Joseph Norton, B.A., Columbia University, 1984

Remembrance, October 2, 2003

Today is the anniversary of my brother Joseph's death. He was born in Boston on April 7, 1962 and died at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan on October 2, 1986. He was 24 when he died; he died the week that the discovery of AZT was announced in the media.

In those days, stories in the New York Times and other media described AIDS as a disease that affected "promiscuous gay men (age 30+--my brother was too young to fit the category) and "Haitians."  That was the year that conservatives were saying that people with AIDS should be tattooed on the butt, and maybe sent away to internment camps.

After he died, I wrote my brother's obituaries and didn't mention AIDS, though we spoke about it openly in our family. We held a memorial service in the chapel at Columbia.

Joseph was a poet and he won the Ford Prize for poetry when he graduated from Columbia. He loved Columbia and New York City, and when he got to Manhattan he thought he'd embarked on the life he was meant to live.

I think of him often. I remember the music, books, streets and beaches that he loved. I hope there are others, especially in the community radiating out of those years at Columbia, who also remember him.

May he rest in peace.

‹Linda Norton (on behalf of Mary and Richard Norton; Caroline, Michael, and Richard Norton, Jr.; and all of Joseph's nieces and nephews: Seth, Isabel, Luke, Margaret, and Piper)

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