October 7, 1926 — July 9, 2020
Norman Brooks Leftwich was born in McAlester, Oklahoma, on Oct. 7, 1926, to George and Sherley Leftwich. After childhood years in Waco and Dallas, the family moved to Shallowater, Texas (near Lubbock), where George managed a large cotton farm for many years.
Norman served in the Navy during WWII as a radar operator on the USS Roi, an escort aircraft carrier. His ship participated in Admiral “Bull” Halsey’s drive to the Japanese mainland, which ended once “the bomb” was dropped.
After several adventures (and misadventures), Norman ended up in Lubbock, earning a degree from Texas Tech in Animal Husbandry. It was during this time that he made a fateful stop at a cafe near Abilene, and fell in love with the cute girl behind the counter.
Twenty days later, Norman and Frankie Brown were married in the house of a Methodist minister (the only minister they could find) on Sept. 13, 1951.
Frankie had been a Christian since childhood, but Norman had never chosen to follow Christ. One Sunday, he followed her to Calvary Baptist Church in Lubbock and gave his life to the Lord. History changed that day as Norman committed to raise his family God’s way.
After several moves, the young and growing family ended up in Austin, Texas, where Norman began a successful career with Prudential Insurance. He developed a reputation for honesty and integrity. If Norman said it, you knew you could bank on it. That, along with his love and care for people earned him the loyalty and friendship of clients across the country.
Norman and Frankie joined Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin and served there for many years. He was the eighth grade department director for generations of young people and served as chairman of the deacons.
Norman did not retire. At an age where many start taking it easy, he moved to Burnet County, and went to work in the Hill Country. He and Frankie supported many ministry projects including new church starts, area benevolence and ministering at the local jail.
Norman began building his dream for a unique outreach and ministry destination. “Main Street Bethlehem” had many challenges as he shared the vision, found workers and began setting up a re-creation of biblical Bethlehem.
He started with simple fabric ‘walls’ and sent people through a twisted road, designed from a hand-drawn map. Over the years, the fabric walls became stone, and the place developed a character all its own. Dozens of visitors became hundreds, then thousands, and the project became an annual “mustvisit” for people throughout Texas.
Main Street has been featured in travel guides, magazines and video programs, and has been a boost to the Burnet economy. But the main point of the project is the spiritual impact on those who participate. Many have come to the Lord through this effort.
From the humble start of “Lefty Leftwich and the Longhorns” (honky-tonk band during his college years), Norman’s love of music has blossomed into generations of musicians. His love for ranching has been passed on to family and non-family alike. And we’ll only know in heaven how many people have been impacted by his love for Jesus.
The Lord called Norman home on July 9, 2020, after a long battle with cancer.
Norman was preceded in death by his parents, George and Sherley, his siblings June and Ellie, his son George Franklin and his daughter, Linda Ruth.
He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Frankie Leftwich; his children, Steve (Glenda) Leftwich, Leslie (Mike) Walzel, David (Susan) Leftwich, Jesse (Amie) Leftwich; 10 grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; and a great host of family and friends.
A memorial service for Norman was held at Chapel of the Hills, Buchanan Dam, on Saturday, July 11, 2020.
Arrangements under the care of Jenkins Funeral Home, Burnet, Texas.