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Posted By Whitney & Murphy On April 19, 2016 @ 12:40 pm In Obituary | 22 Comments


John R. Norton III, 87, a third generation Arizonan, passed away Sunday, April 17, 2016, surrounded by his family. John was born April 10, 1929 at St. Joseph’s Hospital to Earlene and John R. Norton, Jr.

Raised in Phoenix, he graduated from North High, attended Stanford for one year and graduated in 1950 from the U of A with a B.S. in Agriculture. While attending the U of A, he was a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity and Captain of the U of A Rodeo Team, where he roped calves, rode bulls, steer wrestled and lassoed the heart of the U of A Citrus Queen, Doris Schaefer. They married and after serving our country as a 1st Lt. in the U.S. Air Force, moved to Blythe, CA. There he founded the J.R. Norton Company, a diverse agricultural and cattle ranching operation with production in both California and Arizona.

In 1972, with the size of the family increased by children: Michael, John and Melanie, they returned to Phoenix. Business interests lead him to serve on and or Chair many Boards, such as Ready Pac Produce, Western Growers Association, United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, to name a few.

In 1980, President-elect Ronald Reagan selected him for his transition team.  In 1985, John went to Washington, D.C. as Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Subsequently, he served as Director for several companies, including Shamrock Foods, America West, Arizona Public Service, Ramada Corporation, Pinnacle West, Sun Cor and the Apollo Group. He chaired the Goldwater Institute Board of Directors and was a Member of the Board of Overseers of the Hoover Institution.

He was named Produce Man of the Year in 1983, named Honorary Doctor of Laws, Entrepreneurial Fellow at the Karl Eller Center for the study of Private Market Economy, College of Business, 1984 and in 1998, the U of A “Bear Down” Alumnus Award was bestowed on him. With membership in YPO and CPO, John and Doris were well traveled, prompting a keen interest in photography, in which, it turns out, he excelled! His works were collected by the National Geographic Society, Banner Health and appeared in publications such as Camelback, Sacred Mountain in Phoenix, and are displayed at the U of A, St. Joseph’s Hospital and various private collections. The Norton’s collaborated with the U of A Center for Creative Photography and endowed the Norton Gallery at the Phoenix Art Museum.

Their other gifts to the community include the John and Doris Norton Healing Garden at St. Joseph’s in 2006, establishment of the John and Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences.   He endowed a Chair at the U of A in the School for Fathers, Parenting and Families with the John Norton Endowed Chair for Prostate Cancer Research at the U of A in 2008. He also established the Norton Scholarship Endowment Fund at Creighton University School of Medicine at St. Joseph’s, 2011.

In 2014 their historic gift to the St. Joseph’s Foundation established the John and Doris Norton Cardiothoracic and Transplantation Institute enabling recruitment of the most exceptional specialists in lung transplantation, disease and diagnosis, esophageal disease diagnosis and treatment. And with the founding of the Norton Foundation, charitable educational and scientific purposes will be the Norton’s legacy, benefiting the community they loved for many generations.

Further, John was a licensed pilot with commercial, multi-engine and instrument ratings. He served nationally on the Board of the Smithsonian Institution and locally as a Director for the Museum of Science and Technology, Phoenix Art Museum and as Trustee for the Heard Museum.

John is survived by his devoted wife, Doris, daughter Melanie Norton (husband, Konrad Marek), sons, John Norton (wife, Lillian) and Michael Norton (wife, Kathleen) and their daughters Allison and Melissa, cousins, Martha Warnock and John Warnock (wife, Tilly).

Memorial Service will be at 10:00 AM, Friday, April 29, 2016 at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, 6300 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ. A private family committal was held at Paradise Memorial Gardens in Scottsdale.


Memorial contributions in John’s memory may be made to:

St. Joseph’s Foundation

c/o The John and Doris Norton

Cardiothoracic and Transplantation Institute

124 West Thomas Road, Suite 105

Phoenix, AZ 85013


The John and Doris Norton

School of Family and Consumer Sciences

650 North Park Avenue

c/o The University of Arizona

Tucson, AZ 85721-0078


Arrangements entrusted to Whitney & Murphy Funeral Home and Post Scripts by Posey




Condolences for the family of “NORTON, JOHN R. III”

Condolence from Loni Knepper on April 19th, 2016 6:49 pm

We are so, so sorry to hear of the loss of this wonderful man. Our hearts and prayers are with his family.

Loni and Kevin Knepper

Condolence from Art and Chris Holeman on April 19th, 2016 9:41 pm

So sorry to hear this… He will be missed…

Condolence from Errol Zimmerman on April 20th, 2016 8:24 am

John was a dear friend and a great influence on my life. As a charter member of the Board of Directors of Through Each Others Eyes he guided our organization with his common sense, his humor, and his dedication to photography and helping people understand cultures around the world. I have lost a dear friend…….Errol Zimmerman

Condolence from Tom Redd, Norton Board at Univ of Arizona on April 20th, 2016 8:30 am

Awe crap…John, what are ya doin? No, they do not have nicer cameras at the place you are headed. They are not into material stuff and are not many walls to hang stuff on. The benefit is with your newness now that the old body is no longer a drag on you and your eyes are like cameras of life – so watch over us a bit John.

Rest for a few days and then head West up there – I hear it is more fun in the West.


To the Norton Family and especially Doris – John finally rests ( at least till he figures his new space out). Best wishes. Tom

Condolence from Michele Walsh on April 20th, 2016 9:10 am

Although I did not know John personally, I have been a beneficiary of his legacy as faculty at the John & Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences. His commitment to the children and families of Arizona has been an inspiration for our work around the state supporting rural families, in particular. We are uplifted daily to be surrounded in our building by his photos of diverse children and families from around the world. His lifetime of contribution through his expertise and caring will be remembered in so many arenas. I am grateful and proud to be able to be part of upholding his memory.
Wishing his family and friends comfort in this hard time.

Condolence from Terry and Leslie Mooney on April 20th, 2016 7:02 pm

Ah shucks, John,

You had to leave us to be with our other close friends are o compete for the best exposure!

You were a great influence on Leslie and me. Our adventures together worldwide will never be forgotten and can never be repeated. You will be missed.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Doris, Michael, John and Melanie.

Condolence from LU WARNER on April 21st, 2016 7:34 am


Condolence from Charles L Hummel on April 21st, 2016 10:53 am

I am deeply saddened by the loss of such a great man. It was a distinct honor for me to have known him and Doris and to have been invited to their home on many occasions. I will always remember the discussions I have had with him and his openness and depth of his knowledge on practically any subject. I will especially remember his sense of humor. My condolences to Doris and the entire Norton family for their loss.

Condolence from Bill Reilly on April 21st, 2016 11:15 am

To the Norton family, I was so sorry to hear about John’s passing. We had so many great memories of South Mission beach and all the YPO adventures and experiences together. I will truly miss John……..

Condolence from orme lewis jr on April 21st, 2016 12:25 pm

John was the kind of ‘can-do’ gentlemen, both within responsible ‘ag’ and advancing health care in the community … visual arts as well. Let’s others emulate John and our greater community will prosper in the values he so generously advanced.
With great respect, Orme

Condolence from Jo Fitzpatrick on April 21st, 2016 3:14 pm

Dear Doris and family,
Wow, I knew your guy was something special like you are, but his accomplishments in life are really extraordinary!!!
I loved seeing John’s photographs in your lovely home when you graciously hosted the Phoenix Friends meetings. I send my deepest sympathy for your loss and what a loss to the whole community and world. Bet he will shape things up in heaven in no time!!! My prayers for you and your family!!!! With love, Jo Fitzpatrick

Condolence from Steve Martori on April 21st, 2016 5:24 pm

Our deepest sympathy to Doris and family. We are saddened by the loss of our friend and mentor. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Steve and Sherry Martori

Condolence from Lefty Sheppard on April 21st, 2016 7:51 pm

John was a good friend of mine for more years than i can count. I am so sad to hear of his passing. My deepest sympathies to his wife and family. I thought of him often and considered him a friend he will be greatly missed.

Condolence from Beth Komadina on April 21st, 2016 9:07 pm

Dear Doris and your wonderful family,
Tony and I are so sorry for the loss of John.
We send our love and heartfelt thoughts to you.
Thank you to you and John for all the love and support you shared with this great state of Arizona…. You both are blessings to all that know you….

Condolence from Shelly (Czech) Walsh on April 22nd, 2016 10:37 am

I’ve missed my daily interactions with John for 14 1/2 years now; ever since I left Arizona to return to the Midwest. As his assistant from 1997 to 2001 he certainly made life interesting and I still look back fondly on this sweet man. He was the best boss and kind of a father figure for me away from my own Dad. You will be sorely missed and always remembered with a smile!

Condolence from Regina and Peter Bidstrup on April 22nd, 2016 10:47 am

We were saddened by the news that John had died. His was a life well lived and his imprint great. Can’t think of anything at which John didn’t excel and pursue with enthusiasm. We were fortunate to have known, socialized and worked with him.

Our condolences Doris, Melanie, John and Michael.

Regina and Pete

Condolence from Tim Day on April 22nd, 2016 11:27 am

We are deeply saddened by this news. John was a great individual and strong leader in our community – and he will be missed by us all! We extend our heart felt sympathies to Doris and other family members.

Tim and Sandy Day

Condolence from raymond tiedje on April 22nd, 2016 4:45 pm

I am truly thankful for the many conversations I was able to share with John. I’ve missed them in recent years but shall always remember his straight answers, humor, and many “one liners”. Our condolences to the you Doris and the entire family.

Ray & Nancy Tiedje

Condolence from John Kreis on April 23rd, 2016 1:41 pm

Sending love and prayers to all of the Norton family from the Kreis’. We are so sorry for your loss, but the many fond memories will live on.

Condolence from Bob and Bev Deming on April 28th, 2016 5:51 pm

We enjoyed many wonderful trips with John and Doris. It seems like John always lived behind a camera and Thank goodness as his photographs live on. We were so blessed to have spent so much time together. Our hearts go out to Doris and the family. John will be greatly missed.
All our Love and Aloha

Condolence from Jeff McKeever on April 29th, 2016 8:58 am

I am thankful for all the time I had with John over the years. Our common interest in photography was also something we enjoyed together but there was so much more. I found John always inspirational and a great mentor. I learned a great deal from John and feel blessed to have had him as a friend.
Tahnia and I also always enjoyed the time we had together with John and Doris. Our condolences to Doris and the entire family.

Jeff & Tahnia

Condolence from Pat Stafford on May 5th, 2016 11:30 am

I am thankful for the opportunity to have worked for The J R Norton Company in the 1980’s. Besides being one of the smartest persons I have ever met, Mr. Norton was truly a great American. He went to Washington as a patriot and all the employees of the company at that time could not have been more proud to have our leader working for the good of the country.
My sincere condolences to the entire family.

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