Edward Lee Norris was born in Fort Worth, Texas on November 14, 1923, to John Carson Norris and Elsie Nancy Neal Norris. He passed away peacefully on January 12, 2019 at his home in Galveston, Texas at the age of 95.
Memorial services with Military Honors provided by the U.S. Army will be held 11:00 A.M. Saturday, January 26, 2019 at the Carnes Brothers Funeral Home in Galveston, Dr. John Bostock officiating. Masonic Memorial Services will be provided under the Auspices of Harmony Lodge # 6 AF & AM.
Mr. Norris was predeceased by his beloved wife, Henriette Keprta Norris, son, Daniel Edward Norris, grandson, Breland Norris DeWitt, and brother John Carson Norris.
He is survived by his daughter, Joyce Norris DeWitt, son-in-law Kenneth DeWitt, grandchildren Alexa De Witt Goodman, Jonathan Edward Norris, Hope Marie Norris, Ian Edward Norris, daughter-in-law Amber Norris, great-grandchildren Aidan James DeWitt, Paul David Pyle, Jaxon Franklin Goodman, Chase Lee Goodman, Austin Edward Norris, grandson-in-law Jonn Franklin Goodman, and granddaughter-in-law Jennifer Saia Norris. He is also survived by his brother-in-law Dennis Keprta, sisters in-law Dorothy Keprta, Justine Keprta, Elaine Keprta May, numerous nephews, nieces, and many friends.
His young years were spent in several Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma residences, as his father was a railroad engineer. Eddie told many nostalgic and cheerful stories of his family and young life. Even though they struggled, as many did in those days, his memories of those times were sometimes humorous, and always painted a vivid picture of what life was like then.
His mother died when he was 12, and his father passed two years later. His brother J.C. Norris, 7 years older, was living in Galveston. After his father’s death, Eddie quit school to work, left their home in Corpus Christi, Texas, and spent three days hitchhiking to Galveston to join his brother. He lived in boarding houses and worked where he could, washing dishes, making deliveries, and as a bellhop at the Jean Lafitte Hotel in downtown Galveston. It was while working at the hotel that he met Henriette Keprta, who was the hotel elevator operator. She had moved to Galveston from her family’s small farm in East Bernard, Texas. They courted in Galveston, where they greatly enjoyed 1940’s Galveston recreation, such as dancing to big band sounds and joining friends at the beach, and were married on November 14, 1942. Eddie said that the moment he first danced with her, he knew she was the one for him. He always said that he picked his birthday as his wedding, and that way he would never forget his anniversary. They remained married for 74 years, and lived their entire married life in Galveston.
Ed eventually went to work for Sherwin Williams, as a truck driver, delivering paint. He was drafted and in 1943, he left Galveston for North Carolina, where he went to boot camp and was inducted into the U.S. Army. In 1944, he was sent to Germany, as a Private First Class. He served in Company I, 347th Infantry Regiment, 87th Infantry Division, which eventually was attached to the 3rd Army, led by General George Patton, which was moving fast. His company endured 155 straight days of active combat.
During the Battle of the Bulge, he was in the Battle of Tillet. It was part of the siege of Bastogne, which was key in the defeat of the Germans. He and his company were pinned down for 36 hours while under attack from nests of machine gun snipers, and finally into the town, they were in house to house and hand to hand combat to clear out the snipers. He received numerous medals, including three bronze stars. He told stories of the friendships made during the war, but would never talk about the hardships or violence he endured. When pressed for what his bronze stars were for, he would only say, “I won’t remember. I spent a lifetime trying to forget.”
At the end of the war, Ed spent months during the occupation of Germany, waiting for his turn to be sent home. During that time, soldiers were given multiple opportunities to go to Switzerland and other countries for long weekends of rest and rehabilitation. He enjoyed these trips so much, he decided he must one day return to show his bride the beautiful cities and countries that he had seen, and in the 1970s, they started doing just that. Upon his return, Ed resumed his position with Sherwin-Williams. He was a fast learner, and was soon a traveling salesman, then a floor salesman, then the credit and accounts manager. Soon enough, he was the assistant manager, and by the time his daughter Joyce Lynn was born in 1951, he was the manager of the store, a position he held until he retired. Several times he was offered higher positions as area or regional manager, but he never wanted to leave the island. He was well known to Galveston painters and contractors. He was a leader and visionary who began selling floor coverings, art supplies, wallpaper, picture frames & custom framing, home décor, and even toys at Christmas. His store was number one in the nation for many years. Ed loved his job. He enjoyed painting and building things himself, so managing a paint store was perfect for him. He had lots of ideas and often featured childhood art framed in the store window. The family’s residence on Neumann Drive sparked interest as it was painted various colors over the years to show an example of new styles, including pink, turquoise, mint green, and redwood.
Edward was a member of Grace Episcopal church and served there as lay reader. He was a Toastmaster, Mason, and Shriner. He played the snare drum in the Shrine El Mina Temple Drum and Bugle Corps. He was in the Kiwanis club and also helped form and later served as president of the East Beach Corporation, which built the Islander East and Galvestonian condominiums on east beach. He and his business partner Don Wessels also built the Normandy House and the Granada apartments in Galveston.
Eddie and Henriette always enjoyed entertaining friends and family, and after retirement began traveling all over the U.S. and the world. They enjoyed cruises and overseas trips, and they made many friends along the way. Ed also liked woodworking and built tables, desks, shelves, tree houses, play houses, and all kinds of handmade toys for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His workshop was his pride and joy, where he would spend many happy hours on projects.
He also fished, golfed, played tennis, and jogged, and continued walking a five-mile route well into his late 80’s. He and his wife joined a square-dancing group with friends, and he and a few friends also formed a band that played for small functions around town. Ed could play banjo, guitar, and bass. He was a continual learner and a voracious reader, and took a computer class in his 70’s. Throughout his life, he had an interest in history, music, and the arts. At the end of his life, he followed Facebook, emailed, and checked the stock market every day online. He was a very generous person, and donated to many charities throughout his life, especially anything for helping children. He even had an account at a local restaurant, where he would send folks who showed up at the store asking for a handout.
He and his wife endured many hurricanes, and always rebounded through a positive outlook and hard work. They were 85 during Hurricane Ike, and their home sustained major damage. After spending three weeks in New Braunfels, they returned, and Ed rolled up his sleeves and threw himself into getting everything back to normal as fast as possible. He was never one to hang his head in defeat.
Edward Norris was a member of the “greatest generation,” and as such was a kind, hard-working man of integrity and compassion, cherished by his family. As a depression era child, he faced hardships with grit, determination, and success. He bravely served his country, and his community with charity and benevolence. He built a successful career with minimal background, married the love of his life, and together they raised a happy family. People from all walks of life loved his warmth, humor, intelligence, and zest for life. He was a wonderful friend and good businessman, a man of his word, a leader in many areas, and valued for his opinion and advice. He diligently helped others, and he guided many young people in their early careers, chipped in to help kids with educational needs, or donated to churches, schools, or individuals in need.
Edward Lee Norris will be remembered lovingly by his family, who will often fondly repeat his words and stories. He left a meaningful legacy well expressed by Robert Louis Stevenson: “The man is a success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who leaves the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it; who looked for the best in others and the best he had.”
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Shrine Hospital for Children, Smile Train, or The Salvation Army.