of Hebron. Norman attended a country school for four years before the family sold the farm and moved into town. Norm’s school bus was a horse named Betsy, or he walked two miles from home. 

He attended Hebron schools and graduated in 1954. He was active in all sports, earning 12 varsity letters. During the summer of his senior year, he attended Molar Barber College in Fargo, North Dakota. In 1955, he passed his master barber license at the age of 19 and worked his way through college as a barber. 

Norman graduated from Dickinson State in 1958 with a degree in business and accounting. While attending Dickinson State, he also earned varsity letters in baseball and tennis.

During 1958-1962, Norm served as a combat engineer in the United Stated Army. He was honorably discharged from service in 1962.

He began his teaching career in Bainville, Mont., and in 1959 moved to Lovell, where he taught business and coached football, basketball and track. Shortly after, he met the love of his life, Phyrn Doerr, and they married in 1961. To this family, two children were born, Krystal in 1964 and Kurtis in 1972. 

While raising their family, Norm continued teaching business at Lovell High School, where he was also the advisor to the school newspaper and annual (yearbook). His paper and annual won an all-state award, the only such award in the history of the high school. During this time, he also continued his education and earned his master of business degree from the University of Wyoming in 1965.

He became a middle school principal in 1967 and held that position until his retirement in 1994. In 1988, Norm was named Wyoming principal of the year. Education was very important to Norm. Aside from being a principal, he taught many college classes in business and was the driving force in computer education in the area. He taught many computer classes at the college level. He also lectured at the University of Wyoming and Arizona State on middle school and community education. To this day, students from all over Montana and Wyoming still refer to him as Mr. Opp. Norm was well known in his community and took pride in the years he spent in education. He followed many of his students and was friends with many on Facebook.

Community was also very important to Norm. He served as chamber secretary, vice president of the hospital board for North Big Horn Hospital, president of the Foster Gulch Golf Association, president of the Lovell Education Foundation board, a member of the Hospital Foundation board, secretary and president of the Wyoming High School Press Association and director of the Wyoming Principals Association. Norm also served as secretary for Aspen Town House Timeshare. For his love of God, Norm was an active member at St. John’s Lutheran Church. 

Norman received numerous awards and accolades during his life. Just to name a few, Dickinson State University selected Norm as Chief Outstanding Alumnus, and he was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame for tennis. The Lovell Area Chamber of Commerce selected him as Citizen of the Year. Norm and Phyrn were also selected for grand marshals for Mustang Days. Norm was also selected as the outstanding hospital board member in the region by the Billings Clinic.

One of Norm’s favorite hobbies was golfing and being a part of the Foster Gulch Golf Course. He helped with the landscaping of the golf course. Norm had worked with the tree board for two years on the tree project. In Norm’s words, “Tree planting serves a couple purposes at the golf course. Trees are a golfer’s greatest nightmare, and they also add a great deal to the beauty of the course.” 

Even though community and education were important to Norm, his family and friends were his world. He loved life and tried to live life to the fullest. Norm loved Wyoming and the mountains. He couldn’t wait for hunting season, and he enjoyed fishing in the mountains. Norm also loved to ski, golf, garden and travel. 

He would travel anywhere to be with his kids and grandkids. Norm especially enjoyed watching his family grow and valued the traditions he instilled in them. He lived for family quality time. Staying connected to his sister, Joann, and family in North Dakota was extremely important. At any opportunity, he would make the trip to see his family in North Dakota. Norm spent a huge amount of his retired time on the golf course, and, of course, morning coffee with his friends was a priority for the day. 

Little things Phyrn will miss are his little giggle, strolls in the golf cart, country drives, date night, getting ice cream cones and especially playing the card game Kings on the Corner. Time spent with Norm will forever be missed. 

Norm is survived by his wife, Phyrn, who will sorely miss her soul mate; children Krystal (Craig) Stephenson and Kurtis (Robin) Opp; grandchildren Colten, McKenzie, Ethan and Paige; and sister Joann Thatch.

He is a man who lived his life honorably and spent a life well lived. His smirk and sense of humor will be missed by so many. More so, his Sunday phone calls to his children and sister will be a void in their hearts forever. We love you and will miss you every day.