Kicking it with his mom on May 4, to celebrate her 102nd birthday, Chuck Norris posted a heartfelt message honoring the woman he says is “so full of life that she might make it another 100 years!”
Chuck, who turned 83 in March, writes in a letter to his mom, Wilma, “Mom, I don’t know what’s more difficult to believe: that you are 102 years old or that you have a son who is 83 years old! Regardless, I’m so grateful you are my mom. I always have been. We’ve been through thick and thin in this life, and we are still going strong.”
Her birthday less than two weeks from Mother’s Day, the martial artist and actor said, “I am overwhelmed with gratitude to God for three women’s influence in my life. I wouldn’t be the man I am without them. Those three women are his granny Scarberry (Wilma’s mom) who died at 90, his mom, and his wife, Gina, whom he married in 1998. The couple have twins, Dakota and Danilee, who were born 2001.
Wilma Norris Knight was born in 1921 and Chuck–born Carlos Ray–credits her influence, prayers and steadfast faith, for the man he is today.
A child in the Great Depression, Wilma didn’t have it easy. Living in poverty, she raised her three boys, Chuck the eldest, as a single mother.
When Wilma became a centenarian, Chuck said of her, “Mom has been an example of perseverance and faith her whole life. She’s also endured the deaths of her two husbands, a stepson, two grandchildren, and my younger brother Wieland in the Vietnam War. She’s had cancer repeatedly and has undergone roughly 30 different surgeries for various issues–yet she’s still here to tell about it.”
In May 2012, Wilma, who still refers to Chuck as Carlos, appeared on The Mike Huckabee Show, and freely spoke about her life. Describing her sons, she said Chuck is the “defender,” his brother, Aaron, is her “sunshine,” and the Wieland, the youngest who died in Vietnam, was her “hero.”
After being abandoned by her alcoholic husband, Wilma said when Chuck was only 14, “he was the man of the house,” who would babysit his younger brothers while she worked the night shift, also helping her when it came to paying bills.
Despite the difficulties Wilma experienced, she instilled values in her boys and taught them to be fighters. “Making us believe that we can achieve things in life, that there will be obstacles but if you’re determined enough, you can overcome any obstacle in life if you have the belief in yourself,” Norris said.
Born in 1940 and growing up in a small town in Oklahoma, Chuck grew up watching stars like John Wayne, Roy Rogers, and Hopalong Cassidy, so it’s not surprising he ended up being one of Hollywood’s all-time greatest action stars.
When he graduated high school in 1958, Norris served with the United States Air Force, and was stationed at Osan Air Base in South Korea. He joined as an air policeman and planned to train as security police.
His time in the Air Force would change the direction of his life for the better.
It was there he was given the nickname “Chuck,” and it’s also where he picked up his mad martial arts skills, earning a black belt in Tang Soo Do, a form of Korean karate.
After his service in South Korea, Norris was transferred to an air force base in Riverside County, California, where he continued to serve as an air policeman until he was discharged in 1962 with the rank of airman first class.
On the waiting list to be a police officer, he opened a martial arts studio in Torrance, California, where he then lived. His success as a martial artist was exploding, and his studios expanding. Practicing himself, he won his first title in 1968, and held the title of Karate World Champion for six years, retiring in 1974.
In this time, while training celebrities in martial arts, he met Bruce Lee, American martial artist and actor, which led to Chuck’s breakout role as Lee’s nemesis in the film The Way of the Dragon (1972).
Norris found sweeping global success–his incredible agility and strength thrilling fans–after landing lead roles in Breaker! Breaker! (1977) and Good Guys Wear Black (1978).
When visiting the set of the hit show Walker, Texas Ranger (1993 to 2001), Wilma said of her son, “The greatest that there is…He really is. He was always my sweet one when he was small.”
Chuck, a grandfather to 13 and a father of five, learned in 1990 that he had a daughter born from an affair while married to Dianne Kay Holechek (divorced in 1989). Dina was born in 1963 and he only met her after a letter she mailed to his home. Though he had initially reservations of meeting the woman, who said “mother said you were married and we shouldn’t interfere with your family.” Chuck arranged to see her and about their first meeting, he said, “..I look at her and it’s so amazing because I’m looking at her and she’s staring at me and we just sort of gravitate toward each other and we just went into each other’s arms and started crying.”
Chuck’s admiration and love for his mother is evident in his success as an actor and as a family man.
As for Wilma’s advice on raising children, “Give them lots of love. Take them to church and Sunday school. But you see God didn’t give us our children. He only loaned them to us for a while.”
Happy Mother’s Day to Wilma! We hope your son is right and that you have many years to celebrate!