The Norman real estate community lost two leaders, Rachel Zelby and Barbara Canfield, last month.

Both Canfield, who died at age 90 on Jan. 20, and Zelby, who died on Jan. 31 at age 92, joined the Norman Board of Realtors in 1974 and garnered praise for their decades of work in the community.

Zelby won the Norman Board of REALTORS Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002; Canfield received it in 2012 along with multiple terms served on the NBR Board of Directors.

Robert Marriot, owner of Old Town Realtors, said it seemed like Zelby “worked nonstop.”

Canfield and Zelby were two of the top real estate agents around town, said Andy Newman, a Norman real estate agent since 1995.

“If you were new in the business, she could run over you, but she was a very knowledgeable Realtor, and she did (high volume) business — I would say (Zelby) was one of the top producers for many years with Century 21,” Newman said.

Newman said Canfield worked in his brokerage in the late 2000s. He described her as one of the sweetest ladies he met.

Mark McCurdy, owner of McCurdy Group Real Estate, said Zelby was kind, diligent and knew her business.

Local real estate agent Dan Quinn said Zelby will be remembered as an amiable and considerate person.

The two are being remembered not only for their work ethic, but also their warm character.

Hardworking and gracious were two words McCurdy used to describe Canfield. “She was quick to laugh and smile,” he said of Canfield.

To metro area real estate agent Tracy Veal, Canfield was like a second mother. When Canfield decided to retire after a 50-year career in the industry, she looked to Veal to make sure her customers were taken care of.

“(Canfield) didn’t want to let them down,” Veal said. “She was just one of those people (whose) customers came before her family — I called a lot of her customers when she passed away.”

On multiple occasions, Veal said she saw Canfield go above and beyond her clients’ expectations. If Canfield thought one of her listings needed a special touch, such as a flower bed clean up, to attract a seller, she didn’t hesitate.

“She always ended up spending her own money doing things to make the experience nice,” Veal said.

Colleen Roux worked with Zelby from 2014 to 2022 at Century 21. She said Zelby was a strong, unique and wonderful person. Despite a generation gap, Roux said she developed a memorable bond with Zelby.

“(Zelby) was really a woman of many talents and I used to stay late after hours and we would talk about you know, travel and art and music and because I’ve been to Europe a few times,” Roux said. “Our friendship was nice. I really enjoyed her a lot and I think she enjoyed me, too.”

Amy Bladow, branch broker at Century 21 Goodyear Green Norman, said Zelby was “one of a kind.” It never mattered the price of the property being bought or sold, Zelby treated all her clients with the same high-effort approach.

“(Zelby) had a frame around her license plate and it read, 'I’m always late, but worth the wait,' and we used to laugh about that because it’s true,” Bladow said. “She was always late to everything, but that was just her — her clients thought she was worth the wait, no doubt about it.”

Jeff Elkins covers business, living and community stories for The Transcript. Reach him at or at @JeffElkins12 on Twitter.

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