In August 1942, Randolph Carlysle Jr., 15, stood at attention proudly posing for a local newspaper photographer. Having little regard for history, the young lad could not imagine he’d grow up to become one of the most notable resident historians of Portage Lakes.
Giving the traditional Boy Scout salute, the teenager lightly touched the brim of his uniform’s hat. With America at war, his scout troop joined thousands of others answering FDR’s request for help from those able to do what they could for the war effort. That meant collecting aluminum, rubber, and other scrap items as civic contributions.
A life scout and patrol leader of Troop 32, sponsored by the First United Brethren Church, the young lad originated from a scouting family. His father, R. C. Norris, was chairman of the troop committee. His older brother, John Richard, 17, was a Life Scout. But according to Randolph, his younger brother, Robert Edward, 12, was "only a tenderfoot."
While scrap drives proved worthy, they could’ve failed without the help of scouts like young Randolph. When tackling assignments, he never shirked. Of the two million pounds of aluminum accumulated, "the scouts collected 1,500,000 pounds," the story quoted him as saying. "That just goes to show you." Indeed it does.
Now, 75 years later, he goes by RC, as in RC Norris. Approaching his 90th birthday, the WWII vet, fondly recalls taking evening college classes to earn his law degree as he shares hilarious stories of his younger days. RC Norris was one of the most successful attorneys at the Blakemore law firm where he spent many years and became a legal legend.
But RC didn’t stop there. After helping Fairlawn incorporate and then moving to the lakes, he assisted Franklin Township in becoming the City of New Franklin. RC believes in civic involvement. Recently, he lobbied for the Rte. 619/S. Turkeyfoot Road intersection change and suggested the name of the new ‘Sandy Beach Bridge’ on S. Main Street.
And without RC’s initiative, resources and dedication, we would not have the annual Fourth of July firework displays to enjoy each year. The man also loves music and can often be heard belting out his favorite Irish tunes.
One of this pleasant, white-haired gentleman’s biggest achievements, however, is an accomplishment in later life. In the mid 1980s, after the owner’s demise, RC purchased a run down resort. Dusty’s Landing had a business office that was of little use and dilapidated buildings strewn about and grounds were overgrown with weeds. To put it mildly, it was a mess.
But RC, having a love affair with the lakes long before 1942 when he first camped out on Mason’s Point with his scout troop, believed Dusty’s still had promise. With his son, Mark, daughter-in-law, Francine, and grandson, Drew, RC turned an eyesore into a showcase on the lakes. Of course his modesty forbids him admitting he owns Dusty’s. That’s why he often tells others, "I’m just the groundskeeper."
Today, history is one of RC’s biggest passions. While slowing a bit only in the last few years, his wide spread reputation has him firmly established as the "Resident Historian of Portage Lakes." At times, it seems he can’t get enough and has more historical records of incidents that have happened in and around these lakes than the local library.
It’s no secret that RC is a one-man historical society. On more occasions than I’m able to recall, he has been my go-to for research on anything that may have happened here. I honestly believe he has each and every "Outtakes" column I’ve ever written over the past 18 years.
RC reaches 90 on Tuesday, Feb. 21. An open celebration for family and friends is planned for the following Saturday, Feb. 25, at Dusty’s Yacht Club. It starts at 7 p.m. and continues until … whenever. Feel free to stop by and wish him the best. I know the "Resident Historian of Portage Lakes" will enjoy it. And so will you. Besides, how often in life do you get to celebrate a 90 year-old’s birthday?
Nonagenarian icons are rare, and men like RC deserve our utmost gratitude for all they’ve given us.
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