|Theodore Thomas Norris was born August 2, 1917 in Rehoboth, Wilcox County, Alabama, the seventh child of Julia Thomas and Robert Norris. He was the “knee baby” (next to youngest child) in a large, close-knit family of 23 children. He was affectionately known as “Bay-Bay.”
In 1918 his father moved the Norris clan to Selma and purchased the family home at 1706 Green Street where Theodore grew up. When he was 17 years old he hopped on a freight train and followed his older bothers to Chicago where he finished high school. After a few years, he returned south to live in New Orleans with his sister Kay and niece Jean before again returning north in 1941, this time to Detroit.
Theodore was a career US Army veteran attaining the rank of 1st Lieutenant. He enlisted in 1942 at the height of WWII and fought in France and Germany with the famed Buffalo Soldiers. After the war he tried civilian life for a few years before deciding to make the military his career. He served in Korea with the 25th Infantry, 159th Battalion and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for saving the life of a wounded comrade by carrying him to safety for two miles under heavy enemy fire.
While living in Detroit in 1946 he met Pearl Leona White who had only recently emigrated to the US from Jamaica. They were married in Boston in 1947 and remained together for 54 years before her death in 2001. They had three daughters, Brenda Joyce, Velma Marie, and Theodora Ann.
After Korea, Theodore and Pearl and two of their daughters were transferred to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma and then to Germany. They returned to the US in 1954 and settled in St. Albans, NY where they lived for 34 years and their third daughter was born.
He retired from military service in 1965 and enjoyed a second career with the New York City Transit Authority as a towerman directing the flow of subway trains in Manhattan and Brooklyn. He retired again in 1982.
One of Theodore’s all-consuming passions was baseball and he could quote player and team statistics off the top of his head. He also enjoyed solving crossword puzzles, often over the phone with his sister Gladys, and playing cards with neighbors and friends. He assembled quite a workshop over the years and spent many weekends and off-hours on home remodeling and furniture building projects. His sanctuary was his music room where he enjoyed listening to his jazz favorites. Above all, Theodore loved his family and all of his vacations and free time were spent visiting with his brothers, sisters and other relatives in Detroit, Chicago, Alabama and around the country.
His usually stoned-faced outward demeanor belied his warm heart, sensitivity and wry sense of humor. He loved animals.
Theodore departed this life peacefully on January 28, 2007 after a long illness. He is survived by daughters Brenda Smothers of Selma, AL, Velma Norris of Decatur, GA and Theodora Norris of Lithonia, GA, grandchildren, Val Dorah Smothers of Selma and D. Joseph Smothers (Donna) of Detroit, MI, a great-granddaughter Zoe Pearl Smothers of Detroit, a sister-in-law Evelyn Norris of Los Angeles, CA, a special niece Eugenia Kirkpatrick, 101 years old, of Peekskill, NY, nieces and nephews Kathleen Hawthorne, June Dean, John Richard Anderson (Ruth), and Donald Norris all of Chicago, IL, LeRoy Anderson (Sherry) of Tucson, AZ, Josie Russell of Birmingham, AL, Wilbert Russell of Topeka, KS, George Russell of GA, Constance Norris and Carolyn Norris both of Los Angeles, Julius Kimbrough (Lynette) of New Orleans, LA, Theodore Kimbrough of Montgomery, AL, Constance Rozier (Isaac) of Mobile, AL, Dena Norris, Robert Norris (Delphine) and Inez Norris all of Detroit, a beloved great-nephew and life-long friend Henry McCoy of St. Albans, NY, a dear cousin-in-law Leopold Duncan of Detroit, MI, a godson Grant Warner of Rockville, MD and a host of other relatives and friends.
Don't grieve for me, for now I'm free