Petty Officer Second Class, USN
The life story of Norm Caldwell is one of a self-made man who believes in his God, his country, his community and his family. He was born on a farm in Moore County, North Carolina, with no electricity, no plumbing and no modern farm equipment. Norm was one of nine children who were raised by loving parents to be law-abiding and grateful for the things that they had. Before graduating from high school in Carthage, Norm enlisted in the Navy in 1943 despite having poor eyesight. As an early indicator of his patriotism, Norm memorized the eye chart in order to get into the Navy.
While in the Navy during the War, Norm became an aviation metal smith and served in Jacksonville, Florida; Norman, Oklahoma; Alameda, California; and the Naval Station on Ford Island, Hawaii. He was discharged on the last day of 1945 and decided to enroll in Purdue University where he majored in Industrial Engineering and Industrial Management. During his time at Purdue, Norm met and married his wife Vi, who has been his companion and partner for 65 years. Norm graduated from Purdue in August 1949 and began a career consisting of high-level managerial positions in business and industry.
While working as the plant manager for Sommer Metalcraft Corporation in Crawfordsville, Indiana, in the mid-1980s, Norm and his employer decided that the company needed a southern location to supply its expanding customer base. Norm was assigned as the lead person in the search for a new location, and he identified Auburn as his choice for the southern location of his company. In 1985, Norm and Vi moved to Auburn where he became plant manager of the new Sommer Metalcraft location.
Norm's talents in industrial development were soon recognized, and the City Council appointed him to the Industrial Development Board which he soon chaired. During his tenure as IDB chair, the City began one of its most successful periods of industrial recruitment with dozens of American and international companies deciding to make Auburn home. Norm's work led to the Chamber of Commerce naming its "Industrialist of the Year Award" in his honor.
Throughout his long and distinguished life, Norm has given back to the communities where he has lived. He has been a Rotarian in three different cities, including Auburn. Norm, in his quiet and effective manner, played a key role in improving Auburn in numerous ways beyond industrial development. Norm and Vi retired in April 2004 to Englewood, Florida, where he stays busy golfing, fishing, reading and helping Englewood improve. Two of Norm's and Vi's three sons are living as well as 10 grandchildren and two great-granddaughters.