George Garland Norris, 77, veteran, weapons technician for the Army

December 20, 2004|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

George Garland Norris, a weapons technician at Edgewood Arsenal and a World War II veteran, died Wednesday of pancreatic cancer at the home of his daughter in Punxsutawney, Pa. The Bethany Beach, Del., resident, who lived for many years in Baltimore County, was 77.

Born in West Baltimore, Mr. Norris attended Polytechnic Institute before running away at age 14 to join the Army. His mother tracked him down about a year and a half later and ordered him to come home. In 1944, Mr. Norris joined the Navy, with his mother's blessing, and went to war aboard destroyers.

He earned his high school diploma through the military, attended diving school in San Diego and became a "hard-hat" salvage diver for the Navy.

"They're the ones with the big brass helmets that you see the old-fashioned divers go down in," said his son, Brian Norris of Minneapolis. "If a boat sank or had a hole and was sitting on the bottom of a river or another body of water, he'd weld the hole closed and take whatever action he had to float the boat."

In 1946, Mr. Norris married Anna E. Raspe of Overlea. The couple raised four children, living in Overlea and Perry Hall.

Mr. Norris attended night courses at the John Hopkins University for more than two years, majoring in mechanical engineering, but did not earn a degree. At the same time, he worked full time as a weapons technician for the Army at the Edgewood Arsenal, primarily testing chemical agents and chemical weapons at Carroll Island. He retired after 36 years of government service.

"It's a funny story," his son said. "He spent his career with the federal government, developing chemical weapons that were stockpiled all over the country. When he retired, they hired him as a consultant to get rid of the chemical weapons and stockpiles that were leaching into the ground. So he kind of had this career that never ended."

Mr. Norris continued his consulting work until his death.

He was a member of the Masonic Lodge, Scottish Rite, the Shrine, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and the Sons of the American Revolution.

He enjoyed scuba diving and continued diving into his 60s. Nurturing his love of the sea, Mr. Norris and his wife moved in 1995 to Bethany Beach.

The couple enjoyed traveling, taking a couple of two-week trips each year, often to Europe or the Caribbean.

A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. today at the Bethany Chapel of Melson Funeral Services on West Avenue in Ocean View, Del.

In addition to his son and his wife of 58 years, Mr. Norris is survived by another son, Wayne Norris of Underhill, Vt.; two daughters, Lynn Norris of Punxsutawney, Pa., and Donna Koltuniak of Traverse City, Mich.; and three grandsons.

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