Monday, May 15th, 2023
(Provided by the Rev. Cathy Kerr. Photo from Betty Dougherty.)
The Rev. Marlee R.J. Norton, an Episcopal priest who served parishes in Pennsylvania and Virginia, died unexpectedly on April 30, 2023, at her home in Arlington, Va. At the time of her death she was interim rector of St. Martin de Porres Episcopal Church in Alexandria. Before that she served simultaneously at St. James the Greater Episcopal Church in Bristol, Pa., and at Grace Episcopal Church in Hulmeville, Pa.
The Rev. Norton was, as one of her parishioners put it, “a true priest.” She was smart, hard-working, had a sharp sense of humor, spoke her mind directly, and had deep skills for communications and management. She was a healing presence in the parishes she served and a loving, compassionate and supportive pastor to the parishioners with whom she ministered. She was born on Jan. 6, 1955, grew up in Hoffman Estates, Il., and received bachelor’s degrees in journalism and political science from Iowa State University.
Before discerning her call to ordained ministry, the Rev. Norton worked for the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association, where she was vice president for international programs, focused on extending community-owned telephone and computer service to rural areas of the developing world.
She also led lay ministries at several churches in the Diocese of Virginia and was an active member of St. George’s Church in Arlington, where she was the vestry member responsible for lay ministry development and the development of spiritual gifts, among other ministries. The Rev. Norton received her Master of Divinity degree in 2006 from Virginia Theological Seminary and was ordained priest in 2007. She was called to St. James in Bristol in February 2009, and she accepted the additional call to Grace in Hulmeville in 2014. In the Diocese of Pennsylvania she was also at various times a member of Diocesan Council, vice president of the Committee on Clergy Compensation and Employee Benefits, administrator of the Diocesan Health and Welfare Benefits Trust, and a member of the Church Foundation Board of Directors.
After her retirement in 2021, the Rev. Norton moved back to Virginia, where she became a devoted volunteer in the library at Virginia Theological Seminary. She was also called to serve as interim rector at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and Olivet Chapel and pastoral leader to Church of the Spirit, all in Alexandria. She led St. Mark’s and Olivet to a successful merger resulting in the formation of a new parish, St. Martin de Porres Episcopal Church, which was completed earlier this year.
The Rev. Norton will be remembered at services in Pennsylvania and Virginia. There will be a funeral on Saturday, June 10, at 10 a.m., at St. James in Bristol, where she’ll be buried next to her brother, Clark, in the church graveyard. A reception in the parish hall will follow, and all are invited to attend. There will also be a memorial service and celebration of her life on June 17 at 1 p.m. at St. Martin de Porres Episcopal Church in Alexandria.
Memorial donations would be welcomed at St. James the Greater Episcopal Church, 225 Walnut St., Bristol, PA 19007, or Grace Episcopal Church, 313 Main St., Hulmeville, PA 19047.