All men are mortal
Kind words will never perish
Nor will a noble name
~ Viking saying
Norcross residents found more than a friend when Derek Norcross of Hastings, England discovered the city named for his famous forebear, Jonathan Norcross, first mayor of Atlanta. Our city found a legacy, connecting with living family in England of its famous namesake. Both Derek and Jonathan traced family roots to Norcross Manor in the north of England. The name Norcross is Viking in origin meaning "Men of the North Cross."
Derek Norcross died after a tragic accident occurring last November 10 in the Sussex town of Robertsbridge in England. As he walked his six-year old grandson home from school, a car veered went out of control striking him. Fortunately, little William, who was running ahead, was unhurt.
We felt an immediate connection with Derek and Audrey Norcross, both retired educators. Ironically, his career paralleled that of Jonathan Norcross. Both are remembered as educators and humanitarians first, before political careers. A retired headmaster, Derek Norcross chaired many charities as well as the 70-member East Sussex County Council.
Mr. Norcross discovered our town by accident in the early 1980's while on a speaking tour in the United States, lecturing on the performing arts. We visited the Norcross family in England, attending their daughter's wedding in 1999, and again in 2001 when Mr. Norcross confided over lunch he had just been designated Queen's emissary for East Sussex. He had many contacts with the British Royal Family. He was on the Queen's Honors List in 1985 for community service, receiving the Order of the British Empire from Prince Charles in an impressive ceremony at Buckingham Palace. He sent us a tape.
After 9-11 when many were afraid to fly, Mr Norcross still came to speak at the new Norcross High dedication. He spoke about peace, freedom, and the environment, telling the students about Grey Owl and his historical work with the Tom Paine Society. Derek spoke of how life moves in circles. He called his discovery of the town that shares his name "the completing of a circle." It is uncanny how it all came about, he said.
Again in 2003 Mr. Norcross came to open the British Heritage Crowns and Regalia Exhibition in Thrasher Park. His enthusiasm for our city was infectious. In one of our conversations, we spoke of the struggle to save the 1875 old Methodist church, the focal point in the heart of the historic district, and he said, "You absolutely must save it! You have to change the thinking of those who want to tear down the town's history!"
Mr. Norcross would be pleased to know city leaders did save the little church with the lovely rose-colored glass windows and gothic steeples, and it has become a community center housing a thriving little theatre.
A committee has been formed to plan a suitable memorial within the city for Mr. Norcross.