Life Story / Obituary
Rexford Lawrence Norton, 80, of Holland, Michigan, was blessed to pass away at home surrounded by his family on Thursday January 12, 2023.
Rex was born in Des Plaines Ill on October 23, 1942. He was the eldest child of Mary (Saint Andre) and Harrison Norton. He spent his childhood in Des Plaines and then moved to Grand Rapids Michigan after 5th grade. He attended Catholic schools that shaped his faith and ethics. When he was 17 he was ice skating at Richmond Park where he met Val Linda Van Wingen. They soon became engaged and married even though he was serving in the Army National Guard. Their first child was born before the summer of 1968 when Sergeant Rex was called to action during the Detroit Riots. By the time his second son was born he was honorably discharged and continued his work for the City of Grand Rapids, starting as a meter reader, then at the Water Works and eventually in Housing Inspections. He continued his education while raising his family and volunteering in his community, his church and at his sons’ schools. He graduated from Aquinas College and applied for management in Housing Inspections eventually becoming a supervisor and then manager. This was a departure from where he had been when he was a Union representative who had taken part in contract negotiations, but this experience made him an effective leader. He demonstrated leadership to his sons when he volunteered as a soccer coach, cub scout den leader, served on his parish’s various committees, and stepped-up when no one else volunteered to lead. He retired from the City of Grand Rapids after more than 30 years of service, and took up various jobs from IBM computer repairs to inspections for the state of Michigan; eventually returning to inspections with the City of Kentwood where he earned Employee of the Year recognition.
Rex was not all work and no play. He always took his family camping every summer throughout Michigan and across the United States and Canada – always in a tent! He planned camping trips with his friends and their families too. He and Val were ardent world travelers. They especially enjoyed eco-tours and bike tours. Cycling was natural for him. He and Val would put bikes on the rack and take their sons all over Michigan for bike rides. He rode his bike in the RAGBRAI more than once and across the Great Divide and even used it in summers to commute to work. His other passion was for music. His collection of guitars and vinyl is impressive was his knowledge. But most impressive was his use of time. He was always ready to assist anyone and helped with many charity from Habitat for Humanity to Meals on Wheels. And if he was not able to assist he made sure that his work was converted into donations. His best donation of time was with the family, especially with his grandchildren who were blessed to spend almost every Friday with him and Val and on numerous trips.
He will be dearly missed by Val Linda his wife of 57 years and friend of more than 63 years. His sons Christopher Norton and Anne (Wikstrom) of Holland, and Paul Norton and Laura (Prokop) of Grand Rapids. He is survived by 14 grandchildren Gabrielle, Sophia, Felicity, Luke, Mary, Frank, Justin, Austin, Peter, Joseph, Rose, Francis, Jack and Maximus. His sisters Cathy (Norton) Hayes, Kim (Rosely) Longiliere, and his brother Keith Rosely.
Visitation for Rex will take place on Friday January 20 from 4-7pm at Dykstra Funeral Home - Northwood Chapel (295 Douglas Ave, Holland). A funeral Mass will take place on Saturday January 21 at 11:00am at Our Lady of the Lake Church (480 152nd Ave, Holland). Burial will be at Blythefield Memory Gardens (6200 Brewer Ave. NE, Belmont, MI) at 2:30pm
Memorial donations may be made to Feeding America, HERE . The family wishes to extend their gratitude to the incredible care provided by Spectrum Health Hospice Services where additional memorial donations can be given: HERE