Jim Norris’ life was one big party and everyone was invited.
Friends, acquaintances, even strangers were included in the goings-on in Jim’s life. His daughter Danielle and wife Frances were well aware of that when Danielle got married earlier this year and Jim told his friends, “Stop by,” when speaking about the reception.
The lights have dimmed on the party. Jim lost his battle with melanoma on July 18.
Jim was many things to many people, including athlete, educator, coach and humanitarian but, most of all, a husband and father to Frances and their children, Jessica, Danielle and her husband, Brad Green; and James and his wife, Nichole.
There were many facets to Jim’s life, beginning in high school when he starred as quarterback on Coach Bob Barbieri’s very first football team at Pittston Area. Jim had previously told me it was an odd feeling playing for Barbieri his senior year because the year before, Barbieri was an opposing team’s head coach.
“After the first few practices, I got to know Coach Barbieri and I was sold,” Jim once said. He later went on to excel in football at Boston University as a defensive player.
Out of college, Jim was hired at Pittston Area as a physical education teacher, a job he held for 30 years. Sports were good to him and he was good to sports as he coached various teams throughout his career, including basketball, baseball, softball, soccer and football teams.
When son Jimmy took over as Pittston Area head football coach a few seasons ago, he didn’t have to look far for additional coaching staff. He recruited his dad.
Father and son could be found on the headsets, calling offensive and defensive plays during games — Jim in the press box and Jimmy on the field. It was a unique situation and, although there were times when the two did not see eye-to-eye, it worked. Jimmy will surely miss his dad’s voice in his ear this coming fall for the Patriots.
Jim was never one to sit and relax. He was always involved in something, especially with the community. A few years ago, the Sunday Dispatch featured him planting flowers along Main Street in Pittston’s downtown.
The streetscaping was coming along nicely as part of the revitalization of downtown and one of the things missing were flowers at the bases of the trees planted. Jim bought flowers, planted them and made sure they were watered daily. He truly loved Pittston and the resurgence it has seen over the last decade.
No matter where he was in life, Jim always came back to the children. His desire for helping children through sports and education was paramount. The bottom line was education first, sports second.
In addition to his family, Jim had a few passions in life. He enjoyed physical activity, playing ice hockey for many years. He loved the Yankees, breakfasts at Agolino’s with the “crew,” meals at Colarusso’s in Avoca and spending time with his friends.
He adored his wife, whom he married in 1977.
The accolades have been pouring in via the online guest book from Jim’s obituary and various other outlets, such as Facebook, which ironically, Jim did not use. Comments such as:
“So sorry to learn of Jimmy’s passing. I looked up to him as a little kid when he was an athlete. Had the honor of being coached by him on the FB team. He set an example for so many of his athletes and students. He was a Great Athlete and Coach and even a better person who made you feel special. Fran and family, I trust you find some peace in knowing that he truly had an impact on so many!!” - John Licata, Locust Grove, Virginia.
“Dear Mr. Norris, if you ever wondered if you made a difference to the kids you taught, then I’m here to tell you there was no teacher who made any class as much fun as your class. My thoughts and prayers are with your family at this difficult time. God’s speed sir. With love and respect, Jen.” - Jennifer Bauman, Dupont.
“Jim coached all three of my sons in Jr. High soccer. He always showed up at subsequent high school games to see how they were progressing at the next level. Through all the conversations I had with him it was easy to determine he sincerely cared about the kids he coached. You just don’t experience that type of commitment very often in scholastic sports. My condolences to the family.” - Thom Tracy, Pittston.
“Our condolences to the Norris family on the loss of Jimmy. Jimmy was a true gentleman and an outstanding human being. The words ‘great teacher and coach’ truly capture the spirit of who Jimmy was. Seeing Jimmy at the field house dedication last fall brought back so many memories and reminded me of the importance of role models and mentors in forming who we are today.” - Jim and Kathy Blockus, Dushore and Middletown.
“A great husband, father, teacher, coach, teammate, friend and neighbor. He truly will be missed by all who knew him. Rest in peace, Jimmy!” – Sal Licata, Pittston.
“Great person. So sad! I never saw him at a softball game without a bag full of goodies for Emily or Katie or Ron or me, the latest being a coonskin hat for Emily for her new college adventure at WVU. He later delivered one to our house for Ron. He was the WA softball team’s biggest fan and we will miss him!” – Alison Wolfgang, Wyoming.
Whether you called Jim Norris coach, dad, husband or friend, from now on, you will call him something else — missed.