91-Year-Old Woman Who Skipped Cancer Treatment to Go RVing Across the Country Dies After Year-Long Adventure
When faced with a cancer diagnosis at age 90, Norma Jean Bauerschmidt chose the open road over the hospital.
Rather than undergoing months of painful treatments, Bauerschmidt embarked on the adventure of a lifetime – touring the United States in a motor home captained by her son Tim and his wife Ramie.
As Ramie explained to PEOPLE last year, when Norma’s doctor reviewed all the possible treatments for her stage 4 uterine cancer, the World War II veteran simply said no.
“I’m 90 years old,” Norma said. “I’m not interested in going through that. I’m hitting the road.”
With the support of her children, Norma spent the next year living out her greatest dreams. She took a hot air balloon ride, went whale watching and finally enjoyed a view of the Grand Canyon.
On Friday, Norma died at the age of 91. Her family announced her death on the Facebook page Driving Miss Norma where thousands celebrated the Presque Isle, Michigan, woman’s many adventures.
Norma will be cremated and buried next to her husband of 67 years, Leo, who died in 2015. In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Norma’s son Tim said he was incredibly thankful that he had the chance to enjoy the final months of his mother’s life by her side.
“I had no idea of what a special person she was,” Tim said through tears.
While Tim and Ramie worried about Norma’s health during the first leg of their journey, they soon found that the adventurous lifestyle improved Norma’s health – and her spirits.“The photos – you can see from her face that she’s just thriving,” Ramie told PEOPLE. “Her health has absolutely improved. She loves to eat pie and drink beer and all of that stuff.”
Norma also loved learning about what her decision to make the most of her final months meant to the thousands who followed her journey online.
“Many of [her followers] have experience with cancer, and when we share [their messages] with her, she’s truly touched,” Ramie said. “She says, ‘Good. I guess we’re helping somebody.’ ” Ramie suggested that people could honor Norma by finding their own ways to “infuse some joy in the world. Pay it forward in their own community. Pay it forward in their own family. Take your grandmother out for lunch. Heck, take her out for a beer!”