Everyday Hero: Donna Norton - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Everyday Hero: Donna Norton

(Source: KFVS) (Source: KFVS)
(Source: KFVS) (Source: KFVS)

A native of Grand Tower, Illinois, Donna Norton is accustomed to small town living.

But her contributions there and to many small towns in southern Illinois are larger than life.

Sometimes the path of life is stitched with unexpected threads; not an intentional choice, but just using what’s at your fingertips.

“Everything that I’ve done has just come by accident, it’s just kind of fallen into things," Everyday Hero Donna Norton said.

Donna Norton’s life never followed a pattern, starting when she went to check on a pottery class in town and ended up falling into her life’s work.

“They said well there's an EMT class and I said well what’s an EMT? Because you have to remember now I got into EMS early, this was the late 70s when they were just establishing EMS. And I thought well everybody I know is accident prone so that might be a good class to take."

That class was the tipping point, sending Donna on a mission to bring emergency care to southern Illinois.

“So I started volunteering and I found out that I really, really love EMS.”

A love that took her to rural areas where she trained EMS crews and established programs in areas where they were gravely lacking.

And then life added a new thread to the mix.

“Well in the meantime while I was doing all this someone came to me and said the Navy really needs Corpsmen really bad. I already had the training and they needed medics in the field," she said.

So Donna did what she’s always done.

Go where life takes her.

“They told me that the worst that could happen was we’d get called up but stay in the states," Donna recalled. "But in the mean time they changed us to a field hospital. So then Desert Storm came along and my unit got called up. So now I’m on active duty for the first time.”

She spent four months in Bahrain with a unit out of Cape Girardeau.

The hardest part was time spent away from her family.

“When we talk about heroes we know that our veterans are, everybody that’s serving," Donna said. "But we forget about the families and everything they go through when they’re back here not knowing what’s happening to their loved ones from day to day.”

Back in the states, Donna continued her EMS work training inmates at Vienna Correctional Center and starting an EMS program in Alexander County.

It was there that another passion fell into her lap.

“They brought in a box of material and in it was this pattern and they said what is this and I said I think it’s a quilt pattern," she said. "Well from there we started to quilt on my down time on duty.”

Self-taught, Donna starting quilting for fun.

Now the quilts have a deeper purpose.

Donna spends days, even weeks, working to finish quilt after quilt.

Each one is donated to organizations that auction them off for their cause.

Even though life slowed Donna down for a little while.

“They found a tumor and had to remove it, but it did teach me a valuable lesson, how short life can be. So I get every minute out of it I can anymore.”

She’s back at it, carefully selecting each block for each quilt.

Because for a woman whose life is a patchwork of experiences, she knows the worth each quilt holds.

“Gives me a lot of satisfaction to finish one and also to know that my efforts may be helping somebody else.”

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