Phone: (906) 786-2142
400 S 10th St. - Escanaba, Michigan 49829
West 3755 US 2 - Spalding, Michigan 49886
Ralph Joseph "Bud" Norton
Date of Death: November, 02 2020

          Ralph Joseph ‘Bud’ Norton passed away peacefully Monday, November 2, 2020 at Cumberland Medical Center in Crossville, Tennessee at the age of 96.
          Born March 25, 1924 to Herbert J. (H.J.) and Ruth Norton, of Gladstone, MI, the only son of their five children.
          Bud is a decorated U.S. Navy Veteran of World War II and the Korean Conflict, serving in the South Pacific theater as a naval aviator, achieving the rank of Lieutenant –Senior Grade. He also served in the China Sea during the Korean Conflict with hundreds and hundreds of take offs and landings from various aircraft carriers.  The discipline and patriotism he learned in the Navy never left him, as friends and family will attest.
          After proudly serving his country for 10 years, Bud returned to the community he so loved, Escanaba, and joined his family’s business group, which included the Clairmont Transfer Company, Northern Motor Rebuilders, Southern Motor Rebuilders and the Northern Motor Ford Dealership.  After the death of his father, Bud became President of the Clairmont Transfer Company until his retirement.
          Bud married the love of his life, Marcella D. LaFontaine, in1949. They moved to Florida where Bud completed Forestry School. At the onset of the Korean Conflict, Bud was recalled to active duty where once again he proudly served his nation. At the completion of the Korean Conflict, Bud and Marcella moved back to Escanaba where they made their home for the remainder of their 71 years of marriage. They raised seven children and enjoyed their beautiful home overlooking Ludington Park and their summer cottage in Ford River.
          Throughout his life, Bud maintained a keen interest in aviation. He owned and operated PAT Airlines in the 1960’s and regularly visited the air show in Oshkosh. As a World War II and Korean War pilot, he was always a welcomed addition to the air show events. He loved seeing the restored and meticulously maintained aircraft he once flew, like the TBF Grumman Avenger and could recite every technical detail about how the planes were built, how they handled, and how they operated.
          He is survived by his wife Marcella, his seven children:
Lani Way, Laura (Scott) Johnson, Mark Norton (Gaye Smaniotto), Holly (Mike Lum) Norton, Jeff (Theresa) Norton, Ruth (Jim) O’Toole and Scott Norton (Christine Pezel), along with nine grandchildren and six great grandchildren. He is also survived by his sister, Elaine Sigan of Gladstone, and many nieces and nephews.
          Bud is preceded in death by his parents, sisters Irene Norton, Helen Norton and Mary Burroughs, brothers-in-law Jack Burroughs and Howard Sigan, nieces Judy Olsen and Janet Arbour and nephew Donald Sigan.
          Bud was a cheerful man with a wonderful sense of humor and positive outlook on life. When asked how he was doing, his standard reply was “Never better” and he meant it. He loved his family and his friends. He was a proud American and regularly wore his WWII Veteran cap when going out. Bud took great pride in his community and truly loved everything the Upper Peninsula and Escanaba had to offer.
          In lieu of flowers, his family requests that donations be made to the Upper Peninsula Honor Flight at  
          A celebration of his life will be planned at a later time.
          The Allo Coolman Funeral Homes are assisting the Norton family.
          Please visit to send online condolences to his family.

  • "Dear Marcella, My deepest sympathies in hearing of Bud's passing. My career time in Escanaba was brief, and something that remained among the fondest times in my life. Bud was a great part of those feelings. His nature so matched mine that it made me feel like a relationship between friends moreso than employer/employee. He pulled one of the greatest practical jokes on me that has ever been a memorable one. When we lived in Savannah, Bud once came to town on business. I invited him out for dinner one evening. On the appointed day my wife was working, our daughter was mixed up with some school doings, and our son (the one having been born in Escanaba) was not feeling well. Without a baby sitter, it became necessary to bring him along. I had made reservations at one of the nicest seafood emporiums on the waterfront in the shrimping village of Thunderbolt. As the three of us entered, I stepped forward to the maitre'ds stand, but he looked right past me, face beaming, and stepped up to greet Bud, "Well hello, Mr. Norton! Welcome to Tassey's Pier. Step right this way, we have your table ready, right over here by the window." To the casual observer it looked like the welcoming of a real VIP arrival. What nobody except Bud and I knew was that Bud had never been there before.Left me kind of stupefied, wondering how he had pulled that off. Over dinner he explained that he had sneaked away from his meetings during the day to make this "special" arrangement. Joke was on me. I so enjoyed our infrequent visits to Delta County, and the chance to say "Hi." (And you were equally gracious to us all, as well.) That, and in so many other ways Bud was special to me. May God's blessing lend you and the family peace at Bud's passing. Laurel Smith"
    -Laurel Smith

  • "Very sorry for your loss Marcella.God bless you and your family."
    -Rodney Spence

  • "Please accept my heartfelt sympathy. Bud's passing is a definite loss to the "neighborhood". To my friends and former neighbor's Jim, Ruth & family, my thoughts and prayers are with you. Treasure the memories."
    -Nancy Winneroski

  • "Dan and I are sorry for your loss. We have lifelong memories of Bud, Marcella and you “kids”. As neighbors on 14th Street where Dan fixed your bikes, to enjoying your speed boat and catamaran antics on the Bay, you’ve been a delight. Dan enjoyed his career at Northern Rebuilders and his association with the Norton family. Cherish your memories! Until we meet again. Dan and Kathy "
    -Dan and Kathleen Creten

  • "Dear Marcella and Family, Please accept my deepest sympathy for your great loss. Even though I did some baby sitting for your children many years ago I knew you all mostly from my Mother, Anne Sakal Pepin. She loved you all dearly. May Bud's soul rest in peace. The beauty of this life is that one day we will all meet again. God Bless. Kathleen Ann Pepin Neeley "
    -Kathleen Neeley Pepin

  • "To the Norton family, Sending my deepest condolences for Bud’s passing. My dad loved him like an older brother and learned so much from Bud during the Clairmont days. You are all in my thoughts and prayers. Suzanne Rossi "
    -Suzanne Rossi

  • "My heartfelt condolences for your loss. I hope all the good memories help ease your pain and grief. Thinking of you all."
    -Ellwood LaFleur

  • "Enjoyed Bud’s company over many cups of coffee and talking our mutual enjoyment of flying."
    -Tom Zerbel

Send Condolence


Obituary Archive