Cynthia Norvell

Harriette Cynthia (Poole) Norvell, age 79, of Lansing, Michigan, went to be with her heavenly father on Tuesday, May 28, 2019.  In death as in life, her loving husband, Merritt, was by her side.

Born on March 5, 1940, in Massillon, Ohio, to the late Leroy and Sadie (Bostick) Poole.  At the age of nine, Cynthia and her family moved to Madison, Wisconsin. Shortly after high school at the University of Wisconsin, she met the man that was to be her spouse for 56 years, Merritt Norvell. They dated throughout his college career and married July 4th, 1962. To their union were born two sons, Jay and Aaron.

A truly beautiful spirit, both inside and out, Cynthia was one of the first black models in the Wisconsin area. Discovered in Manchester’s department store in Madison, she soon found herself in demand as a print and runway model. In 1966, she reached national recognition as she and her young family were featured in Ebony magazine.  It was said she helped define typical beauty standards, set new precedents, and popularized fashion trends of the day.

A devoted wife and mother Cynthia worked by her husband’s side as he moved forward in his career. She was dedicated to each of her sons and supported their athletic pursuits, their careers and their passions. An ardent sports fan, Jay and Aaron knew their mother could be counted on to be on the sidelines, in the stands, or watching via television and quick to call with her support regardless of the outcome. She herself was an award-winning tennis player.

Cynthia was one of those unique individuals who knew and understood her purpose in life and what God wanted her to do. Her passion for life was her fuel and she kept that fuel in well-stocked supply. When asked how she was, her response was always, “I’M BLESSED.”

She had dreams and she made them come true. She set goals and achieved them. She celebrated each day of her life, no matter the circumstances and was quick to share words of encouragement and/or gratitude with family and friends through a bible verse, a quote or poem always delivered in a handwritten note.

Cynthia had an exuberant personality and was an example that life without purpose and passion is a life not worth living. Her zeal for life resulted in her love for many things such as: travel, reading and writing, music and theatre, carousels, collecting elephants and angels, finding “a real bargain” at a consignment or antique store and volunteering. She had an appreciation for good food, excellent wine and sharing time with friends and family.

At the time of her passing, Cynthia was at peace. We are born, we live, and we die. She knew we cannot do anything about being born or about dying, but we can do a lot about how we live.

She also took pride in her home and her garden. As a metaphor for her life, the same patience and perseverance it took to maintain her beautiful home and garden was reflective of her life… nurturing living things and bringing beauty and peace to the world.

She was preceded in death by her parents, her brothers Leroy and Elvis, and many cherished family and friends.

She leaves a legacy to be treasured by her husband, Merritt; sons, Jay (Kim) and Aaron (Lysken); grandson Jaden and granddaughter Raelee Harriett; sisters, Rosetta Johnson, Hazel Poole and Johnetta (Doug) Simmons and many nieces and nephews who were very dear to her; adopted family, friends and the many souls she touched along her way.

A celebration of life will be held on Wednesday, June 19, 2019, 1:30 p.m. at Friendship Baptist Church, 2912 Pleasant Grove Road, Lansing, Michigan.

Memorials should be made in Cynthia’s name to: The American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 42040, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73123, or or 800-227-2345. Send acknowledgements to 4236 Pine Tree Lane, Lansing, Michigan 48911.

Arrangements are by the Estes-Leadley Greater Lansing Chapel.

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38 Messages to “Cynthia Norvell

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David and Darla Thompson
June 2, 2019 at 3:27 pm

Merritt, Jay, and Aaron,

David and I offer our sincere sympathy to all of you. Cynthia was a beautiful person inside and out who loved the 3 special men in her life dearly and loved and welcomed all who crossed her path. She will be missed.

Melvina Brown
June 3, 2019 at 7:29 am

I am sadden to learn of Cynthia’s passing. I spoke to her a couple of weeks ago while she was in the hospital. As always she was thinking about me and how I was recovering from cancer.
She was one of the most caring, beautiful persons I have ever known.
I will truly miss her.
Rest In Peace Cynthia
Melvina Brown
Ellicott City, Maryland

merritt norvell
June 5, 2019 at 9:06 am

Thank you Melvina. Please make sure Shirley Hobbs knows of Cynthia’s passing.

Kathy Deering
June 5, 2019 at 11:26 am

How could anyone not love Cynthia? It’s just not possible. She truly made her mark on the world with her style, grace, compassion, love and faith. She adored her family as I am sure they adored her. Godspeed, Cynthia…it was a pleasure to have been in your remarkable presence!

Barbara Davis
June 5, 2019 at 11:30 am

We are all blessed to have known Cynthia. She was such an inspirational to me. I will cherish memories of the love she had for all. I believe Cynthia never met a stranger. She always had a GOOD word for you.

Truly she will be missed. Rest my friend in Paradise. Until we meet again.

Love, Barbara Davis

Dennis Muchmore
June 5, 2019 at 2:39 pm

Truly an amazing person, a ground breaking woman of style, an incredible wife and mom, and one of the most beautiful human beings we have ever met.

Deb and Dennis Muchmore

Dr.Freda Merriweather
June 5, 2019 at 3:33 pm

Cynthia will long be remembered for her lovely spirit, positive outlook and kindness. Her dedication to her family was most notable. I will remember her as a person who didn’t watch it happen, but made it happen. She will be sorely missed.

Marci Kunene
June 5, 2019 at 6:06 pm

Dearest Norvell, Poole, Castellanos, Family, Friends and Relatives,

My heart aches for all of you as I’ve read countless messages of love and loss.

I met vivacious Cindy, a few years ago, while we were both exercising on Monroe St. in Madison WI. From the moment she introduced herself, I felt as if I had known her all my life…she was that kind of woman…classy, funny, always positive and kind…and these were her exceptional qualities, besides being physically beautiful, her inner beauty was radiant.

Just a few months ago, Cindy was in town….she phoned and we agreed that she would stop by for an impromptu visit. We spent the time laughing and joking as I gave her a tour of my new apartment. Somehow we both knew it would probably be our last visit together and we also discussed the reality of that thought…..with hugs.

As Cindy left and walked down the hallway towards the elevator, she turned and said with a glowing smile, “I love you!”
I responded, “I love you, too!”

I have been blessed to have known, loved and been loved by Cindy.

With deepest sympathy,

Marci Kunene

Camille Crossley
June 5, 2019 at 11:53 pm

Thank you for sharing this touching memory of your time with Aunt Cindy.. She loved you Marci.

Peggy Thodis
June 5, 2019 at 8:29 pm

I’m one of her many close friends who will miss her daily. She will be forever God’s gem. Bless you Cynthia!

Camille Crossley
July 8, 2019 at 12:46 pm

Thank you so much for your support and loving friendship Peggy.

Larry and Pat Leatherwood
June 6, 2019 at 9:40 am

Merritt And family there’s really not much more to say. Family, friends and associates have done a beautiful way of expressing Cynthia’s beauty, love, caring and support she has always exhibited to all. Both my wife Pat and I echo those words and feel blessed to have known Cynthia and to have been in her presense. May God bless each of you.

Jeffrey Kovan
June 6, 2019 at 10:07 am

Merritt, my deepest sympathy and best to you and your family. So sad to hear of Cynthia’s passing.

Jeff Kovan

Jack Davis
June 6, 2019 at 10:09 am

Sorry to hear about Cynthia. She was a very charming,thoughtful,and caring woman. All of us will miss her.

Ellen Hoekstra
June 6, 2019 at 10:20 am

Merritt and family,

I am so sorry for your loss of your wonderful wife and mother. May loving memories help you through this difficult period.

And may God be with you,

Tammye Coles
June 6, 2019 at 10:45 am

Cynthia Norvell — Not even sure where to start in celebrating the life is this amazing sister! She was such a fabulous role model for so many things. She took classy to another level! She was a warm and inspiring spirit ever time you encountered her. She always had an uplifting message to share with you ever time. She was an amazing support system to her family and served as the first lady of MSU Athletics with class and style! The thing I recall most is how she always said, “Do whatever you can to uplift your children!” I will miss this angel on earth. Rest in Peace.

Marthaellen Florence
June 11, 2019 at 11:17 pm

We appreciate the sentiment. Now it’s up to amazing women like yourself to keep her pass on her lessons and legacy.
Thank you friend.

Wendell and Marta Barron
June 6, 2019 at 1:17 pm

Dearest Merritt and family,
Our deepest sympathy and love go out to you all.
We will miss her beautiful smile and warm friendship. She always included us in the important events in her life.
Wendell and Marta

Myron and Dee Freeman
June 6, 2019 at 10:44 pm

Merritt and family,
Our deepest heartfelt sympathy to you for the loss of the love of your life… Cynthia.
Myron and I can only reiterate as others, how we will miss the warm smile, the beautiful style, the lovely spirit, and the out reach of kindness. Merritt, she had an obvious compassion and enormous grace that exuded each time she allowed any of us to enter into her heart and her space. We knew without a doubt through any conversation that you, Jay and Aaron were her world… She was never shy when letting us know that fact. We solemnly pray God will ease the pain of this loss.
Ms Cynthia… Rest in peace gracious LADY! Your brilliant torch may be dimmed, but we know there’s no way it can be barred from shining brightly as you stroll around heaven continuing the mission you started down here.

Howard Crossley
June 7, 2019 at 4:15 am

Dear Merritt, Jay, Aaron & all your family & friends. My thoughts are with you for your loss. She suffered her illness with strength & positivity right to the end. She is now at peace & will be inspiring the Angels in the same way she did everybody in life. Cynthia was such a wonderful person & instantly made me feel welcome in her company, always showing a genuine keen interest in what was happening in my life & my country, the UK. A vibrant personality, she was so supportive to my wife Camille & loved her like a daughter. She even quickly latched on to my English sense of humour & we always had plenty of laughs when in her company with her family. She wont be forgotten, here in the UK & I send my love & condolences to Merritt, her two boys, their wives & children & all her extended family. Howard x

Theresa Castellanos
June 18, 2019 at 4:52 am

That was beautiful Howard Aunt Cindy really loved you too.

Camille Castellanos Crossley
September 28, 2019 at 9:59 am

Thank you so much for your thoughtful words Howard, my family appreciates your sentiments. You captured Aunt Cynthia beautifully.
Love Camille xx

Linda Clauder
June 9, 2019 at 10:21 am

With sincere sympathy, and in admiration,
Linda Martin Clauder, UW ’63

Robin Douthitt
June 9, 2019 at 10:48 am

Dearest Merit, I loved Cynthia from the first moment I met her. She had the ability to make you feel like she had always been a friend. Every time we spoke felt like a special conversation. Her generous spirit touched many. My world was better for having known her. May the many memories of her hold your spirit high.

Blair Mathews
June 9, 2019 at 7:35 pm

Merritt, I am thinking of you and and the boys.
Take care.

Julie Genna-Berg
June 10, 2019 at 11:20 am

Dear Merritt, Jay, Aaron & the Poole family. Sending my deepest sympathies to the family for the loss of such a beautiful lady.

Chris and Doris Forte
June 10, 2019 at 9:38 pm

Merritt and Family–
We grieve with you as we are saddened to hear of Cynthia’s passing. She was a true lady in every sense of the word–beautiful, gracious and loving. The world just became a little darker because her light is no longer in it. We shall see her again at the Right Hand! Stay in HIS grip…
Much Love, Chris and Doris

1 Thessalonians 4:13-20 (NIV)

Valarie Green
June 14, 2019 at 9:12 am

Merritt and Family,
Our heartfelt Condolences to you and your family. Cynthia was so warm and loving. We will miss her kindness, her smile and her positive manner. May God continue to bless you and your family,

With love…
Val and Vince Green

Jeanette Braxton Secret
June 16, 2019 at 2:44 pm

Merritt and Family,
Cynthia was my childhood friend since the third grade at Franklin Elementary School, Madison, WI. Our friendship evolved over more than 70 years. I’ll miss our conversations, her visits in my home, her letters and cards over the years, and every bit of my life space that we enjoyed together.
I’ll miss you!
Jeanette Braxton Secret

Leonar (Monty) Trice Sr.
June 17, 2019 at 11:18 am

Merrit, Jay and Aaron

My thoughts and prayers are with the entire family in this time of grief and loss. My sincere condolences. I recall Ms. Cynthia during her and Merrit vow renewal several years ago. And while I was a distant relative by marriage she made me feel and treated me as if I were a permanent and long-time member of the family. She is truly skin to school a very beautiful person and it showed as true and genuine compassion and humility. It was a privilege sharing a moment in our life’s journey even in a relatively brief moment in time. I wish you all the best and pray for your moment of sadness to pass and foster the loving memories of a wonderful mother, wife and friend.

Theresa Castellanos
June 18, 2019 at 5:34 am

Uncal Merritt, Jay and Aaron

I have no profound words to recite, I only want to say;
I love you very much. I love my aunt and miss her more then words can express.

I’m not ready for this loss and can’t understand how someone so good and full of life was taken so soon.

They say time heals, I pray it will for us all.

I know what she would say so eloquently.

“Sweetheart, I’ve Been Blessed’

Your loving niece and cousin,

Camille Crossley
June 27, 2019 at 1:29 am

Beautifully written Theresa

Minister Charles P. Thompson
June 18, 2019 at 6:01 pm

To my dear friends Aaron, Jay and Mr. Norvell, I am truly sorry for your loss! Mrs. Norvell was a beautiful woman both inside and out. No reason to be sad because we know she’s in a better place. I never saw her upset and she was always a blessing and pleasant to be around. My prayers are with all of you this evening and my wife and I will be in Lansing tomorrow to help celebrate her life. God bless you and your family! “P.T.”

Helen R Graham
June 19, 2019 at 6:48 am

I will miss my singing buddy during women DAY. I. loved how she would share her pictures with me when she would go on vacation. Rest in heaven Cynthia we love you

Marion and Debra Moore
June 23, 2019 at 5:09 pm

Dear Merritt,Jay, Aaron,and your family.
We are so saddened to learn of Cynthia’s passing.Please know how very much
you are cared about and how deeply your loss is felt by all who knew her.
God Bless.

Camille Crossley
June 27, 2019 at 2:56 am

Dearest Uncle Merritt, Jay and Aaron,
May God bless you and help you find peace through the pain. My heart goes out to you all; for I know the close bond you shared with an Angel on Earth.
My beloved Aunt Cynthia, has always been like a second Mother to me. I am grateful and forever changed for knowing her. She touched our lives and left her imprint on our souls.

To know Cynthia Norvell was to love her, she was in a word REMARKABLE. Her enormous energy engulfed a room, feed your spirit and renewed your soul. This was her gift to the world and I am heartbroken by her loss.

May God bless your memory Aunt Cindy, you are forever in my heart and in my mind.
Love you so very much,
Your niece,
Camille xoxo

Randall E Ballweg DDS
July 9, 2019 at 5:30 pm

We are given brief moments of time with each other; and, Cynthia made the most of her time in conversation about the state of the world, sports, her family…but always inquired about my family of “boys.” Effervescent, with a healthy measure of “common sense,” left both of us with a feeling of joy for humanity.
I am sorry for your loss of this wonderful soul.
Randy Ballweg

Ray stone
October 24, 2020 at 12:24 pm

. Oct. 24th
It’s been so long since we talked but I’ve always thought about you and the times we had together playing ball and the meeting of your wonderful wife I recall years ago when we visited you at your mom and dads home in Jacksonville.. Cynthia talked about to us about her love she had about h r 2 wonderful boys and of course Merritt.


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