Norma Jean Seaton

Norma Jean Seaton, 93, a longtime Parsons music educator, died at 1:07 a.m. Tuesday, March 15, 2016, at a hospice residence in Clarkstown, New York. She had recently moved to Pomona, N.Y., to be near her family.

She was born on July 4, 1922, in Parsons to William F. and Stella (Smith) Peterson. Her father operated a grocery store in the 2500 block of Main for many years. Inheriting her mother’s love of music, she began taking piano lessons at age 6 and violin lessons in the sixth grade. She graduated from Parsons High School in 1939.

Later she earned a bachelor’s of music education, with an emphasis on strings, from what is now Pittsburg State University and a master’s of music from Northwestern University. She had participated in numerous workshops.

She began her teaching career in 1944 at Oswego, where she taught vocal and instrumental music at all levels. From 1947 to 1959, she taught at Labette County High School in Altamont, where she directed all choral and orchestral groups, plus teaching private string and voice lessons for high school students. She began her long career in the Parsons schools as director of orchestras and strings in 1960.

In 1963 she attended John Kendall’s workshop on Shinichi Suzuki’s string techniques and two years later attended a workshop in Emporia given by Dr. Suzuki himself. In 1966 she introduced modified Suzuki techniques into the Parsons schools. In 1969 she organized 50 parents into the group known as Parents for Talent Education to provide financial and educational support for the strings program.  

Mrs. Seaton had served on the board of directors and as an officer of the Suzuki Association of the Americas and served as its president from 1985 to 1987. She served four years as secretary and four years as president of the Kansas American String Teachers. She was state chairwoman for the Kansas Music Educators Festival Orchestra for two years and was U.S.A. representative on the International Suzuki Board for six years.

She had served as a clinician at Suzuki workshops throughout the country, including many consecutive years at Ottawa University and the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point. In 1987 she was a clinician for the International Suzuki Association Conference in Berlin, Germany.

She was long active in her church and for 30 years was the choir director at the former First Methodist Church in Parsons, which later became Wesley United Methodist Church. In 1986 she was honored by Labette Community College as the recipient of its Cardinal Citation Award. In 1988 she was named a Paul Harris Fellow by the Parsons Rotary Club in honor of her service to youth. The Parsons Soroptomist Club honored her with the Women of Distinction award in 1990. She was a member of Chapter BS of the P.E.O. Sisterhood in Parsons. Over 20 years ago, after her retirement, Norma Jean helped establish a women’s ecumenical Bible study named Women in Touch. The group continues to meet weekly.

Although she retired from teaching in the Parsons schools in 1991, she continued to give private lessons for many years and to provide behind-the-scenes support for the strings program in the schools. Several years after her retirement, she was inducted into the Kansas Music Teachers Hall of Fame.

Norma Jean and Garrett J. “Gary” Seaton were married on July 1, 1951, at First Methodist Church in Parsons. Gary was a well known Parsons businessman, and he preceded her in death on Sept. 22, 2003.

She is survived by her daughter, Laura Seaton-Finn of Pomona, N.Y., and by three grandchildren, Gary, Jason and Alissa Finn. A brother, Kenneth Peterson, also a longtime Parsons educator, preceded her in death.

The service will be at 10 a.m. Monday at Wesley United Methodist Church in Parsons, with burial to follow in Oakwood Cemetery The family will receive friends from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Carson-Wall Funeral Home.

Memorials are suggested to either the Parsons Educational Foundation (to be used for the strings program in Parsons) or the Labette Health Foundation and may be left at or sent to the funeral home at Box 942, Parsons, KS 67357.

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