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Meet Lenore “Nori” Torbert, Book Club Leader at Carillon of Hillsborough

When Nori Torbert was a little girl growing up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, she rode the city bus ­to the public library. It was her first taste of freedom and of the world. “My older sister and I both got library cards right away,” recalls Nori. “I always had my nose stuck in a book.”

As Nori grew, so did her love of books. Reading was an important part of her life as she and her husband excelled at their careers, she in the nonprofit world and he in social work. The couple raised three daughters and built their dream home in the country, filling it with books, including one of Nori’s favorites, an autographed copy of The Pleasure Was Mine by Tommy Hays. She brought that book with her to Carillon in late 2016, and it was the very first selection for the book club she started earlier this year at the Carillon Assisted Living Facility in Hillsborough.

“It’s so exciting to discuss books with people,” says Nori. “I have spent my life talking with people through work, volunteering and church groups. It’s so stimulating and heartwarming to be in a group of likeminded people having a positive, upbeat discussion about the same book.”

During her retirement Nori threw herself into volunteer work with the Rockingham Reads Program in Rockingham County, North Carolina. Each year, program organizers selected one book for the entire community to read together. Discussions and activities were held throughout the year to get people talking about what they were reading. In 2015 Nori was named an Outstanding Volunteer of the Month by the Rockingham County Commissioners and also received a service award for literacy and diversity. Many of the books she selected for the Rockingham Reads Program dealt with racial issues and were a way to jumpstart real conversations in the community about race relations.

“We were a small group, but we accomplished a lot,” says Nori. “We had marvelous participation and I loved leading the group discussions.”

One year the Rockingham Reads Program selected To Kill a Mockingbird and Nori vividly recalls when Mary Badham, the actress who portrayed the lead character Scout in the film version, talked to her discussion group via Skype.

“I even had the chance to see her in person,” says Nori. “She spoke at an old movie theater, sitting up on the stage in a big recliner. She told her story about traveling from Alabama to California and seeing a place that wasn’t segregated. I’ll never forget that.” 

When the staff at Carillon found out about Nori’s past work with the Rockingham Reads Program and her passion for books, they asked her to start a book club at the facility. Nori readily accepted, eager to bond with fellow residents over the written word. Each month she selects a book for the group to read and discuss. The first selection, The Pleasure Was Mine, was especially impactful for residents as it deals with a family coping with the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. The author, Tommy Hays, is also a North Carolinian.

“Books can take you away from where you are,” says Nori. “I have been losing myself in books since I was a child, and I want to share that love of reading with others. Starting a book club at Carillon has given me a purpose in life. When new residents come in they sometimes seem lost, and being part of the book club gets them active. Life is full of changes, and you can either be miserable or swim with the tide and be a part of things. I want to be a part of things.”

Posted in Sage Stories on May 24, 2017

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