L. Joseph Norris


Lawrence Joseph (Joe) Norris, 45, of Martha’s Vineyard, passed away peacefully August 6 at Massachusetts General Hospital, after a brief illness.

The son of the late Lawrence Norris of Upton and Bette Norris, of Castine, Maine, Joe is survived by his mother, a sister, Jennifer Norris, of Franklin, a brother, Stephen Jaworski, of Aspen, Colo., and the three loves of his life, his daughters, Lucy and Lila, and their mother Rebecca Conroy of West Tisbury.

Joe started his life in Westwood, moving to Upton as a small child. His school years were spent in Upton and Milford, and he graduated from Milford High School in 1983. He graduated from Clark University with a degree in Chemical Research. Employed by Biotech in Waltham, he excelled in research for the time he was in that industry. A resident of Martha’s Vineyard since 1990, he held numerous positions in the food and wine industry, one of which was head sommelier at the renowned Oyster Bar Restaurant in Oak Bluffs.

Joe was blessed with a large, supportive family of 14 aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, along with two dozen first cousins, too numerous to list. They provided him with love, caring, and understanding throughout his life.

John Irving wrote in “Last Night in Twisted River” that “We don’t always have a choice how we get to know one another. Sometimes, people fall into our lives cleanly — as if out of the sky, or as if there were a direct flight from Heaven to Earth — the same sudden way we lose people, who once seemed they would always be part of our lives.”

Joe fell into everyone’s life. All who knew him could tell you the exact moment he fell cleanly out of their sky. Joe was a man of many gifts. Unique, intelligent, and charismatic, he was the smartest, most intriguing person in the room. He possessed an acerbic, mercurial wit, and freely indulged in his gift for observations, all of which shimmered and sparkled with clarity. He had 50 perceptions a minute to everyone else’s five. Brilliantly, bitingly funny, he got the joke before anyone else knew that one was being told.

Joe was what you needed him to be — a little brother, a big brother, a best friend. He had a nearly encyclopedic memory, and a habit of gracing everyone he cared deeply about with a clever nickname. And care deeply he did, about his daughters, their mother, his family, and his friends. He was a connector of people, who left countless, enduring friendships in his wake. He had a keen appreciation for beautiful things; he would wax poetic about a song lyric, a bespoke suit, a perfectly prepared meal. Always so “in” yet ultimately on the outside looking in, Joe was different from everyone; so much more intelligent and sensitive and perceptive. A beautiful soul, who we always assumed…and only now know…will always be part of our lives.

A memorial service will be held Thursday, August 19, at 1 pm at Grace Episcopal Church, 36 Woodlawn Ave., Vineyard Haven. Burial will be private. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Joe’s memory to Vineyard House, P.O. Box 4599, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.