A Pathway of Service
Norma Jean Ross was born June 14, 1934 in Richmond, Indiana to the late John M. Henderson and Evelyn (Smith) Henderson. Norma quietly departed this earthly life and began her eternal life on Friday, April 23, 2010 in Dayton, Ohio. She lived by the scripture that says, “To whom much is given, much is required
”, demonstrated by her life-long efforts to improve the lives of others. When given choices, Norma Ross chose to use her heart and mind to the fullest – to think, listen, learn and love – for the betterment of mankind. She was a genteel woman who turned life's adversities into stepping stones to reach heights of grandeur. Norma was united in marriage with Robert Paul Ross, Sr.
of Richmond, Indiana on September 4, 1954. They welcomed, Robert Jr. and Jenell to this union.
Norma graduated from Richmond Senior High School and received her undergraduate degree from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. She worked as both a classroom teacher and a curriculum consultant in the Dayton Public School system and was noted for being part of the team that established the first all day kindergarten program in Dayton, Ohio.
The Townsend Center in Richmond, Indiana was Norma’s catalyst of giving back to the community. For Norma, the Townsend Center served as a source of recreation and eventually led to an employment opportunity. In 1975, Norma taught grooming and etiquette classes at Townsend for African American teenage girls. Throughout her life Norma maintained a long-standing commitment with the Townsend Center.
Norma continuously served others knowing that service is a circle, when the circle is complete, she, too, has been served. In the 1980s, Norma started the Saturday Academy at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. The Saturday Academy was a test preparation course that assisted students in preparing for the SAT. This initiative was completed in conjunction with the Jack and Jill of America’s Foundation. Norma’s involvement in community service includes, but was not limited to: The African American Advisory Council at Earlham College, The Dayton Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, a Trustee and Multi-Cultural Liaison for the Opera Guild of Dayton, an Advisor for the membership committee of the Dayton Philharmonic Women’s Volunteer Association, a trustee on the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra Board, a life member of the National Council of Negro Women, NAACP, The Dayton Urban League, and SCLC.
She was a member of the Dayton Chapter of Sophisticates and Les Amis Couple Club. She was a foundation board member for Central State University and served as a member of the Wright Dunbar Board of Trustees. Norma was co-founder and trustee for the Action Youth Outreach program, an outgrowth of The Tiger Woods “Start Something Action Project”. For the past eleven years, The Bob Ross Dealerships have sponsored their annual high school boys “Bob Ross Baseball Classic”, located at 5th/3rd Field, home of the Minor League Baseball team The Dayton Dragons. This is a Dayton Area All-Star high school event represented by over 50 high schools for seniors to raise awareness and provide exposure for area talent to obtain college and professional offers. Several college scholarships have been awarded to deserving students over the years.
Norma was an active member of Trinity Presbyterian Church. She sang in the Mass Choir, was a member of Circle II, a member of the Presbyterian coordinating team for Presbyterian Women’s circles and also served as a trustee on the Louisville Presbyterian Seminary Board. Her philanthropic spirits and labor of unselfish love have and will continue to benefit the Dayton community well beyond the years she lived.
Mrs. Ross received numerous awards and recognitions for her business savvy and community involvement. In 1997 upon the untimely death of her husband, Robert P. Ross, Sr., Norma assumed command of the Bob Ross Dealerships. In this second career she played an integral role in growing the business with her daughter, Jenell, and son, Robert, who are the Dealer Principal and Fixed-Operations Manager, respectively. The dealership has been one of the “Top 100 Companies” in Dayton, Ohio from 1999 to present.
In 2000 the Bob Ross Organization was featured in the Black Enterprise Magazine as “Auto Dealership of the Year”. Also, WROU-FM, awarded Norma “The Black Achiever Award for Community Service”. In 2001, Norma received “The Music Friend of the Year Award” from the Dayton Opera Guild. And the dealership won “The Jack Smith Leadership Award” and “The Community Service Award” from General Motors. This award is given to the Top 100 General Motors Dealers that have excelled in both retail sales and customer satisfaction. In 2002 the dealership won the Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year Award,” for the retail/distribution category of all southern Ohio and Kentucky and received the “Outstanding Community Service Award” from the Top Ladies of Distinction, Incorporated.
Norma was honored as one of Dayton’s Ten Top Women from the Dayton Daily News, and Norma was chosen as one of three Presbyterian Women who received the Women of Faith Award in the United States. This award was presented to women whose businesses exemplified Christianity in the workplace and community. She also received the Humanitarian Award from the National Conference of Community and Justice. Additionally, Norma received the Earlham College Outstanding Alumni Award.
In 2003 Earlham College named and dedicated an office in the African and African American Studies department in the Landrum Bolling Center Building. The United States Department of Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) presented her the “National Minority Female Entrepreneur of the Year” Award for both Ohio and the Ten-State Region of Chicago. Norma was the recipient of the Mary Bethune Award in the State of Ohio from the National Council of Negro Women. In 2005, Norma received the Tom Joyner “Hardest Working Minority Businesses Award” at the Wilberforce University President’s Premiere Extravaganza and The Dayton Urban League recognized Norma as their 2005 “Star in the Field of Community Service”.
She was the recipient of the Action Youth Outreach Council Award. In 2006 the Bob Ross Dealerships received the “Dedicated to Dayton Community Award” from Unified Health Solutions. Norma was the recipient of the local NAACP Youth Councils Community Service Award. In 2008 The Dayton YWCA awarded Norma the “Women of Influence” based upon her contributions and commitment to her community. Norma was recognized by the National Association of Minority Dealers and named the “2008 NAMAD Woman of the Year”. In 2009 Norma received the “Bravo Award” for service rendered from the Opera Guild of Dayton.
The Bob Ross Organization consists of three franchises: Buick, GMC and Mercedes-Benz. In 2007 Norma received the “25 Year Award” as a GMC Dealer. In 2009 a “30 Year Award” as a Mercedes-Benz Dealer and Bob Ross Buick also celebrated 35 years as a Buick Dealer. She is the only African American female owner of a Mercedes-Benz franchise in the world and the only African American woman owner of a Buick and GMC franchise in Ohio. In the State of Ohio, Bob Ross Buick franchise was ranked #1 for eight consecutive years and currently ranks #2 in Buick sales. Currently, Bob Ross Buick is among the Top 50 largest Buick Dealers in the country.
Mrs. Ross has distinguished herself by exemplary service and commitment to the Dayton community. Her ceaseless love of people and generosity resulted in raising the standard of living of those less fortunate, and her efforts and character reflect great credit upon her life, her family, her business. In Norma’s spare time, she enjoyed swimming, tennis, dancing and was an avid roller skater. As a sports fan, Norma was known to attend the Super Bowl and NCAA Final Four tournament year after year.
Norma is survived by her mother, Evelyn Henderson, son, Robert P. Jr., daughter, Jenell R. Ross and son-in-law, Dr. Anthony P. Hall, sisters, Carmen Wade (Tony), Sharon Henderson, brother John Henderson, brother-in-laws, Audrie (Jean) Ross, John (Marsha) Ross, devoted companion, Mr. Freddie Jones and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, friends, extended family and business associates.
The family is establishing “The Norma J. Ross Youth Foundation
” to benefit deserving youth in the community. Contributions to the Norma J. Ross Youth Foundation may be sent to 85 Loop Road Centerville, OH 45459, in honor of Mrs. Norma J. Ross.