Several hundred remember slain Pasadena design teacher Norman Schureman

A visitor writes a message for Norman Schureman, a teacher at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, who was shot on March 21, 2010.
A visitor writes a message for Norman Schureman, a teacher at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, who was shot on March 21, 2010.
Newly Paul/KPCC

Norman Schureman loved nature and the outdoors. It was fitting then that his memorial service was held on Sunday under sunny skies at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena where he was a student, and later, a teacher for two decades.

More than 300 students, family members and colleagues gathered to remember Schureman, whose life was cut short at age 50 when he was shot March 21 in a fight at a Persian new year's party at his mother-in-law’s house in Westlake Village. Authorities arrested Steven Honma, 55, a neighbor and a guest at the party in connection with the killing.

“You always see on the news that people die senselessly but you don’t know how it feels until it happens to you,” said Schureman's wife, Fati, who was accompanied on the stage by her sons Kian, 11, and Milo, 9. “You spend all your life surrounding yourself with the nicest people, handpick your neighborhood to be the safest one, and yet it happens.”

Schureman’s sister, Susan Nichols, said she would remember her brother for his optimism and his love for family. “We grew up in a home filled with love and adventure and tolerance. We were taught to embrace all cultures and people,” she said.

Karen Hofman, chairwoman of Product Design at the Art Center, said when the faculty was asked to come up with words to describe Schureman, some of the words they used were: creative genius, radiant, tenacious, loyal, playful, compassionate, curious and heartfelt.

“Norman had more talent in his raised pinky finger than most can ever wish for,” a faculty member had said.

Steve and Ray Schureman, Norman’s brothers recounted anecdotes from their years growing up together. Norman’s typical habits — like sticking his pinky finger out as far as possible while drawing—and incidents of him being accident-prone brought smiles to the audience. Steve recounted how Norman had been bitten seriously by a dog when he was young, how he would injure himself in his travels all over the world. In Europe, he even contacted a muscle and bone disease, which he had till the day he died.

“Our brother was the 'Dennis the Menace' of the family,” said Steve. “He loved to do woodwork and excelled in his drawing. When Norman hugged you, it was a hug of total compassion and total love for you.”

The brothers read notes of memories of Schureman, penned by other family members.

They recalled his habit of personalizing table napkins by drawing designs on them before tucking in a tip. They told about the time when he allowed his niece who had just graduated from beauty school to cut his hair. Or the time he bought all the flavors of juices in the supermarket for his pregnant niece because he didn't know which flavor she would like.

“Four words are typical of Norman: love, hugs, giving and enthusiasm,” said his father Robert Schureman.

Tinnie Choi, who graduated from the school in August 2009, said she was initially scared to take Schureman’s class because he was known to be a hard taskmaster.

“But he turned out to be very encouraging,” said Choi. “He gave me my first A in this school—that made me feel very confident. I regret not taking more classes with him.”

Isaac Kim, a transportation design major recounted how Schureman’s encouragement had helped him get over his fear of making presentations in front of people.

“The first critique I got from him was so harsh that it changed my entire life,” said Kim. “He said, ‘You should take these sketches back to high school.’

"That struck me hard at the time but it was something I absolutely needed to hear. Those words motivated me to try harder.”

The corridor leading up to room 203, where Schureman taught, had been turned into a makeshift memorial, with the banisters plastered with flowers, candles, Schureman’s sketches, his pictures and printouts of the anecdotes that had been read at the memorial. Visitors scrawled impromptu messages on a comment book, or simply used colored chalk on the cement floor to write their thoughts.

Schureman’s classroom was opened to visitors who wanted to remember the teacher. Some paid their tributes through drawings on the whiteboard and drawing sheets laid out on tables.

Peter Szucs, an alumnus, was drawing an animal, which he said reminded him of the field trips that Schureman took his class to.

“We would go up to Universal City Walk and draw, or go to the zoo and draw," he said. "It was a break from the hard pace of the school.”

Suzcs said Schureman would take out the time to bond with students after class — take them out for beer or to his favorite restaurants.

“He would put you through the hardest class and break you down," said Szucs. "But in the end he would take you out for a beer and tell you what a good job you had done. You stayed friends with him even after you had finished school.”