Donald E. Norton

CHICAGO – Donald E. Norton, 91, of Chicago, a longtime Earlville resident, passed away Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, at the Terraces skilled nursing facility in Chicago.

A funeral mass will be held at noon on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, at St. Theresa of Avila Catholic Church, 221 W. Union St, Earlville, with Father Jeff Windy officiating. Visitation will also be at the church, preceding the funeral mass, from 10 a.m. to noon. Burial will follow the funeral mass at St. Theresa cemetery. A luncheon will then follow at the St. Theresa parish hall and all are invited to attend.  

Don was born on Dec. 9, 1930, on Stilson Street in Earlville, the eighth of George and Julia Norton’s 13 children. He graduated from Earlville High School in 1948 and then attended Bradley University in Peoria for a semester, intending to major in Engineering. When he learned that math “wasn’t my thing”, he left college and went to work, driving trucks and working on road and construction crews.

He is survived by his wife (of over 60 years) Karen; his sons, George William and Matthew (Christine); his grandchildren, Sophia, Charles, and Gabriel Norton; his sisters, Julie Burke and Barb Wishall, and over 40 nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his beloved son Michael, his parents, his sisters Cathryne Frame, Marjorie Brosnan, Mary Lou Cahill, and Dorothy Norton, and his brothers George (Bill), Leonard, John (Jack), James, Charles, and Richard Norton.  

Like all his brothers and brothers-in-law, he served his country in the U.S. Army from 1951 to 1953. Don often remarked how fortunate he was, during the Korean War, to be stationed with the Third Armored Division in Bamberg, Germany. There, he served as a tank mechanic (which he admitted he was not good at) and later company clerk (which he was good at).  

After his service, Don went back to college, this time in pursuit of a law degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Between G.I. bill benefits and his job as a waiter at the boarding house in which he lived, Don paid his way through his undergraduate studies and law school, graduating as President of his law school class in 1958. From there, Don was off to Chicago, taking a staff attorney position with Chicago Title Insurance Company.  

While living in Chicago, he had the good sense to go on a blind date (set up by his sister Barb) with hospital secretary and part-time model Karen McCormick, another La Salle County “transplant” living in Chicago. Karen was the love of Don’s life. They moved back to LaSalle County and, on Oct. 6, 1962, were married at Karen’s home parish, St. Mary’s Church in Grand Ridge. In less than two years, Don went from a bachelor lawyer to a married father of three, as he and Karen welcomed their sons George (Bill) and twins Matthew and Michael.  Don was an Assistant State’s Attorney in LaSalle County and also opened his own law practice in his hometown of Earlville, becoming a trusted advisor to his many friends and clients. 

In 1980, Don was sworn in as an Associate Circuit Court Judge for the 13th Judicial Circuit, covering LaSalle, Bureau, and Grundy counties. He was respected by his judicial colleagues, the courthouse bailiffs, and the attorneys who practiced before him as a thorough, fair, and disciplined judge.

Don retired in 1991 and he and Karen enjoyed their retirement, wintering in Longboat Key, Fla., and visiting their children and grandchildren. Don and Karen were inseparable and loved each other deeply. In 2014, over 50 years after they met there, Don and Karen moved from Earlville back to Chicago to be closer to their children and grandchildren. Don was smart, witty, honest, hard-working, dapper, kind, generous, and humble. And more than anything, he loved to share with his family a long, great meal at a fabulous restaurant – and he always insisted on paying. He will be greatly missed.  

Don was a member of the Earlville Lions Club and the Mendota Elks Club and was a lector at St. Theresa of Avila Church for many years.

For more information or to sign the online guest book please go to


More In Obituaries