Samuel Bailey Norton Jr.


Samuel Bailey Norton Jr. died on Sept. 8, 2016, at home in Edgartown, with his wife Joan W. Norton and daughter Nancy Norton Monahan by his side.
Born on Nov. 5, 1920, in Edgartown, Bailey spent his youth by the water. He came from a long line of fishermen and boat captains, and grew up hearing the stories of their days at sea. He developed his business acumen at an early age selling fish in town from his wheelbarrow, a boyhood skill that would expand into other fields and serve him well in later years. After graduating from Edgartown High School, he left the Island to continue his education and pursue his career, first attending Admiral Farragut Academy and then Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he graduated in 1943 with a bachelor of science degree.
He moved to Ohio and worked as a sales engineer at Federal Machine and Welder Co. During World War II, he spent two years in the U.S. Navy as an engineering officer on LSM(R) 403. In 1950 he started his career at Acme Chain Corp. in Holyoke, where he held a number of important positions. When North American Rockwell Corp. bought the firm, he was vice president of manufacturing. From 1968 to 1975, he served as general manager of the Acme Chain Division of Rockwell International, and then as president under Incom International.
In 1968, with the firm facing competition from Japanese chain manufacturers, Bailey moved to Singapore and established an offshore facility there. Over the next few years, he made over 20 trips to southeast Asia and other parts of the world, managing chain operations for Rockwell and Incom.
In his lifetime he held many roles, not all limited to his work. He served as president of the Dukes County Historical Society (now Martha’s Vineyard Museum), commodore of the Edgartown Yacht Club, member of the marine advisory committee of Edgartown, trustee of the Community Savings Bank, president of the Holyoke YMCA, member of the board of directors of Daniel O’Connell & Sons, and president of the American Chain Association.
After a successful and fruitful career, he retired and returned home to Edgartown in 1981. Even in retirement, Bailey was active in many Island and historically relevant projects. He spearheaded the removal of the utility poles on North Water Street in Edgartown, having the lines placed underground and street lanterns installed. His vision enhanced the charm of North Water Street for everyone to enjoy, from visitors to residents.
Ever passionate about history and dedicated to the preservation of Vineyard heritage and tradition, Bailey was also a key contributor and supporter of the restoration and 38th voyage of the last American whaling ship, the Charles W. Morgan, at Mystic Seaport. He was keenly interested in converting the former Edgartown Library building on North Water Street to a depository of marine history, to which he donated ship models and marine artifacts related to the Island’s past.
He also played a central role in helping the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust acquire the Norton family waterfront property on Dock Street in Edgartown. As a result, this location will remain unchanged in perpetuity. In addition to all of his important contributions to the community, he always found time for a good book and a boat ride with his family, where he would share with them his love of fishing and his stories of the Vineyard in earlier times. He was the author of “My Long Journey Home,” a handsome and detailed memoir of his life in town, on the waters of Martha’s Vineyard, and in the corporate world.
He is survived by his wife Joan W. Norton, brother Floyd C. Norton, daughter Nancy N. Monahan, her husband Ken and their three daughters, Caroline, Abbie, and Kelsey; daughter-in-law Christiane G. Norton, her daughter Vanessa N. Duffy and her husband Brian Duffy and their sons Samuel and Benjamin Duffy; Amanda Norton and her husband Brian Durie. Joan Norton’s family includes her daughter Anne Wilson Navarro and her daughters Alice, Dorothy, and Beatrice; daughter Heather Wilson; son Bradley and his wife Christie Wilson and their children Anna and Jack; and son John Wilson and his son Cooper.
He is predeceased by his wife Phoebe M. Norton, sons Samuel B. Norton III and David A. Norton, and sister Drusilla Norton.