James Byron Norton Jr.
March 17, 2022
James Byron Norton Jr. (Jay), 61, of Laramie, WY, son of Mary and James Byron Norton, died in an avalanche while skiing in the Teton backcountry on March 17, 2022.
He graduated from New Hartford High School in 1979, attended the University of Northern Iowa, then transferred to the University of Montana (UM), where he earned a BS in geology. His MS in soil science was from Iowa State University, and he received a PhD in resource conservation from UM. His graduate research was with Zuni farmers of New Mexico and made a lasting impact on his life.
Jay grew up in New Hartford, IA, and Milwaukee, WI. He explored the shores of Lake Michigan with his mom, dad, and sister; helped his grandfather, Martin Holm, on his farm; and groomed ski trails and helped restore prairies with his parents on their land. He married his soulmate Urszula in 1996 and they pursued their PhDs, academic careers, and love for traveling and outdoor adventures. They welcomed their son Caz in 2000, the light of his life.
As a soils extension specialist and educator at the University of Wyoming (UW), Jay was committed to current issues in land management. He led a research lab investigating soil and ecosystem health and agriculture resilience and sustainability. He and Urszula collaborated on projects in the United States, Africa, and Europe. He is remembered for his excellence in scholarly activities as well as the warmth, friendship and good humor he brought to his students, family, and community. Jay was a kind and generous soul, always glad to help anyone in need.
Jay was a consummate outdoorsman who hiked, camped, biked, boated, and ran, but his greatest passion was for backcountry and Nordic skiing, which he approached as a scientist and expressed as an artist–a beautiful skier, he was excited about his latest achievement: completing the American Birkebeiner Nordic Ski Race in Hayworth, WI, for the 14th time, a race he had skied 12 times with his father. He loved adventuring with his wife and son, especially using their cabin in the Snowy Range as their basecamp. He was a good cook, most recently experimenting with air frying and sourdough rye bread. He enjoyed house projects and gardening with Urszula, worked on Volkswagen vans for decades, and on his son’s vintage Jeep with him. He loved reading, strong coffee, country rock music, and beer. He cut firewood like a maniac every year for his home and that of his parents, and always showed up for family in Iowa and Poland. To know Jay was to love him, and he is deeply missed.
He is survived by his parents, Mary and J. Byron Norton, wife Urszula, son Casimir, sister Jill, nephew Joshua, and in-laws Danuta and Kazimierz Choromanscy. Jay was proceeded in death by his grandparents Agnes and Harry Norton, Hazel and Martin Holm and step-grandmother, Viola Masters Holm.
A gathering in Jay’s honor will be held at his parents’ home near New Hartford on April 16th, 1:00 PM to 8:00 PM. UW has created a scholarship in Jay’s name and information about donations to “Norton Family Fund” for avalanche awareness education at UW is available upon request. In Iowa, memorials can be sent to New Hartford’s Martin Memorial Library, PO Box 292, NH, IA 50660, for books and the creation of an educational native species garden.
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