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Norma Lea Russell Giovannoni

Norma Lea Russell Giovannoni, 82, of Oakdale died Sunday, Sept. 8.

She was a 16-year liver transplant recipient and was courageous to the end.

She was born in Des Moines, Iowa to George and Savannah Georgia Russell. She was a 1950 graduate of Oakdale High School. She played on the varsity basketball and softball teams all four years while in high school. She was crowned Miss Modesto, Miss Peaches and Cream, and held numerous beauty pageant titles.

She moved to Oakdale in 1949 and met LeRoy Giovannoni at the Oakdale Plunge. While supporting herself, working at Bank of America, she graduated from Modesto Junior College in 1954.

After a five year courtship, she and LeRoy were married in 1954, and were one of the first couples married in the new St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Oak Avenue in Oakdale. They were blessed with two sons, Kirt and Ross. She and her husband built their home in 1957 and she resided there continuously.

Through persistent effort she obtained her BA degree in Education from Stanislaus State. Her first teaching position was at Riverbank’s Cardozo Elementary School. She later transferred to La Loma Junior High in Modesto and taught art. She obtained her Pupil Personnel Services Credential and became a student counselor at La Loma Junior High. She then transferred to Downey High School as a counselor. She remained at Downey High until her retirement in 1982. Upon her retirement, after 27 years in education, she was honored as a member of the Teacher’s Hall of Fame at Downey High School.

Mrs. Giovannoni was both an accomplished and award winning artist. She sold much of her work throughout Central California and also taught various art classes in the Oakdale area. As well as belonging to numerous women’s organizations and art associations, she volunteered her time at the senior citizen’s center in her community. She was an avid sports fan, she enjoyed outdoor activities, she was an extensive traveler, and accomplished gambler.

Her greatest joy involved family activities and celebrating her sons’ and grandchildren’s achievements.

She is survived by her husband, LeRoy Giovannoni; sons, Kirt (Lindy) Giovannoni, Ross Giovannoni; grandson, Casey Giovannoni; granddaughter, Katey Giovannoni (Bryan) Choate; and other family and friends.

Services were held Sept. 17 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Oakdale.

In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to California Transplant Donor Network, 1000 Broadway, Suite 609, Oakland, CA 94607.