February 8, 2018 – More than 200 guests attended the 6th annual Norma’s Literary Luncheon at Sharon Heights Golf & Country Club on February 8, 2018. Jacqueline Winspear, author of the Maisie Dobbs mystery series, headlined the annual memorial tribute to El Camino Hospital benefactor Norma Melchor. Winspear talked about the enduring impact World War I had on her family, how it transformed the lives of the British women who came of age at that time, and how those observations inspire her writing.
Her novels explore what happens to ordinary people in extraordinary times, particularly women. During the Great War, women took on more visible work outside the home as munitions and construction workers, bus drivers and chimney sweeps, in the police auxiliary and secret service, among many other jobs. But as they were winning their independence, they were also losing a great deal – brothers, sweethearts, sometimes all the men with whom they had grown up. By 1921 there were 2,000,000 “surplus” women of marriageable age in Britain who needed to take care of themselves for the rest of their lives.
“The more I studied these women, the more I admired them. I just wanted to do right by that generation of women,” Winspear explained. Her protagonist Maisie Dobbs, a psychologist and investigator who had served as a battlefield nurse during World War I, was inspired by them.
Norma Melchor also came of age during an extraordinary time of war. That sense of sacrifice, service, and commitment to community are among her most precious legacies. The luncheon each year celebrates her love of reading and provides an opportunity to support the community hospital she and her husband Jack championed for more than five decades.
Thanks to underwriting from the Melchor Family, all proceeds from this year’s luncheon will benefit a new patient-family residence on El Camino Hospital’s Mountain View campus. The residence will provide a home away from home for families stressed by the emotional and logistical toll of caring for a hospitalized loved one. It will be a place where these families can stay overnight or find respite during the day, share dinners together, take care of routine tasks, and recharge their batteries so they can provide better support for the patient. “In my heart I know Norma, who we honor here each year, would have loved this program,” El Camino Hospital Foundation Honorary Board member Pamela Taft told the guests as she explained why she and her husband Ed had made a donation.
“Norma and Jack had many passions: family, books, travel, philanthropy, and community. Those are the values that have guided us for the past six years,” Event Chair Judie Wolken said in her closing remarks. “Through your attendance and support, we have been able to continue their legacy.”
Event Co-Chair Betsy Dawes announced next year’s author, Marta McDowell, who writes gorgeously illustrated books about horticulture and garden history. “We know Norma loved her apricot trees and roses,” she said. Save the date, February 7, 2019.