Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Monday, April 14, 2014
From The Barron:
On a clear, cool and bright spring morning, when Washington’s cherry blossoms were at their peak, dozens of family and friends gathered to memorialise former Reuters colleague Jerry Norton on Friday at Arlington National Cemetery, one of America’s most revered places, writes Greg McCune.
The 30-minute ceremony in Section 60 of the famous cemetery, which is located on what was once the estate of Civil War Confederate General Robert E. Lee, was led by a military chaplain who spoke of Norton’s valour in serving his country, and read scripture passages.
“You cannot buy your way into this hallowed ground,” he said to the mourners, led by Norton’s wife Kim and son Michael. “You have to earn it.”
Surrounded by a sea of white tombstones, a seven-member rifle squad fired the traditional 21-gun salute, and a lone bugler intoned “Taps”. Then a Marine honour guard holding an American flag carefully folded it into a triangle and presented it to Kim.
Army Specialist Norton earned the right to be interred at Arlington because of his service in the Vietnam War, for which he was awarded the Purple Heart after being wounded during a mortar attack at Song Be. Kim said he dived out of a window during the rocket attack to save his life. He was hit with shrapnel in his shoulder, wrist and back, and a piece was lodged in his arm for the rest of his life.
Typical of self-effacing Norton, he never mentioned to some of his friends that he had been wounded in battle and won the Purple Heart, as well as other commendations. Kim said he kept the medals in a drawer and when she asked about them, he mumbled something and put them away.
Several family and friends remarked about this humility and reticence during a reception at the National Press Club that followed the solemn graveside ceremony. Friends and family remembered Norton as a father, brother, uncle, friend and journalist – including comments from former Reuters colleagues Peter Bohan, Greg McCune and Brian Bain.
Norton died at age 67 in December after an inoperable brain tumour was discovered within months of his retirement from Reuters in 2011. Several people who spoke at the reception remarked how he had been taken from them too soon.
He served in the US Army from 1968 to 1970 including a one year tour in Vietnam and was first assigned to an artillery unit, where he sustained the injuries. His great Army friend Terry Turner was not able to be at the memorial, but wrote that he believed both their lives were saved because they could type, which qualified them to be assigned to public information units. Norton became editor of the division magazine, a coveted post because it involved a 30-day trip to Tokyo to assemble and print the magazine.
Such was Norton’s devotion to fairness and balance in journalism that many of his colleagues at Reuters never knew of his avowedly libertarian political views, or that he had once run for the Virginia legislature as a Republican. He won the primary but lost the general election in a heavily Democratic district. He also worked for the conservative group Young Americans for Freedom both after leaving the Army and again after he retired from Reuters.
Journalism took him back to Asia where he would work for Unicom, the South China Morning Post and then Reuters. In Asia, he also met and married Kim, who was born and raised in Vietnam.
He joined Reuters in 1986 as a filing editor at then regional headquarters in Hong Kong, and over a 25 year career was news editor in Japan, bureau chief in Singapore and Indonesia, deputy desk editor and deputy political and general news editor for Asia. He returned to Washington in 2010, where he worked for the startup Reuters America service aiming to compete with AP. He retired at the end of 2011.
Peter Bohan, the Singapore bureau chief before Norton, and his last supervisor before Norton retired, spoke of the important part he played in launching a new service in the United States in 2010 and how he quietly mentored journalists and stringers.
Brian Bain noted how Norton distinguished himself covering and directing the coverage of some of the biggest stories in Asia over the last 20 years including the Indian Ocean tsunami and the Bali bombing.
Bain read out comments from colleagues who had worked with Norton in Asia including Kim Coghill, Tony Winning, Rodney Pinder and Eric Hall.
“The frequent and controlled, curved smile could have meant a few things, but the crow’s feet at the corner of the glistening eyes always told you that Jerry Norton was on your side, if you wanted him to be,” Bain read from a note written by Hall, a longtime colleague of Norton. “Perhaps Jerry would not mind if we said he was a great American, with all the values and disciplines that phrase imparts in the best sense,” Hall wrote.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Jerry Norton, 67, longtime journalist, National Press Club member, and Vietnam war veteran, will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery on April 11.
His family invites friends and colleagues to join them at Arlington at 9:30 a.m. for a 10 a.m. service, followed by a reception in his memory in downtown D.C.
Norton was a Commodity News Services/Unicom News reporter in Washington before becoming regional editor in Hong Kong and executive editor in London. He spent 25 years in Reuters as a senior correspondent or veteran editor in Hong Kong and Tokyo; was bureau chief in Singapore; bureau chief in Indonesia; and lastly, editor in Washington.
He joined CNS and the NPC in 1974, soon after gaining his Masters in Journalism from Columbia University. Before that, he served in the Army in Vietnam, after having graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Oregon. He left Vietnam with shrapnel in his body and with a purple heart and other decorations.
Between his UNICOM years and his 25-year career at Reuters, Norton served as business editor of the South China Morning Post. He was twice based in Singapore and twice president of Singapore’s Foreign Correspondents Association, besides being a member of the FCC in Hong Kong and the FCCJ and Overseas Press Club in Japan.
Norton worked for Phillips Publishing in Washington at one point early in his career.
After retiring in 2011 from Reuters in D.C., he worked as executive director of the Young America’s Foundation National Journalism Center until he became ill. He had served on the Young Americans for Freedom national board while at the U of Oregon and was active in YAF after his Vietnam service until his journalism career began.
He died Dec. 15, 2013, after a 14-month battle with a brain tumor. Norton is survived by his wife, Kim, and son, Michael.
Next time I am in Washington I will stop by to say goodbye in person. Not bad for a "kid" from Coos Bay, Oregon.
Picture of Jerry when he was an undergrad at the University of Oregon featured in a Eugene Register Guard newspaper story dated Sunday, Feb 25, 1968. Jerry is quoted as saying: on politics" the majority of YAF members support Gov. Reagan for the 1968 Republican nomination" Jerry was ahead of his time. Reagan wouldn't get the nomination for 12 more years until 1980!