One of the first things said about Norma Ballew on Thursday was that she was creative and loved the arts.

A former first-grade teacher in Portland and Cumberland, Mrs. Ballew left teaching to pursue her passion for the arts. She served as a docent at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art and the Portland Museum of Art for several years.

“She had a love for art and design and color and texture,” said her son, Stephen Ballew, of Lavina, Montana. “She could really appreciate that experience of creating something out of simple elements – whether it was clay or oil paint.”

Mrs. Ballew died Sunday after a lengthy illness. She was 82.

Originally from Ohio, she attended the University of Cincinnati. It was there she met her husband, Robert Ballew. They married and moved to Portland in 1963. She finished her degree at the University of Maine in 1966 and began teaching.

Mrs. Ballew taught first grade at Longfellow Elementary School in Portland for about five years. She went on to teach first grade at a Cumberland elementary school for another two or three years. Her son said she loved teaching.

“She alway had great stories about her students and memories of teaching,” he said. “I think she loved exciting young kids with learning. She always got a kick out of them, particularly at that age. She had the funniest stories.”

Mrs. Ballew also was remembered Thursday as a loving wife and devoted mother of three children. Robert and Norma Ballew were married for 63 years. They shared a love of family and a passion for restoring and building houses. Her husband designed and built many of the houses they lived in. She decorated them.

Mrs. Ballew had a natural creative spirit that fueled her passion for the arts. Her son said she dabbled in pottery, oil painting, weaving, knitting and making flower arrangements.

“She was very skilled in all of those things,” he said. “She enjoyed being outdoors. She was inspired by natural elements and colors. Nature in general was really her inspiration.”

Mrs. Ballew also was active in the community. She served as trustee at the Merrill Memorial Library in Yarmouth, and was a literacy volunteer in Maine and Florida.

Her son said she had dementia and some problems with her heart.

“(My father) is doing OK,” Stephen Ballew said. “I’m sticking right by his side. It was a very peaceful passing. We got to say all our goodbyes. We are making adjustments and coming together as a family.”