Longtime day care provider dies at 65

From staff reports

Barbara "Becky" Norenberg, a longtime professional day care provider in Rochester, died last week. She was 65.

From 1978 to 1998, Norenberg cared for children in her home. In 1996, she was name Olmsted County's Outstanding Professional Provider by Family Child Care, Inc., a Rochester organization that represents home-based child care providers. She also served as vice president of Family Child Care, Inc. in the 1990s. JaNeal Smith was president at the time. Together, Norenberg and Smith taught classes on how to raise children and for those seeking to become accredited day care providers. She said they would share their experiences both as parents and as day care providers.

"A lot of people would say, 'is this a learning experience or is this a comedy act between you two?'" said Smith, a professional day care provider in Rochester for 291⁄2; years. "We had a lot of laughs."

After she retired in 1998, Norenberg worked with Smith for three years.


Lucy Vermeersch was a neighbor for 17 years. Norenberg also cared for Vermeersch's grandson.

"She radiated with love for kids," she said. "I don't think there was a child that didn't enjoy coming to Becky's. She was a wonderful greeter; when the kids saw her and she saw them it was like 'I'm here and mom and dad can leave.'"

For a retirement gift, several families of children she cared for presented her with a rocking chair.

"With kids you have you've got to be positive and you've got to have joy," Smith said. "If you're just doing something to do something, it's not fun for the kids or for the provider."

And even when Norenberg was no longer providing day care, she never stopped caring. Friends say she loved giving gifts, regardless of the occasion or the child's age.

"When our daughters went off to college and when they would come home for a long weekend or something," Vermeersch said, "many times she would slip them a $10 bill just to sort of say 'we miss you and have a good time.' And she did the same thing for her own kids."

It coincided with another favorite pastime -- shopping.

"Everybody gave her such a hard time about shopping. She loved to shop," Vermeersch said. "Of course she shopped for everybody else but herself. She was one of those types of people that always thought of everyone else."


Norenberg is survived by her husband, Bob; two sons, a daughter, a brother, a sister and four grandchildren.

Services were Aug. 30.

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