Ethel Virginia Norton

  • Born: July 2, 1922
  • Died: November 27, 2009
  • Location: San Antonio, Texas

Porter Loring Mortuary

1101 McCullough Avenue
San Antonio, TX 78212

plm-sa@porterloring.com
Tel. (210) 227-8221

Tribute & Message From The Family


Ethel Virginia Norton died peacefully on November 27, 2009 at the age of 87.

A life-long resident of San Antonio, she was born on July 2, 1922 to Dr. and Mrs. A.E. Norton. Ethel was devoted to her family, friends, church, country, the Dallas Cowboys and her pets – all generations of "Kittys", Panda Bears and her beloved Whoopie.

Ethel was best known for her love of sports, especially tennis, which fostered a life-long athletic career on and off the court.

Ethel treasured her years as a teacher with the San Antonio Independent School District and as Summer Program Director for the San Antonio Country Club, where she taught many children how to swim, dive and enjoy the thrill of July 4th swim meets and mandatory "tickle water" drops at the end of every lesson.

Ethel Norton graduated from Jefferson High School in 1941. She was the State Interscholastic League Girls' Singles Champion two years in a row in 1939 and 1940. Her high school success led to a full tennis scholarship at Highpoint College in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Ethel went on to win numerous city, state, regional and national tennis tournaments in both singles and doubles, remaining a dominant figure in the sport of tennis during this time period.

In 1953, she was ranked #1 in Women's Singles, Women's Doubles and Mixed Doubles by the Texas Lawn Tennis Association and ranked as high as #17 in the U.S. in Women's Singles and #3 in U.S. Women's Doubles by the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association. She and doubles partner, Althea Gibson, were ranked fifth in the nation by the United States Lawn Tennis Association and competed against such notables as Maureen Connelly and Doris Hart.

Highlights of Ethel's career included being voted "San Antonio Women Athlete of the Year" in 1954 and induction into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 1989.

As a long time educator with San Antonio Independent School District and having spent over 30 years teaching physical education to SAISD students, she was able to share her experiences and love of tennis with children who otherwise might never have had the opportunity to play. The success of former students always provided a great deal of personal satisfaction and many of her former students kept in contact with her throughout their lives.

Ethel was an active member of the First Presbyterian Church where she volunteered with the CAM ministry, church bookstore, and Sunday school class. Her faith in God and love of church, family and friends were the cornerstones of her life. She was a role model to many and loved and admired by all who knew her.

Ethel was preceded in death by her parents, Dr. & Mrs. A. E. Norton, brothers A.W. Dub Norton, Marshall Hopkins Norton, James Baldwin Norton, Huard Hargis Norton, Jack Norton, Stewart Norton and one sister, Mary Jane Saathoff.

She is survived by her brother, Dr. A.E. Earl Norton, Jr. of San Diego, CA, sister-in-laws Jo Marie Norton of Lago Vista, TX and Ann Norton of San Antonio; nieces Debbie Norton, Suzanne Norton, and Karla Bagster of San Antonio, Wendy Reed of Shreveport, LA, Kris Wright of San Diego, CA; nephews Mike Norton and Dr. Jon Norton of San Diego, CA and numerous grand nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to First Presbyterian Church, 404 N. Alamo, or the San Antonio Humane Society.


Condolence & Memory Journal

Miss Norton was my P.E. teacher in junior high school. She was one of 2 of my all time favorite teachers. She taught me in 1969-1971. After all these years I can still hear her voice telling me to "get that racket back", I can still see her perfect handwriting, I can still see her running and jogging, I can still remember the outfit she whore but what I remember the most is that she made me feel very special. Unfortunately, I came from a home where I did not feel loved but Miss Norton for some reason paid attention to me. She believed in me. She tried to teach me tennis and to this day she is the reason I love tennis. I thank Miss Norton so much for making this little African American girl feel special. I will never forget you Miss Norton. I have thought of you many times throuhout the years and I imagine I always will.
Debra Franklin Johnson

Posted by Debra K. Johnson - boston, MA   February 21, 2010

My thoughts & prayers go out to Ethel's entire family. It has been some time since I last saw Ethel, but have always remembered her. She was a very warm & giving person. I'm sorry to hear of her passing, but know she is in a much better place. God bless.

Posted by Heidi Escobedo - San Antonio, TX   January 31, 2010

Our entire family has a special place in our hearts for Miss Norton. She taught my sister, two brothers and me to swim at the San Antonio Country Club in the 1950's. Later she taught my own four daughers as well. We parents knew that our children, as young as 3, were safe in her program. On the second day of swimming lessons each summer, she knew every child's name and who their parents were. When the kids were in "the big pool" there was no crying allowed. Miss Norton would command a child to swim to her. Braving certain death, they would do as she asked. Ethel would wipe their face with a towel and kiss their cheek. As a result of her firm and expert knowledge, they became accomplished swimmers. How many lives were potentially saved by this ability is unkown. But I am sure there were many. My daughters became lifeguards as well as teachers at SACC too.

Ethel was always perfectly coifed, wore a shower cap, and never ever got her hair wet even though she was in the pool all day. The last day before Miss Norton retired, all of her teenage employees wore a shower cap in her honor. Even the boys bought the wildest ones they could find - bright colors, and with large hoop earrings attached! Ethel did not bat an eye and went on as if nothing was different.

Miss Norton was an icon to many generations. She was strict and loving at the same time. The world is a better place because of her. She will be dearly missed and remembered.

Posted by Melinda Wingerter Keenan - Boerne, TX   December 05, 2009

I will miss this dear godly woman. She would say "Tell me about your church" then say "Keep doing good work for God for that is where happiness and riches are" She was a model christain woman. Titus 2:4. She gave from her heart.
The world was better because of her.

Posted by Jan Hansen - San Antonio, TX   December 05, 2009

What a great lady. She taught me how to swim at the SACC and my mother before me. I worked under her guidance as a swim instructor and lifeguard for many years. I can still see her wearing her shower cap and telling the little kids, "No crying in the big pool!!!". She is unforgettable and will always be remembered with great admiration and fondness.

Posted by Melissa Young - San Antonio, TX   December 04, 2009

I'm so sorry to hear this news. Ethel will always be remembered like family to all the Walthalls. She gave me my first job as a swimming teacher at SACC. I'd love to hear the story of "One Eye" one more time as she told it!!!Love and prayers to family and many dear friends who will miss her so.
Sarah Walthall Norris

Posted by Sarah Walthall Norris - Corpus Christi, TX   December 03, 2009

Miss Norton was an inspiration to many. My thoughts and prayers are with all who knew and loved her.

Posted by Laura Kirby Schoppe - Missouri City, TX   December 02, 2009

Ethel Norton was a wonderful and kind person and a great friend for so many years. Misunderstood by many, there were no gray areas in her life. It was Right or Wrong. The ball was in or out. But she never failed to go out of her way to help others and many times they were totally unaware she did it. If they knew it, probably no one else did. I was at a business meeting in 1999, and during lunch a lady there related she went to Hawthorne. And, of course, she knew Miss Norton. Ethel taught her to play tennis at Hawthorne and all the way through high school until she was offered a tennis scholarship at UTSA. Her family could not afford tennis lessons, but because of Ethel, she was the first to attend college.

While working 11 summers with Ethel at the pool, I came to love her greatly, and some people are aware of the celebrations on which I collaborated with Bob Miller club mgr. for her birthday. Mr. Miller would bring a cake with the correct number of candles and he placed me on top of the club with bigger and bigger fireworks. Each year she would get very, very angry with us, but only because she never wanted the limelight. Since then I have at least called her on each and every birthday and sang into her answer machine if nothing else, only to get a call back stating how upset she was that I remembered she was getting older, but ?Thank you very much.?

Some thought she was too strict around the pool, but I always knew why. Last July 2nd, I arranged a small luncheon at the Club and she did not know it was for her birthday until she got there to the best of my knowledge. After assuring her, once again, she did not look a day over 105, for some reason, she told us what I knew but was afraid to ask about. She related the entire story of the night her father drowned in Olmos Basin during a flood when she was a child. Too much to relate here, but yes, she made sure, as best she could, safety was first around the pool so no one would have to deal with the death of a loved one. At least, not on her watch.

She spent her life doing so many things for others, but was so unassuming she felt no one would want to see her at the Club?s Centennial celebration. It was my privilege to escort her there, but only after threatening to come kidnap her even if she was in her robe and curlers.

I will miss sitting in the kitchen watching football games and talking with Ethel over a Diet Coke and I will never forget her warm greetings at the door??What on earth are you doing here again?!? And, I note her credits relate she was doubles partners with Althea Gibson. But it doesn?t state that she and Althea kept up with each other until Althea passed away. And several times I was there when Althea called to catch up. "Let yourself out!"

I still remember when she first hired me to lifeguard when someone left with short notice. ?Just sit there and act official. But for God?s sake don?t tell anybody you?re just 14!? That was 43 years ago.

There will never be another Ethel Norton.

Posted by Max Wier - San Antonio, TX   December 02, 2009

I had the privilege of working for Miss Norton at the SACC pool for five years in the late 60s. I've been forever grateful for the experience. What a great lady who had such a positive impact on so many lives!

Posted by Dan E. Crutchfield - San Antonio, TX   December 02, 2009

How fondly I remember sharing "tickle water" duties with Mizz Norton! She was a true force of nature and will be deeply missed by the generations of people who knew and were taught by her.

Posted by Martha Kirby Capo - Cedar Rapids, IA   December 02, 2009

I owe my love of swimming to you.
Thank you and God bless.

Posted by TED SETHNESS - DENVER, CO   December 01, 2009

Ethel Norton was a great lady and long time friend. Nearly 60 years ago Ethel and I won the T.A.A.F. mixed doubles in Galveston TX. I have the trophy with both our names on it. She will be missed by all who were privileged to know her.

Posted by Bill Bennett - Garden Ridge, TX   December 01, 2009

Many thanks to a wonderful lady! My childhood memories are full of summers spent taking swimming lessons with Miss Norton at the San Antonio Country Club, and later, when she gave me my first job giving swim lessons to the 3-year-olds. Every time I swim, her voice rings in my ears saying "straight legs and point your toes". She was an icon of the SACC and I was privileged to be one of her students. Her encouragement, swim-cap and tickle water will be greatly missed... God bless.

Posted by Melissa Baird - San Antonio, TX   December 01, 2009

Debbie,

You and Suzanne are in my thoughts and prayers. I think Ethel was fortunate to have had two such devoted and loving nieces.

Posted by Margaret Boehme - San Antonio, TX   November 29, 2009