Norman Joyer Sobel , aka Mr DKA , passed peacefully from this world , with his family by his side, on Thursday February 23 , 2023.
Born in Kingsport, Tn on August 25, 1933 to Rosa Rachel ( Hoppenstein ) Sobel and Richard Morris Sobel, Norman lived the majority of his life in Kingsport and left an incredible and indelible legacy on his beloved hometown!
At age 5, Norman began working for his dad - sweeping the floors at their family-owned store, Sobel's, in downtown Kingsport. As soon as he earned his 1st quarter - he realized that he was beholden to no one, and his independent streak was born!
A proud graduate of Dobyns-Bennett High School, he also attended VPI and ETSU before joining the Army. He served in the Army during peace times and was stationed in Heidelberg Germany. While there, he met his future wife, Hanne Lundgren Brandt , who was visiting the area with her family from Denmark. They corresponded for several years before he finally asked for her hand in marriage. Together they would raise their 2 daughters, Tina and Anita, in Kingsport. A jokester at heart, Norman would often times refer to them as “his boys “. Many a customer was confused when he would say “Come on - I want you to meet one of my boys “ .... and then either Tina or Anita appear! He ultimately got his “boys“ and became "Poppa " to his 2 grandsons - Landon Sobel Foster and Ryan Sobel Schmadtke. He couldn’t have been prouder, and he loved that the humor gene ran right through them as well!
Throughout his life, Norman was a contrast in following convention and being a forward thinker and innovator. He loved being a Boy Scout and later serving in the Army. He served on the Board of Directors at 1st Tennessee Bank, was a member of the Kingsport Jaycees and Kiwanis Club and loved supporting the Netherland Inn Association! His steadfast belief, that a downtown was the heart and soul of a community, led the way to him helping found the Downtown Kingsport Association in 1972! When the Fort Henry Mall was coming to town he was approached to move Sobel's to the mall. He was never more convinced that keeping Sobel’s downtown was the right decision and he worked passionately for years to come to promote his beloved downtown and to support all who worked and shopped there! On his 65th birthday, the DKA threw a surprise birthday party for him and awarded him their 1st ever " Lifetime Achievement " award.
In 1993, when the " World Wide Web " was in its infancy, Norman was introduced to the concept of having a retail site on a computer by his friend, Dave Sieg, His family couldn't comprehend what he was talking about but he was beyond excited about the prospect of selling Sobel's wares to faraway places. As a result, Sobel's was the 1st retail store in Kingsport to have an online presence! While " Internet Cafe's " were just cropping up around the country.... he was raving about this new and mysterious technology while his family was scrambling to find a place to view his new “website “ ! He may have told Amazon about the potential as well!
Norman never met a stranger and truly loved connecting with others! He will always be remembered for his love of Panda Bears and his desire to one day have them living at the top of Bays Mountain. His love, as well, of Santa Claus possibly paved the way to his becoming probably the only Jewish man from Kingsport to ever be named the " Grand Marshall " of the Christmas Parade!
One of his greatest pleasures in life was spending time with his daughters. Be it teaching them how to ski at Boone Lake or having them ride along with him in a variety of parades in his Model A Ford, Norman loved having them by his side! He was also one of the most ardent fans of the Dobyns-Bennett Indians football team. He was deeply proud of the fact that he had attended games for 9 decades!
Whether it was placing an authentic Red English phone booth in front of Sobel's and donning a Superhero Costume for a local TV ad and jumping out of it, or the countless young men and women who he mentored through the years at Sobel's and in the community, Norman will always be remembered as a Kingsport original, who left his mark on the city and the lives he touched!
He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Hanne, daughters, Tina Foster (husband Cliff ) and Anita Schmadtke ( husband Mark ) , grandsons Landon Sobel Foster and Ryan Sobel Schmadtke, his beloved cat, Willow and his countless friends.
Norman was laid to rest in a private burial, per his wishes, on February 24th at Williamson Memorial Gardens in Franklin, TN.
The family hopes to hold a celebration of life later this summer in Kingsport.