It's hard becoming a living legend. It's not something we plan. No schools of higher learning, of which I'm aware, offer courses in “Living Legend 101.” And I've never seen any on-line or mail-in courses on the subject. That could be why they're as rare as hen's teeth.
Even more rare is to become one in your own time. Living legends are almost always referred to in the past, as was, rather than the present.
First, it would embarrass them if they were to be called a living legend to their face. And secondly, even though it's in the present tense, it's always spoken about that person after they leave this life. But for 'RC,' the moniker by which he wanted to be known rather than 'Randy,' it was different.
RC Norris was a giant of a man who never gave it a second thought when it came to helping others. Like another friend who passed away recently, RC's random acts of kindness too, were anything but random. They included solving common everyday problems that might have stifled the minds of others. And for the most part, RC did it without being asked.
This well-loved, 92 year old man died on Oct. 29 from burns he received in a fire in his home and, with this loss, the Portage Lakes will never be the same. Having known him for more than 40 years, I have no qualms in writing that he was a living legend in his own time, long before he left us.
If ever a Hall of Fame is established for those here in the Lakes who've helped to improve them, to make them what they are today, RC's name should be right up there among the very first nominees. When the July 4 fireworks were nearly canceled because of an insurance problem, RC took it upon himself to transfer the launching to his Dusty's Landing peninsula and even underwrite the show. When that launching blew out the windows and front of his office building, he never shirked. Instead he went forward and spearheaded one drive after another to raise more money for additional shows; one each year after another. The show each July 4 that you and thousands of others watch has now grown into the largest privately funded firework display in the state of Ohio.
With a perpetual smile plastered across his face from one ear to the other, RC greeted you in his deep baritone voice, “Franklin, my man. How are you doing?”
Why he called me Franklin, I'll never know. He never said, and unfortunately, I never asked. Now it's too late. But he's the only one who ever called me that, and knowing RC as I think I do, I'd be willing to wager that he had a great story behind his reasoning. If I would have asked, it would not have surprised me if it might have become fodder for a good column. After all, with all the stories he had to tell, you could spend a lifetime listening to the man and there's little chance that his story barrel would ever run dry.
Start a conversation. Any subject that would trigger his mind, he'd hold up his hand and say, “Franklin, wait there for just a second. I'll be right back.” And off he'd go.
Five minutes later he'd return with, much to your surprise, a handful of papers on the subject you had just broached. “These are copies, Franklin. I made them for you.” Later on I'd return home with an armful of papers and the first thing my wife, Peggy, would say, is “I see you've been talking to RC.”
Being a retired attorney, RC had a closet full of stories. He once told about a man who landed his single engine plane on the streets of Brooklyn, N.Y., went into a bar to have a drink, returned and took off from the same street. He landed at his New Jersey hometown airport long before the cops ever arrived at the Brooklyn bar.
But because RC thought some may have been doubting him, he tried to find the copy of the story among his files, but couldn't. Months later, after many long searches and much research, he finally found it online at the library, complete with a photograph. Naturally, he was in his glory. Most importantly, he had copies to make, and he did; even framing one for the wall at his yacht club. From that point on, no one ever doubted him when he told his lawyer tales.
And sing! How this man loved to sing. Most of the songs on his old style Jukebox were from the 1950s, '60s and '70s. RC, the late Bob Murray and myself would sing along to our heart's delight, especially on St. Paddy's Day. It mattered little that none of us could sing. What mattered most was that RC was having a good time and sharing it with those he loved.
This community has lost an icon, in every sense of the word. There will never be another RC Norris, not in my lifetime nor in yours. Just knowing him has been a slice o' Heaven! If you were fortunate enough for your paths to cross, your life was indeed enriched. I know mine was.
In the minds of many, there will always be those who may try to imitate him. Try as they might, they may come close, but we all know close doesn't count.
RC may often be imitated, but he'll never be duplicated.
Comments may be emailed to: Frankweaverjr@aol.com