Norma Stone, wife of leading American equine artist Fred Stone, died October 22 in Agoura Hills, California. A part of her husband’s art business and philanthropy for 35 years, she was 80 and had been in declining health for several years.
“She was an amazing woman,” Fred Stone said. “She was the reason I was successful.” Although increasingly frail, she insisted on working each morning to distribute Stone’s prints and books until shortly before her death.
He said his wife combined a genuine concern for the many people who spoke or corresponded with her in their Equinart business with a rock-solid adherence to basic principles of fairness.
Norma Ruth Paley was born April 6, 1931, in Cleveland and moved to California with her family. She attended the same Los Angeles high school as her future husband, but they did not know each other at the time. Stone said they were introduced after their high-school graduation—“my second date,” he said—and married on September 1, 1951.
She attended UCLA for three years but dropped out to go to work to support her husband, who had graduated from The Art Center School in Los Angeles and was seeking to establish himself as a commercial artist.
Stone said his future wife’s sense of right and wrong was well honed by the time she attended UCLA. She joined a sorority there but disagreed with the sorority’s decision to not accept a student because she was not physically attractive. “She stayed in that sorority about 15 minutes after that,” he said.
Their daughter, Laura, was born in 1954 and a son, Russell, was born in 1956. Both live in the Los Angeles area.
Fred Stone left commercial art to work in business for 15 years, and it was Laura who introduced him to the world of the racetrack in the mid-1970s. Within a few years, he and Norma had founded Equinart, the company that markets his artwork. Norma Stone managed the business side and allowed her husband to paint in his garage-studio in Agoura Hills.
As the business grew, Norma Stone maintained a personal relationship with callers and correspondents. “For 35 years, every letter, every note got answered. She never missed a response,” Fred Stone said.
Norma and Fred Stone combined philanthropy with their business. Through the years, their contributions to charities have totaled more than $2-million.
Norma Stone also had an eye for the dramatic image. In the Los Angeles Times, she spotted a photograph of an exhausted firefighter and his search dog after the terrorist bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in April 1995. The photo would be the inspiration for “Partners,” which is believed to be the most widely distributed art print of all time.
“Partners” has raised more than $500,000 for charity, including the families of firefighters killed in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City.
A memorial service for Norma Stone will be held at 2 p.m. on November 29 at the Woodland Hills Country Club in Woodland Hills, California. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to After the Finish Line or the California Equine Retirement Foundation in her memory.
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