Norton Ernest passed from this life on July 10, 2017 surrounded by family in Helena, MT. Norton L. Ernest was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin, February 28, 1921, to George and Elizabeth Baker Ernest. He grew up in the small village of Dakota, Minnesota, on the shores of the Mississippi River. As a teenager he led a Tom Sawyer like existence, spending the summers fishing from his own boat and in the fall hunting with his .410 shotgun in nearby hills. He financed his early spending by selling the fish he caught to local markets.
He celebrated his graduation from high school in the 1930’s with a month long canoe trip in the Thunder Bay Wilderness along the Minnesota-Canadian border living off the fish he and his companion caught. He liked to tell about canoeing in an area that was then still a pristine wilderness and seeing only three other canoe parties during the month they spent canoeing along the border.
After Pearl Harbor, during his third year at the University of Minnesota, he enlisted in the army college reserve and entered active duty in early 1943 in the Field Artillery. He married his long-time sweetheart, Arlene Christopherson, the day before he enlisted.
After discharge from the Army in 1946, he re-entered college and graduated from the University of Minnesota. He was employed as a Sr. Wage and Salary Analyst by Minneapolis-Moline Company until he moved to California in 1952. In San Jose, CA, he and his wife owned and operated a motel and later owned the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company in the South Bay Area.
In 1962, he was employed as administrator of Glenn General Hospital in Willows, CA. He was successful in establishing the fiscally troubled County Hospital as a financially self-supporting facility with full JCAH accreditation.
In 1972, Norton was employed by National Medical Enterprises as CEO of Chico Community Hospital. During his tenure the hospital doubled in size and opened the only Burn Treatment Center north of Sacramento. He initiated many innovative services at the hospital including co-founding of the non-profit Chico community Hospital foundation that was committed to activities to improve community health education. He served as its president for 7 years. The Foundation is now known as the North Valley Health Education Foundation.
In the late 1970’s he became a NME’s vice-president for hospital development for the western U.S. During that time he also served a period as CEO of Redding Medical Center.
Following retirement he and his wife traveled extensively throughout the U.S., Western Europe and South America.
Norton followed his mother’s example of community service. In Minneapolis, he was his company’s advisor to high school Junior Achievement groups.
In Glenn County, California he was a vice-chairman of Willows first planning commission. He was an officer of the Willows Chamber of Commerce and two term president of the Glenn County Chamber of Commerce. He founded and was president of the Mendocino Pass Association to develop recreation and a highway to the coast through Mendocino National Forest.
During the 1970’s he was sent to Washington, D.C. by the Northern California Comprehensive Health Planning Association to gain legislative support for health planning legislation.
He served as president of the Butte-Glenn Unit of the Heart Association for two terms and served on the Heart Association’s state board.
He helped organize men’s health events in both Chico and Sacramento.
As a retirement hobby business, Norton and his wife showed and sold antiques at shows throughout Northern California for several years. He became a wood carver and built many pieces of walnut furniture for their home.
In 1991, Norton had two surgeries for advanced prostate cancer. In January 1995 he organized a prostate cancer support group in Chico to serve men in Butte, Glenn and surrounding Counties. As well as counseling men by telephone, he developed a slide presentation for men newly diagnosed with prostate cancer which he showed every month at the Enloe Conference Center. The presentation was put on a compact disc and has been distributed to support groups in North Central California by the American Cancer Society to educate men about prostate cancer.
Working with American Cancer Society staff in Sacramento, Norton assisted in establishing prostate cancer support groups in many Central California Cities. For his work with men with prostate cancer and his legislative advocacy efforts, the American Cancer Society awarded Norton their highest award, the prestigious St. George Medal. He was one of two Californians to receive the St. George cancer award in 2005.
Norton and Arlene moved to their Mission Ranch home in Chico in 2005 and then relocated to Helena, MT in October 2016.
Norton and Arlene have a daughter, Nancy Joan Dupre (Dennis) who lives in Helena, Montana. They also have 4 grandchildren in Montana, Jesse Dupre in Missoula, Mt, Rebekah Dupre and Clare and Thea Dupre in Helena. He also has a brother Wayne Ernest in Missouri and numerous nephews and nieces scattered throughout the US. Norton is survived by his wife of 75 years, his daughter and grandchildren. He requested that any remembrances be sent to the American Cancer Society to support cancer research.
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