"My dad was a champion of the underdog, of the guy who didn't get the break," said son Norm Waitt Jr.
Norman Waitt Sr. like the three generations of the Waitt family before him, originally made his mark in the cattle business in the historic Sioux City Stockyards. But Norm eventually turned his focus to philanthropy, leaving a lasting legacy across Siouxland. Post retirement, he devoted much of his time to various charities, including the Boys Club, Salvation Army, and the Boys and Girls Home.
Waitt grew up in Sioux City and started working in the stockyards as a teenager in 1947, hauling hay and cleaning pens. By 1949 he began to sell cattle on his own. He left Sioux City to play basketball at Montana State University, then enlisted in the 185th Air National Guard Unit here when the Korean War broke out, serving 26 months stateside.
He "temporarily" returned to work for Waitt Cattle Co. in 1953 after his grandfather was injured. It was the job he would do for 40 more years, following in the footsteps not only of his grandfather, but of his father and his great grandfather.
Waitt married Joan Louise Gaston in 1953 and the couple had four children. This fifth generation of Waitt entrepreneurs did not follow their father into the cattle business, but made great impacts in various media fields and the personal computer industry. Ted Waitt founded Gateway Computers (known for their cow-spotted boxes) while Norm Waitt Jr. started Waitt Media and Gold Circle Films. Meanwhile Cindy Waitt now directs the Siouxland Chapter of the Waitt Family Foundation and Marcia Waitt, a sociology and psychology teacher, once owned Uncle John Records store.
After Norm Sr.'s death in 2003, Norm Waitt Jr. honored his father by naming the new YMCA facilities in South Sioux City's Scenic Park after him.
"Our father believed that most problems could be made a little easier if you just got up, went outside and did something physical, preferably in the company of friends. Helping build this Y in his name was the perfect way to honor his love of sports, teamwork, and sense of community," said daughter Cindy Waitt.
Dave Michell, a long-time stockyard commission man, remembers Waitt as "a real fine fellow" from a highly respected family. He said unlike other dealers, who sought out the movers and shakers, Waitt would come into the yards' cafeteria and sit down to lunch with the hayshakers and manure haulers.
"Norman Waitt had a reputation of being honest and very knowledgeable in the industry," longtime market broadcaster, former Y board member and current Y member Jim McElhany said. He also said that others in the market paid attention to what Waitt was doing. "He was a standout."
The Sioux City Journal contributed to this article.