A Family Funeral Home
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Kenneth J. "Kenny" Norman Jr.

July 19, 1943 - May 9, 2021
Racine, WI

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Celebration of Life

Thursday, June 17, 2021
4:00 PM to 9:00 PM CDT
Preservation Hall Racine
740 Lake Avenue
Racine, WI 53403

Please RSVP paulagold@charter.net

Life Story / Obituary


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Kenneth Norman, Jr. passed away on May 9, 2021 from a brief but devastating illness. He is survived by his loving son, Derek Norman, brother Tom Norman, and sisters Mary Katherine Norman, Margaret Petrick, and Paula (Joel) Goldsmith. Further survived by nieces and nephews: Tommy Norman, Jolene Goldsmith, Mitch (Margaret) Goldsmith, Kirstyn Bay, Courtney (Martyn Philips) Bay, and McKenzie Costello. Also survived by countless friends and Jean Vassallo, mother of his son. He was predeceased by his parents.

Ken was born July 19, 1943 in Seattle, Washington, the first child of Helen and Ken Norman, Sr. In 1947 they moved to Racine. Ken enjoyed a carefree childhood: riding bikes, swimming at the YMCA, camping with his boy scout troop, delivering newspapers, and tending a room full of tropical fish tanks. Childhood hobbies challenged his mechanical mind and foreshadowed future interests. He built model cars and planes, drew hotrods, operated a ham radio, and repaired neighbor’s tv’s and radios. Adult hobbies were car repair, electrical work, computers, and cooking and baking. He loved to repair and customize musical instruments. His favorite sports team was the Chicago Cubs.

Ken attended St. Edward grade school, St. Catherine’s High School, UW-Racine, Dominican College, and UW-Madison. He was a gifted math student and chose a major in mechanical engineering. Eventually he embraced his destiny and became a music major. From birth, he was surrounded by music in the family home. He started to pick out tunes on the piano. This lead to formal piano and church organ lessons. By age nine, flashy brass instruments caught his eye and ear. He took lessons on baritone horn and trombone, then discovered the joy of performing in a group.

He played in the grade school band, Racine Elks Youth Band, St. Catherine’s High School Band, and UW Madison marching band. By age 19 he joined the Racine Kilties Drum and Bugle Corps, specializing in french horn bugle. Corps Musical Director Emil Pavlik became Ken’s mentor and encouraged him to arrange music, a skill that remained his passion for life. Ken went on to perform with, arrange music for, and teach drum and bugle corps all across North America. Wanting to improve the range and musicality of bugles, he invented and helped fabricate a new type of bugle in 1968. Ken was ultimately honored for his musical innovations and achievements by induction into 5 Halls of Fame: Drum Corps International, World Drum Corps, Bugler’s, Racine Kilties, and St. Catherine’s High School. For more information see DCI.org/news/Ken-Norman.

But Ken’s talents were not limited to marching band music. Over the years he collaborated with fellow musicians in Jazz, Big Band, t PeRock and Roll, Country Western, Polka, Dixie Land, and symphonic groups. He co-founded the Belle City Brass Works, played with Racine Municipal Band, performed at Catholic Churches, and played piano for high school musicals. In previous decades, he was music director for Cardiac Capers fundraisers, Miss Racine pageants, and Miss Wisconsin candidates. He truly enjoyed gathering people to create music and bring joy to audiences.

Ken’s ashes will be interred at West Lawn Memorial Park in Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin.

A celebration of life is planned for June 17, 2021 from 4:00 until 9:00 PM. The venue has been changed to be held at Preservation Hall Racine, 740 Lake Avenue. Please RSVP paulagold@charter.net

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