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Norton and Koedel to lead parade

Grand Marshals Billy Norton (left) and John Koedel

by Tom Chillemi

This year’s grand marshals of the Deltaville Heritage Day Heroes Parade have something unusual in common—both Billy Norton and John Koedel are from Pennsylvania.

Norton was born in Philadelphia, Koedel grew up near Pittsburgh. Through very different routes, they met up decades later through the Deltaville Community Association (DCA). Both men are 74 years old, still enjoy working, and have a strong connection to the Deltaville community.

On April 16, 2011 a tornado tore through the heart of Deltaville, damaging the DCA building and flattening the pool buildings.

Norton was in Florida when the tornado struck, and through the internet knew about the devastation before Koedel.

That night Koedel drove down to look at the damage. “We’re really in bad shape,” He told Norton.

Norton replied, “We’re coming home.”

Norton and his wife Marsha arrived back in Deltaville 33 hours after the tornado struck, and were at the DCA board meeting on the morning of April 18.

Norton told the board he would help rebuild the pool building, “on one condition . . . if John (Koedel) helps.”

Likewise, Koedel was willing to help if Billy (Norton) was his partner in the challenging project.

Both men rolled up their sleeves, done manual labor while also directing the rebuilding process.

Norton worked 7 days a week for 5 weeks and took only one day off.

Koedel handled paperwork and record-keeping to make sure all the pool’s pipes, pumps and related systems were diagrammed for future maintenance.

“John is just a great guy to work with,” said Norton. “He and I met every morning and pooled our resources and worked out our assignments.”

Two months to the day after the tornado, the Ricky Taylor Memorial Swimming Pool was ready for a test swim, and the weather cooperated with temperatures in the high 90s.

From the beginning, contractors stopped at the DCA and offered their help at no cost. Suppliers donated materials or gave deep discounts, noted Norton.

Why did Norton do it? “Regardless of people’s differences, contractors, workers, family people, and volunteers have worked together. The bottom line is it really makes you feel good to live in a community where all these people in a disaster pulled together and asked, ‘What can we do?’ That’s all you can ask for.”

Marsha Norton has been the “go-for” for the project, helping in any way she could.

The people who didn’t work, wrote check after check, Norton said.

Koedel said the pool project was one of the first rebuilds in Deltaville to be completed. “I believe that’s because we were able to act quickly,” said Koedel. “This was all built with volunteer labor.”

Koedel said Norton worked 12 hour days, even in the heat.

John Koedel
Koedel majored in economics at Washington & Lee University and worked for Pittsburgh National Bank until 1968. He then went to work for one of his commercial lending accounts, the National Forge Company. He started as assistant treasurer and spent most of his 25-year career there as chief financial officer and retired as president.

Koedel retired in 1991 when he was 55 years old. He discovered Deltaville through an ad in Chesapeake Bay Magazine for Jackson Creek Condominiums. The copper gutters and down spouts caught his eye.

He and his wife Fay, an occupational therapist who grew up in Connecticut, bought a condo as a weekend getaway until they built their house. “We fell in love with Deltaville,” he said.
Why does Koedel do it?

“My wife and I feel that if you are going to live in a community you can’t just take from it, you have to participate,” he said.

Koedel got involved when he attended a DCA meeting and someone asked if the DCA was tax-exempt. The board was unable to prove it.

Koedel told the board members that if they would put him on the board “temporarily,” he would file for tax-free status. “I got it retroactive to 1950 when the DCA was started, so everyone who has contributed had a legitimate tax deduction. Then, they wouldn’t let me off the board.”

He served as DCA president for 2 years and treasurer for 5 years.

Koedel enjoys woodworking. He had a small contracting business when he was in high school. “That’s why I’m interested in it today . . . anything that can be made out of wood, I’ll do it.”
Koedel took up sailing when he retired. The Koedels enjoy sailing their cutter “Wings,” are members of Fishing Bay Yacht Club and participate in cruising activities.

The Koedels have one son, John Koedel III, and two grandsons, ages 17 and 15. They all live in Richmond and are members of Fishing Bay Yacht Club.

Billy Norton
Norton’s family moved back from Philadelphia to Deltaville when he was 3 years old. They had gone north looking for work. His father, William “Edward” Norton, rented the building where Hurd’s Hardware is located today and operated a garage.

Eventually, E. Norton started W.E. Norton Marine Railway. Billy liked to work on engines and helped out in his father’s boatyard from the time he was 15 years old. In 1969, Billy bought the boatyard when his dad retired. Norton had also been building race cars, but he knew how hard it would be to make a living racing cars.

In the early 1970s the railway became Norton’s Yacht Sales and specialized in selling Hunter yachts. It still is a family business run by Norton’s daughter, Carolyn, and her husband, Ken Schmalenberger. They took over the business in 1996 when Billy Norton retired.

Norton has two more daughters, Cindy Norton and Christy Norton, and 7 grandchildren.

In the 1980s Norton was able to devote more time to racing. He held a NASCAR license for 33 years, and worked in the pits preparing cars for owner Junie Donlavey of Richmond and drivers Buddy Baker, Benny Parsons, Ken Schrader and others. For 13 years he was in the pits on every weekend that there was a race. He hung up his tools in 1999, but he still enjoys seeing the men he worked with on TV during races.

Norton and Koedel promised to make the pool facility better than it was—and most agree they have succeeded.

Next is rebuilding the DCA building which was once part of the former Deltaville Elementary School, which Norton attended. The front wall was pushed in slightly by the tornado and a side wall was pushed out.

Someday Norton may get more time for fishing or RVing, and Koedel will be able to sail. But for now, they’re happy staying active and helping the community that will show its gratitude during the parade this Saturday, June 2, at 2 p.m. in Deltaville.

Deltaville Hertiage Day set for July 2

posted 06.29.2011

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