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A pathway of service

Norma Jean Ross was born June 14, 1934 in Richmond, Indiana. Norma lost her battle with breast cancer on Friday, April 23, 2010 in Dayton, Ohio. She lived by the scripture that says, “To whom much is given, much is required”, demonstrated by her life-long efforts to improve the lives of others. When given choices, Norma Ross chose to use her heart and mind to the fullest – to think, listen, learn and love – for the betterment of mankind. She was a genteel woman who turned life’s adversities into stepping stones to reach heights of grandeur. Norma was united in marriage with Robert Paul Ross, Sr. of Richmond, Indiana on September 4, 1954. They welcomed, Robert Jr. and Jenell to this union.

Norma graduated from Richmond Senior High School and received her undergraduate degree from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. She worked as both a classroom teacher and a curriculum consultant in the Dayton Public School system and was noted for being part of the team that established the first all day kindergarten program in Dayton, Ohio.

The Townsend Center in Richmond, Indiana was Norma’s catalyst of giving back to the community. For Norma, the Townsend Center served as a source of recreation and eventually led to an employment opportunity. In 1975, Norma taught grooming and etiquette classes at Townsend for African American teenage girls. Throughout her life Norma maintained a long-standing commitment with the Townsend Center.

Norma continuously served others knowing that service is a circle. She knew that when the circle was complete she too would have been serviced.

In the 1980s, Norma started the Saturday Academy at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. The Saturday Academy was a test preparation course that assisted students in preparing for the SAT. This initiative was completed in conjunction with the Jack and Jill of America’s Foundation. Norma’s involvement in community service included, but was not limited to: The African American Advisory Council at Earlham College, The Dayton Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, a Trustee and Multi-Cultural Liaison for the Opera Guild of Dayton, an Advisor for the membership committee of the Dayton Philharmonic Women’s Volunteer Association, a board member of The American Cancer Society, a trustee on the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra Board, a life member of the National Council of Negro Women, NAACP, the Dayton Urban League, and SCLC. She was a member of the Dayton Chapter of Sophisticates and Les Amis Couple Club. She was a foundation board member for Central State University and served as a member of the Wright Dunbar Board of Trustees.

Norma was co-founder and trustee for the Action Youth Outreach program, an outgrowth of The Tiger Woods “Start Something Action Project”. For eleven years, The Bob Ross Dealerships sponsored the “Bob Ross Baseball Classic”, located at 5/3 Field, the home of the Minor League Baseball team the Dayton Dragons. This is a Dayton Area All-Star high school event for seniors. It is represented by over 50 high schools, with the intent to raise awareness and provide exposure for area talent who are interested in obtaining college and professional offers. Over the years, The Bob Ross Classic has awarded several college scholarships to deserving students.

Norma was an active member of Trinity Presbyterian Church. She sang in the Mass Choir, was a member of Circle II, a member of the Presbyterian coordinating team for Presbyterian Women’s circles, and also served as a trustee on the Louisville Presbyterian Seminary Board. Her philanthropic spirits and labor of unselfish love have and will continue to benefit the Dayton community well beyond the years she lived.


Mrs. Ross received numerous awards and recognition's for her business savvy and community involvement.  In 1997 upon the untimely death of her husband, Robert P. Ross, Sr., Norma assumed command of the Bob Ross Dealerships. In this second career she played an integral role in growing the business with her daughter, Jenell, and son, Robert, who were the VP/Dealer Principal and VP/Fixed-Operations Manager, respectively. The dealership has been one of the “Top 100 Companies” in Dayton, Ohio from 1999 to present.

In 2000 the Bob Ross Organization was featured in Black Enterprise magazine as “Auto Dealership of the Year”, and WROU-FM awarded Norma “The Black Achiever Award for Community Service”.

In 2001, Norma received “The Music Friend of the Year Award” from the Dayton Opera Guild. This same year the dealership also won “The Jack Smith Leadership Award” and “The Community Service Award” from General Motors. This award is given to the Top 100 General Motors Dealers that have excelled in both retail sales and customer satisfaction.

In 2002 the dealership won the Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year Award,” for the retail/distribution category of all southern Ohio and Kentucky, and received the “Outstanding Community Service Award” from the Top Ladies of Distinction, Incorporated.

Norma was honored as one of Dayton’s Ten Top Women from the Dayton Daily News, and was chosen as one of three Presbyterian Women who received the Women of Faith Award in the United States. This award was presented to women whose businesses exemplified Christianity in the workplace and community. She also received the Humanitarian Award from the National Conference of Community and Justice.  Additionally, Norma received the Earlham College Outstanding Alumni Award.

In 2003 Earlham College named and dedicated an office in the African and African American Studies department in the Landrum Bolling Center Building in Norma’s honor. The United States Department of Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) presented her the “National Minority Female Entrepreneur of the Year” Award for both Ohio and the Ten-State Region of Chicago. Norma was also the recipient of the Mary Bethune Award in the State of Ohio from the National Council of Negro Women.

In 2005, she received the Tom Joyner “Hardest Working Minority Businesses Award” at the Wilberforce University President’s Premiere Extravaganza. The Dayton Urban League recognized Norma as their 2005 “Star in the Field of Community Service”. And, she was the recipient of the “Action Youth Outreach Council Award”.

In 2006 the Bob Ross Dealerships received the “Dedicated to Dayton Community Award” from Unified Health Solutions. And Norma was the recipient of the local NAACP Youth Councils Community Service Award.

In 2008 The Dayton YWCA awarded Norma the “Women of Influence” based upon her contributions and commitment to her community. Norma was also recognized by the National Association of Minority Dealers and named the “2008 NAMAD Woman of the Year”.

In 2009 Norma received the “Bravo Award” for service rendered from the Opera Guild of Dayton.


Mrs. Ross distinguished herself by exemplary service and commitment to the Dayton community. Her endless generosity and love of people resulted in raising the standard of living of those less fortunate.  Her altruistic efforts and character were reflected in her life, her family, and in business. In Norma’s spare time, she enjoyed swimming, tennis, dancing and was an avid roller skater.  As a sports fan, Norma was known to attend the Super Bowl and NCAA Final Four tournaments.

The family established “The Norma J. Ross Memorial Foundation” to benefit deserving youth in the community, and to raise money for breast cancer research in Norma's honor.