"My mother was always true to herself," said her son. She had a remarkable gift of connecting with people from all walks of life, ages and all parts of the world, he said.
Ms. Djerassi and her former husband, Dr. Carl Djerassi, found a lot in the Westridge area of Portola Valley in 1959, chose an architect, and hired a Scandinavian construction firm to build their contemporary-style home while they were living in Mexico City in anticipation of relocating near Stanford. Dr. Djerassi is widely known as the "father of the birth-control pill."
Her son noted that Ms. Djerassi had encountered tragedy in her life, including the suicide of her daughter Pamela, but she figured out how to get through tragedy and have a life-affirming impact on others.
She helped found the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in memory of her daughter on the family ranch off Skyline.
Norma Lundholm was born in Saugus, Massachusetts. As a child, she loved books and enjoyed writing thank-you notes for gifts, and the passion for reading and writing continued throughout her life.
She was the first person in her family to go to college. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a bachelor's degree, then received a master's degree from Boston College.
Before she was married in 1950, she taught English in high school. After her divorce in 1976, she returned to teaching, this time at Canada Community College, helping Latino students in "English as a Second Language" classes. She spoke Spanish, Italian and Japanese.
Ms. Djerassi wrote her first book, "Glimpses of China from a Galloping Horse," in 1974 after traveling with her husband, Dr. Djerassi, at the invitation of the Chinese government, shortly after President Nixon opened U.S. relations with China.
She journeyed through the world. After her divorce, she traveled to the "rooftop of the world" -- Nepal, Burma and Korea; studied Italian and absorbed the country's culture and history on several trips to Italy; visited Japan, East Africa and glaciers in Alaska; and went to Sweden to search for her roots.
She wrote the story of her unusual life as a collection of letters, written to family members and friends, important people in her life who were no longer living.
Her book "Heart Notes," published in 2000, is dedicated to Dale and grandson Alexander, "with unconditional love and in loving memory of Pami, 1950-1978." The letters reflect on people, memories and events, and record a personal history.
"In her book, Norma allows readers to participate in events since her birth that have marked her and formed her strong opinions of justice and truth," said Robin Toews, a close friend since the Djerassi family moved to Portola Valley.
Ms. Djerassi was a voracious reader of books of all kinds, often reading three or four at the same time. Lately, she was reading a lot of books about politics because she was concerned about the state of the country and world, her son said. "She was actively engaged in the political life of this country," he added.
She also wrote innumerable letters to the editor and politicians about social and political causes for which she had strong convictions.
For many years, a group of women met once a month to read and share poetry and a potluck dinner in her home.
She is survived by her son Dale, a filmmaker who lives on the family ranch in Woodside; grandson Alexander Djerassi, who graduated from Princeton University in June and is now working in London; and close relatives in Massachusetts.
A gathering to celebrate the life of Norma Djerassi is being planned for January, probably in Portola Valley or at the family ranch off Skyline.
— Marjorie Mader
This story contains 692 words.
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