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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

We Have Lost Someone Special in Norma Tunberg

Norma Tunberg, Whitey's Ice Cream matriarch, was a Moline icon.

'We have lost someone special' in Norma Tunberg

Share Originally Posted Online: Sept. 06, 2011, 5:38 pm Last Updated: Sept. 06, 2011, 6:33 pm Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story By John Marx,

George McDoniel said one of his toughest challenges was finding different ways to say thank you to the late Norma Tunberg.

Mr. McDoniel, executive director of the Children's Therapy Center of the Quad-Cities, said Mrs. Tunberg and her late husband, Bob, were the most generous supporters of children with disabilities the area has ever known.

Mrs. Tunberg, of Moline, who owned Whitey's Ice Cream for 58 years, died Sunday at age 88. Bob Tunberg died in 1991.

Services are 10 a.m. today at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Moline.

"Norma and Bob spent a lifetime making sure children had what they needed,'' Mr. McDoniel said. "Every month in my 27 years, and I'm sure many years before me, support financially came from the Tunbergs.That commitment has been passed on to their sons, Jon and Jeff Tunberg.

"When I took the job I have now in 1984, I was told one of my toughest tasks would be finding new ways to say thank you to the Tunbergs. Few were as gracious and caring as Norma. Few were as sharp and understanding as Norma. What an amazing woman and an amazing family.''

For nearly six decades, Mrs. Tunberg helped build what was a corner ice cream store into several area outlets that have become one of the most successful businesses in the Midwest.

Mr. McDoniel, who knows a gem when he sees one, says Mrs. Tunberg was the model by which to live one's life.

"Norma and Bob -- and it took me years to be able to abide by her request to call her Norma -- were examples that success comes to great people,'' Mr. McDoniel said.

"Whitey's Ice Cream is the Quad-Cities. The Tunbergs are the Quad-Cities, not only because of their business, but of their commitment to their community. Norma set an amazing, well-rounded example as to how to live your life.''

Mr. McDoniel said an annual one-on-one conversation with Mrs. Tunberg covering an assortment of topics was something he looked forward to.

"It was a Christmas-time event I knew would brighten my day, my week, the season,'' Mr. McDoniel said. "It was like it always was, difficult to find a new way to tell Norma thank you for her generosity and her guidance. She was such an engaging, friendly person with an uplifting spirit. We have lost someone special.''

Despite a hectic schedule, Mrs. Tunberg always made time for others. She was a member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Moline, the Terpsichorean Dance Club and was a past president of the Garfield School PTA, John Deere Junior High PTA and Junior Women's Club. She loved to travel and exercise.

"Never once did she get caught up in thinking about herself,'' Mr. McDoniel said. "It was always for the good of everyone.''

Columnist John Marx can be reached at (309) 757-8388 or