Woman who wanted open road instead of a hospital bed passes away on Friday Harbor

A woman defied traditional cancer treatment by heading out on a cross-country trip instead of wasting away in a hospital bed. She passed away on San Juan Island last Friday, according to San Juan County Coroner Randy Gaylord.

“This woman who died here has a story that pulls on one’s sympathy and sense of courage at the same time,” he said.

At the age of 90, Norma Jean Bauerschmidt’s husband suddenly died and she was diagnosed with cancer. Instead of spending her final days in a nursing home, she decided to travel across the country in a motor home with her son and daughter-in-law.

Her journey was chronicled on a Facebook page called “Driving Miss Norma.” She garnered more than 450,000 followers who were inspired by her journey.

“We couldn’t imagine leaving her in a nursing home, especially after walking down the long halls of the local Tender Care to visit Leo in the last room on the right, reserved by Hospice for the dying. No way. There is also no way she could live at home alone without Leo. They were truly a well-oiled team of 67 years,” wrote her children on Facebook.

She passed away on her last stop, Friday Harbor, on Sept. 30 at the age of 91.

“Once all the hard conversations are over, all that is left is to enjoy each other’s company. We are so grateful,” wrote a family member on Norma’s Facebook wall on Sept. 18.