Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Thomas Patrick Norton I (1891-1968) biography

Thomas Patrick Norton I (1891-1968) Railroad Yardmaster at Delaware, Lackawanna and Western (DL&W) Railroad in Hoboken, New Jersey; Member of Knights of Columbus (b. February 28, 1891, Jersey City, Hudson County, New Jersey, USA - d. January 12, 1968, Paul Kimball Hospital, 600 River Avenue, Lakewood, Ocean County, New Jersey, 08701-5281, USA) Military Service Number 1760271 and Social Security Number 714075711 and Railroad Retirement Board Number A-184756.

Thomas was the son of Patrick J. Norton (c1858-1905) and Sarah Jane Carr (c1865-1950). Both parents were immigrants from Ireland.

He was born on February 28, 1891, but no birth certificate exists for Tom, he had to use his baptismal certificate when he applied to retire at the railroad. He was baptised on Sunday, November 08, 1891 at Saint Bridget's Parish in Jersey City, New Jersey and his godparents were Matthew Norton, his uncle and Ellen Hogan, a cousin of his mother.

Patrick and Sarah had five children and only three lived to adulthood. Thomas' siblings include: James Joseph Norton I (1892-1961) who married Helen Marie Maher (1895-1974), aka Eenie Maher; Katherine Norton (1894-1942), aka Kate Norton, who married James Patrick Langan I (1889-1975) and died young under unusual circumstances; Sarah Francis Norton (1896) who died as an infant; and Mary Norton (1898) who died as an infant.

Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad:
In 1905 Tom’s father died and Tom took a job with the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western in August of 1906 as a messenger at age 15. He was promoted to weightmaster in October and worked in that position until April of 1907 when he became a clerk. In April of 1912 he was promoted to a switchman.

World War I:
He filled out his draft card for World War I on June 05, 1917 and enlisted at Fort Slocum in New York on June 12, 1917. He trained at Camp Dix in New Jersey and on December 07, 1917 he tried unsuccessfully to transfer into a Railroad Engineer unit. He wrote: "[I] went to Philadelphia, Pa. to enlist in the Rail-road Engineers as a switchman but they had their full quota. Knowing that I would be of better service to the Government in the Rail-road Engineers than in the Ambulance Corps, I therefore request a transfer." He then served as an ambulance driver in the Lightning Division, as part of Company 310 starting on June 04, 1918. He was in the battle of St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne. On Tuesday, November 12, 1918, the last day of the War he wrote to Mary Margaret Burke (1890-1949), his future wife:

My dear sweetheart, little one, now that the war is over, it won't be long now when I will be back in God's Country with you, dear heart. Have been out of the lines a few days now, thank God, for it sure is hell there. Don't think the ground taken by American's was not paid for by good American lives. [I] picked up this card in the Argonne Forrest in a German dugout. I am well and hope you are the same.

He returned to the US on May 27, 1919 and was discharged on June 02, 1919. His discharge papers describe him as: "blue eyes, black hair, ruddy complexion, and 5 feet, 2 inches in height."

First Marriage:
He married Mary Margaret Burke on Saturday, September 27, 1919 at Saint John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in Jersey City. Mary was the daughter of John Joseph Burke I (1868-1939) and Nora M. Finn (1866-1898). The witnesses for the marriage were: his brother, James Joseph Norton I (1892-1961); and Mary’s half-sister, Bertha Burke (1902-1971).

Back to Railroad:
Tom went back to work at the railroad in June 1919 as yardmaster and stayed in that position until he retired on February 28, 1956. By 1920 Tom and Mary were living at 112-114 Romaine Avenue and then by 1930 they bought a two family house at 603 Garfield Avenue in Jersey City.

Together they had 5 children, and three lived to adulthood. The children were: Thomas Patrick Norton II (1920- ); Vincent Gerard Norton (1923-2005); John Burke Norton (1927) who died as an infant; James Joseph Norton II (1929- ); and Catherine Finn Norton (1930-1934). Catherine might have had an inherited metabolic disorder, she never grew properly and died of pneumonia at age 4, one day after her birthday.

Life at the Railroad:
At the railroad, Tom worked 12 hour days for 28 days a month. He received two Sundays off each month.

Once he won a brand new Oldsmobile in a raffle, but he was such a terrible driver, his wife made him sell the car. One time while driving he smashed off the door of a car, from a man who opened the driver side door while parked at the curb.

Death of his Wife:
In 1949, his wife, Mary died of appendicitis. She was in pain for several days, and her daughter-in-law, Selma Freudenberg (1921- ) dropped by on a surprise visit, found her sick and called an ambulance. She told Selma that "you saved my life", but she died 14 days later from the infection.

Second Marriage:
On July 29, 1950 Tom married Josephine (May) Veronica Burke (1907-1995) at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church in Morton, Pennsylvania. Josephine was the half-sister of his first wife. The newspaper gives the following account of the wedding:

Miss May Veronica Burke, niece of Mrs. Mary E. Patterson, of 1181 Villanova Avenue, Rutledge, and Thomas Norton of 603 Garfield Avenue, Jersey City, New Jersey, were united in marriage this morning at 10 o'clock in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church, Morton. Rev. Joseph B. Gibson performed the ceremony. The bride, who was given in marriage by her brother, William Burke, wore a powder blue chiffon gown and hat and a corsage of pink rosebuds. Mrs. Leona Hammelbacher, of Egg Harbor, New Jersey, the matron of honor, wore a dusty rose chiffon gown and a corsage of tea roses. James Norton, of Jersey City was the best man for Mr. Norton. A wedding breakfast at Media Inn, Media, followed the ceremony after which Mr. and Mrs. Norton left for a wedding trip to Niagara Falls, Great Lakes and Chicago, and upon their return they will reside at 603 Garfield Avenue, Jersey City. The bride attended Lansdowne High School. Mr. Norton, a railroad official, is a veteran of World War I.

Thomas retired from the railroad on February 28, 1956 and moved to Ocean County, New Jersey.

Heart Attack and Death:
In 1967 he had a heart attack while watching a football game on television while living at 17 Pine Street in his Jackson, New Jersey home. The game was between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys for the National Football League Championship on New Years Eve, Sunday, December 31, 1967. It was Tom Landry and the Dallas Cowboys versus Vince Lombardi and the two-time defending champion Green Bay Packers. Tom was a big fan of Vince Lombardi. He died 13 days later at Paul Kimball Hospital in Lakewood, New Jersey.

He was buried in Holy Name Cemetery in Jersey City with his wife and her mother’s family.

His obituary appeared in the Asbury Park Press on January 13, 1968 and it reads as follows:

Thomas Patrick Norton, 76, of 17 Pine Street, died yesterday at Paul Kimball Hospital, Lakewood. He was born in Jersey City and had lived here eight years. Mr. Norton retired 12 years ago as a yard master in Hoboken for the Lackawanna Railroad. He had been employed by the railroad for 50 years. He was a veteran of World War I. He was a communicant of St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church. He was a member of the local Senior Citizens Club. Surviving are his widow, Mrs. May V. Burke Norton; three sons, Thomas, Paramus, Vincent, Colonia and James, Ridgefield, and eight grandchildren. The W. David DeRoche Funeral Home, Lakewood, is in charge of arrangements.

A version of the same funeral notice appeared in the Jersey Journal on the same day:

Norton, Thomas Patrick of 17 Pine Street, Jackson, New Jersey, on January 12, 1968, at Paul Kimball Hospital, Lakewood, New Jersey, age 76 years, beloved husband of May V. Norton; father of Thomas, Vincent, and James. High requiem mass on Tuesday, January 16th at St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church, Jackson. Interment, Holy Name Cemetery, Jersey City. Friends may call at the W. David De Roche Funeral Home, 213 Lexington Avenue, Lakewood, New Jersey, on Monday 3-5 and 7-9. Rosary 8 p.m. Monday.

Memories of Thomas Patrick Norton I:
Thomas Patrick Norton II (1920- ) wrote in 1999:

Thomas Patrick Norton I, my father, lost his own father, Patrick J. Norton after the Spanish American War when he was 12 years old. Patrick Norton may have died of yellow fever. My father dropped out of school when his father died. He worked peddling produce from a horse drawn wagon. In 1906, when my dad was 15, he worked as a messenger boy for the Lackawanna Railroad. In later life he was a friend of Vince Lombardi. He had a heart attack while watching a football game on television. The game was between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys for the National Football League Championship in December 1968. He died a week later at the hospital in Lakewood, New Jersey where he had a second heart attack. He played cards and darts at a local bar after his first wife died, and was a heavy drinker. My brother James had to take care of him during that time. I was at Rockland Country Club when he died. He won an Oldsmobile car in a raffle, he was not a good driver and his wife made him sell it after a year. Once, when they were driving he hit the railroad tracks so hard that Mary Margaret Burke hit her head on the roof of the car. Another time when driving on the wooden paving blocks on Bergen Avenue in the rain he did a 180 degree skid. He once took the door off a parked car when the man opened it to get out of his car. Once, when crossing the railroad tracks, he made it through one gate but crashed through the second one on the other side. He bought the two family house at 603 Garfield Avenue in Jersey City for $13,000 in 1920. During the Depression no one could pay their taxes so the town kept raising the taxes on those that could pay. Jersey City had a very high tax rate. He ended up selling the house in 1958 for $13,500. He held on to the house during the Depression even though it was never rented. The rental rate was $25 per month. One time I helped Josephine Burke with her taxes and realized that she had no savings. I hated Mayor Hague as a politician in Jersey City. At one time there was a famous bookie called "Newsboy Moriarity". He could always be found in Journal Square wearing a long overcoat. At one point a car trunk was found full of money and the car was traced back to him. Moriarity was in jail at the time. This was after the war. At one point the first floor apartment at 603 Garfield Avenue, which was owned by my parents was used by a "bagwomen" who collected all the money from illegal gambling in Jersey City for Moriarty. Dave "three finger" Brown was the bookie to see in the store that Tom Norton worked in when he was 16. Vincent Norton worked at an ice cream parlor run by a German in Jersey City.

Mary Hammelbacher (1923- ) wrote on March 27, 2001:

My son, David Lesley Bartolone (1953-1980), tied several big ripe tomatoes from our garden to Tom Norton's skinny tomato plants at 603 Garfield Avenue in Jersey City to fool him. Tom had a tiny vegetable patch in his backyard.

Tom died with all his teeth, except one that was knocked out in a fight and had been replaced with a gold one. He smoked both "Lucky Strike" and "Camel" cigarettes. His railroad keys, WWI dog tags, and original military letters are archived with his son Vincent Norton (1923-2005) in Florida. In 2004 his WWI medals were replaced by the US Government. Some of his records from the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western (DL&W) Railroad may be archived at National Park Service's Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Thomas Norton's employee number for the Delaware, Lackawana and Western (DL&W) Railroad may be "05012", it is derived from a record of insurance payments from the archives at Steamtown.

Thomas Patrick Norton I (1891-1968) was the grandfather of Richard Arthur Norton (1958- ).