Local News

December 10, 2013

Making his life count

Norville left imprint on the community

Zach Norville came to Dalton with a used car, an alarm clock and a degree in textile engineering.

In his decades here, Norville built a successful business that adapted and survived as the textile industry changed. He collected a living menagerie of animals at his home off Dug Gap Road. He flew his plane, drove a small motorcycle he built and drove a car he built.

Norville didn’t believe in watching someone else live.

“He never stopped,” said Norville’s daughter, Deborah, anchor of the “Inside Edition” television show. “He was constant, perpetual motion. If he wasn’t doing something, he was thinking about doing something. ... What he gave all of us is you are entitled to everything you work for, but if you didn’t work for it, don’t expect it.”

Norville, 85, died Sunday, leaving a lasting legacy on the community.

“He was all about teaching,” said his daughter, Nancy Hallsworth, who is a teacher at Dalton High School. “Most of America sits and watches sports. Other people’s dads would sit and watch sports. He never once watched sports. He wasn’t going to watch other people live.”

Norville was raised in Watkinsville in Oconee County. He went to the University of Georgia for a year, then attended Georgia Institute of Technology where he graduated with a degree in textile engineering. He came to Dalton briefly and began working in a mill, but was called into active duty with the Air Force. He was stationed in Tokyo during the Korean War.

Norville had hoped to be a pilot, but he couldn’t pass the physical because of a wrist injury from a wreck at 18 in Athens. The wreck was so bad, a reporter from the Athens Banner-Herald wrote Norville’s obituary, his daughters said.

“When you read your own obit before the age of 20, you make your life count,” Deborah Norville said.

Zach Norville worked for the Air Force as a mechanic. He worked as a courier so he could travel the world before returning to Dalton.

He worked at DuPont, which took him to Wilmington, Va., where he met his first wife Merle. He got his pilot’s license using the GI Bill.

“Just like with the Air Force, a large corporation didn’t set well with him,” Deborah Norville said. “He knew Dalton had an entrepreneurial spirit that was alive and growing. You were limited only by your ability to work hard.”

Norville began the business, which grew into Norville Industries more than 50 years ago. His daughters Cathy Amos and Patti Silvers are executives there now.

“He said the textile industry is made up of characters,” Hallsworth said. “If you’re not going to be one, you shouldn’t be in it. You have to have a strong personality.”

When Norville began the company, he had to build it “from the ground up,” Silvers said. “He was the salesman and the janitor.”

Norville had a single-engine airplane he flew from town to town, then drove a small motorcycle he had built from the plane to sales meetings. He also had a car he had built that folded up that he could drive to business meetings. The car cranked like a lawn mower.

“He took it apart and folded it up and kept it in his plane,” Deborah Norville said. “He would fly to a town, drive the car, pack it up and fly to another town.”

She said once while driving the car, a man flagged him to pull over. The man asked, “Didn’t I just see you?” in another town that was several hours away. The man wanted to know Norville’s secret since that car only went about 12 mph.

Flying the plane “enabled him to be competitive and nimble,” Deborah Norville said.

Norville’s daughters said they were raised in and around the company.

“We were down there thinking we ran the business, even as kids,” Silvers said.

And the third generation of Norvilles grew up the same way.

“Dad never stopped being involved,” Deborah Norville said.

Norville raised his daughters to be adventurous.

“We grew up riding motorcycles and skiing,” Amos said. “And flying planes,” Deborah Norville added.

“He instilled in us that he didn’t care we were girls,” Amos said.

“Gender was not an issue,” Hallsworth added.

The plane Norville flew only had a couple of seats. Deborah Norville said the plane was his “fifth kid.”

“There were six of us,” Amos said. “We sat in lawn chairs in the back. People think you need seat belts when you fly, not necessarily.”

“Working with dad in the business, he taught me how to convert one measure of unit to another,” she said. “Sometimes they were long conversions. He was the only man I knew who could take a square root using longhand.”

Norville also raced at the North Georgia Speedway for many years. His number was V8.

Once after winning a race, Norville took a victory lap.

“The flag got caught in his car,” Deborah Norville said. “He loved to race. He would make it memorable.”

Norville always had a love for animals. He started out bringing home typical pets for a family living in the Brookwood Subdivision, such as a dog.

But he progressed.

He once brought home a horse, but being in a subdivision, there wasn’t really anywhere to put it.

“We didn’t have a corral,” Silvers said. “But our kitchen had green carpet, and he lived in there for the first few days.”

Norville then bought a storage building, like where people keep lawn mowers and gardening items, for the horse to live in, Hallsworth said.

“We lived normal lives in Brookwood,” she laughed.

Norville brought home “Fred the Goat” one day.

“He said he’d already been to The Oakwood with Fred,” Silvers said. “He convinced us goats only ate yellow. We gave him fries because they were kind of yellow. He was still hungry so we gave him our yellow crayons. Then we gave him our mother’s yellow rose bush.”

Later, after Norville married Rita, they were vacationing in Lima, Peru.

“A llama came up and kissed me,” she said. “It was so beautiful. It had long eyelashes. I said, ‘We need that in our yard.’ First we got donkeys, sheep and llamas, but sheep are bullies. We branched out to the conglomeration we have now.”

People are welcome to visit with the animals at the Norville residence. The menagerie has included bison, camels, zebras, emus and several miniature animals. Rita Norville said because of her husband’s declining health in recent years, they hired caretakers for the animals. There are no plans to get rid of them currently.

Norville believed in supporting his local community, his daughters said.

“He believed in the core values of America,” Hallsworth said. “He believed you should work and give back.”

Norville was involved with Junior Achievement, Kiwanis, Elks Lodge, Sons of the American Revolution, Boys and Girls Scouts and Dalton First United Methodist Church, as well as several flying organizations. He received the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award for 50 years or more of accident-free flying.

The family will receive friends at Love Funeral Home on Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m. Services will be on Thursday at 10 a.m. at Dalton First United Methodist Church. He will be buried in the Norville family cemetery in Watkinsville.

Text Only
Local News
  • Bugs and Kisses 1 mlh.jpg Local stores expect tax holiday to create lots of sales

    Local retailers say Georgia’s sales tax holiday weekends mean big business for them, and they are gearing up to capitalize on this year’s tax-free shopping on Friday and Saturday.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Esme file mw 2.jpg Still fighting

    Ten-year-old Esme Miller was celebrated earlier this year for the way she’s handled a bout with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Historical photos of Murray County needed

    Maybe you have a photograph of a well-known preacher from the 1940s. Or maybe you have a photograph taken of a church choir from the 1920s.

    July 30, 2014

  • State DOT wants your input on transportation needs

    As state and national leaders consider alternatives for funding future transportation needs, the Georgia Department of Transportation wants to know what Georgians would like in their 21st century transportation system and how they recommend paying for it.

    July 30, 2014

  • Jail for Justice Tour event here tonight

    The Moral Monday Georgia Coalition, the NAACP-led multi-racial, multi-issue advocacy group, will host an event in partnership with the Georgia Dreamers Alliance, Coalition of Latino Leaders (CLILA), Whitfield NAACP and the Whitfield County Democratic Party at Dalton’s Mack Gaston Community Center tonight from 5 to 9.

    July 30, 2014

  • Two charged with tampering with evidence in drug investigation

    Two people have been arrested and charged with tampering with evidence in connection with the synthetic marijuana bust in February involving a Dalton business owner.

    July 30, 2014

  • Beaulieu to close operations for one week for inventory

    Floorcovering giant Beaulieu of America will conduct a physical inventory of its buildings and facilities next week, with only salaried employees reporting for work.

    July 30, 2014

  • Green spot closing 1 mlh.jpg A part of the family

    Larry Green can’t remember the exact date. But he says it was about 54 years ago when his father Marvin took him to see the new store he and his brother Herman had commissioned Red Jennings to build at 309 W. Emery St. in Dalton.

    July 29, 2014 3 Photos

  • New high school?

    The only means for “staying small” and preserving “The Dalton Way” in Dalton Public Schools may be through expansion, Superintendent Jim Hawkins said Tuesday.

    July 29, 2014

  • Bond denied for man arrested in synthetic marijuana bust

    A Dalton business owner charged in a synthetic marijuana bust was denied bond Tuesday.

    July 29, 2014