A FLAMBOYANT military veteran whose glamorous alter-ego ‘Norma’ drew admiring glances on the streets of Darlington has died aged 82.
Norman Horton was well-known in the town, both as a long-serving council Mayoral mace-bearer, but more unusually for his penchant for dressing up as a woman.
Long before the likes of drag acts such as Ru Paul became mainstream television, Mr Horton could be seen sashaying his way to Darlington Arts Centre resplendent in high heels and a dress.
He raised hundreds of pounds for charity fun runs competing as ‘Norma’ - including the London Marathon where he had to fend off tube passengers who insisted on tweaking his ‘bosom’ on the way to the race.
His wife of 30-years, Mavis, admitted she initially struggled with ‘Norma’ making an appearance in their marriage, and even set up a support group at her Vane Terrace home for other wives dealing with the same thing.
She said: “It was funny when he did the fun runs but from my point of view it wasn’t really funny because I didn’t know what people were thinking.
“I was worried about what the neighbours would think. But I had grown to accept it.
“Loving someone is a mysterious thing.”
Mavis, who did not wear make-up or high heels, admitted she felt ‘dowdy’ compared to Norma who liked to be the centre of attention.
She added: “He had his job and his family, but when the Arts Centre was open he would sassy along to there and and everybody would remark on what lovely legs he had.”
Mavis met Norman in 1987 when she set up the Darlington and District Bereaved and Widowed Support Group from her home.
Norman was grieving the loss of his first wife and Mavis had lost her husband.
The pair hit it off and were married two years later.
Norman, who served 25-years with the Parachute Signals Squadron, had left the military by then and was working as a security guard at Darlington Town Hall.
He was a dedicated member of the Darlington Veterans Club and attended regular meetings, military parades and educational displays.
In 2014 aged 77 he was one of four veterans who took part in a parachute jump as part of the celebrations surrounding the visit of the Mynarski Memorial Lancaster.
At the time, he told The Northern Echo he shouted ‘Geronimo’ as he leapt out of the plane at 11,000ft.
Around 12-years-ago he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and in September of this year he suffered a debilitating stroke and died on November 5.
His daughter, Julia Heath, described him as a ‘colourful character’ who will be sadly missed.