Obituary : William D. Norton
William D. Norton, 80, died peacefully on Sept. 7 at his home in Oak Bluffs.
An 11th generation Islander, Billy Norton was born on October 5, 1928, to Ike and Dorothy (Vincent) Norton. He lived on the Vineyard throughout his life and had a true love and appreciation of Martha's Vineyard and all its abundances. He lived life with passion.
Billy was the only boy in his graduating class from the Oak Bluffs High School. After a brief stint at the Oak Bluffs Post Office where his stepfather was Post Master, Billy returned to Amaral Brothers Plumbing and Heating where he had been serving as an apprentice since the age of 14. He went on to start his own plumbing and heating business in 1972 as a licensed, master plumber.
He married Elizabeth Sylvia on September 9, 1950. They lived in Oak Bluffs with their four children, first on Circuit Avenue and then on Shawanue Avenue, near the Lagoon. Billy enjoyed his Shawanue Avenue property. It provided space for his lush garden, fruit trees, chicken coop, dog pens, barn/corral, fishing and hunting gear, wood-working station, tractor, Volkswagen repair area, shop, and, of course, custom built fly-tying bench. He had a little house filled with the love of family, friends, and adventure.
Billy had a strong sense of civic responsibility. He devoted 50 years to the Oak Bluffs Fire Department and served as assistant chief as well as president of the Fireman's Civic Association for two terms. He was a Water Commissioner and a member of the Building Committee for the Wing Road Fire Station.
Billy converted to Catholicism and dedicated his time to the church's works. He was a member of the Holy Name and St. Vincent de Paul Societies. He served on the Sacred Heart Cemetery Committee. Billy was the recipient of the Marian Medal, an award that recognizes a member of a diocesan parish for outstanding devotion and service.
Bill had many interests involving the outdoors. He spent years hunting with his dogs: English setters, beagles, and golden retrievers. He was an experienced shell fisherman, always ensuring he had something on hand when visitors arrived. His love of fishing included salt and fresh water and extended from handmade surf casting rods and jigs to fly-tying for the catch-and-release method he faithfully practiced. He had the opportunity to test his considerable skills in a variety of venues ranging from Alaska to Belize. He particularly enjoyed traveling with his sons, Ralph and Tim.
Indoors, Billy also was a jack-of-all trades. He literally could fix anything. And, he made things. Billy carved simple and beautiful duck decoys from cedar. He often gave them to charities for auction or raffle. He was a boat builder too: rowboat, cat boat (his had an engine), or sailboat, Billy could build it.
Billy had a life-changing event in 1985. He had a life-threatening heart attack. He proceeded to change his diet, stopped smoking, enrolled in a cardiac rehabilitation program, and walked almost everyday. He went on to enjoy 20 plus years of good health. Billy made many treasured friends along the way and enjoyed "rehabbing" at the hospital and coffee afterward.
He faced both wonderful and difficult times in his life. He enjoyed so many things in life and he enjoyed them so much. Among adversity, he endured the heartbreaking loss of his granddaughter, Alexandra, in infancy, and the death of his beloved son, Timothy, at 45 after a valiant battle with cancer. Billy maintained his faith and positive outlook even after these tragedies.
He is survived by his wife, Betty, and three children, Deborah and husband, John; Ralph and wife, Susan; and Dawn and husband, Bob; Timothy's widow, Sherry; eight grandchildren; and his sisters, Faye, and Norma and husband, Skip.
A memorial mass will be celebrated on Monday, Sept. 21, at 10:30 am in Our Lady Star of the Sea Church on Massasoit Avenue in Oak Bluffs followed by burial of his cremated remains in the Sacred Heart Cemetery, located on Vineyard Avenue in Oak Bluffs. Family and friends will gather after services at Farm Neck Golf Club Café on County Road in Oak Bluffs.
Donations may be made in Mr. Norton's memory to Hospice of Martha's Vineyard, P.O. Box 2549, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557; or to the Oak Bluffs Fire Department Museum, make checks payable to the Town of Oak Bluffs and note "Fire Department Restoration Fund", C/O D.R. Billings, P.O. Box 143, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557.
Arrangements are under the care of Chapman, Cole & Gleason Funeral Home. Visit ccgfuneralhome.com for online register book and information.