Over the summer of 2015, Kimmons lost one of its own to an aggressive form of Cancer. Mr. Michael Norwood, 62, had been an assistant principal here for five years and coach in Van Buren before that. However, he was much more than that one title. Asst. Principal Norwood served his country in the Army and retired from the Air Force Reserve as Major in the 41st Aerial Port Squadron. He served his church as deacon. He served his community as Executive Director of Van Buren Boys and Girls Club and manager at Creekmore Public Pools. In addition to career, military, and community, Mr. Norwood served his family as husband, father, and Paw Paw. No matter where people knew Mr. Norwood from, he had a reputation as a positive, smiling, energetic person who could sing Bible hymns in church and dance in the cafeteria to celebrate students’ birthdays.
“Mr. Norwood was very involved and was like a squiggly line — all over the place and in a good way,” Assistant Principal Keri Rathbun said. “He helped and loved everyone and taught me to always be positive.”
Mr. Norwood’s sincerity could not be denied.
“He was one of the most genuine persons I ever met,” Mr. Brandon Jones, science teacher, said. “How much he loved his family, his students, his job showed every time he smiled.”
Some knew Mr. Norwood as a great friend. Others knew him as an inspiring mentor, coach, or boss. Upon Mr. Norwood’s passing on June 26, Principal Watkins put out the following message:
“Mr. Norwood is with his heavenly father,” Principal Watkins said. “I had the great opportunity to know and work with him for nearly 20 years. A great father, husband, friend, and papa to all kids, he was a positive, caring man of faith. You will not find a more loving, good-natured advocate for kids than our Mr. Norwood. Kimmons will not be the same, but we can continue the legacy of compassion that was his shining example.”
Mr. Norwood impacted people’s lives both in and outside of school.
“He always had a positive outlook on any situation, especially life,” Ms. Meagan Thompson, volleyball coach, said. “Mr. Norwood helped me see the good in all situations I was dealt.”
In addition to inspiring his teachers, Mr. Norwood guided students as well.
“I will always remember and appreciate Mr. Norwood’s support with a particularly troubling set of young men,” Mrs. Samantha Springs, oral communications teacher, said. “While supporting my role as a teacher, he never gave up on the young men either.”
Mr. Norwood even mentored former athletes as faculty members.
“He impacted my life before as my P.E. coach at Central Middle School in Van Buren,” Mrs. Adrienne Holland, social studies teacher said. “He made it a happier atmosphere and was the biggest advocate.”
In June and July, former students ranging from ages 13 to over 30 gathered with faculty and administration to honor Mr. Norwood. First, people met in the Band room to comfort each other and leave messages for the Norwood family. The next day, June 30, a crowd gathered on the football field with Mr. Norwood’s grandchildren and daughters-in-law to release hundreds of balloons. Brittani Campbell, Alie Barter, and Braleigh Anderson organized the balloon release and secured donations from Kelley Highway Wal-Mart for the balloons and helium.
A small memorial service was held at the Greater Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Van Buren on the evening of July 5th. The following afternoon throngs of people piled into the St. James Baptist Church’s sanctuary for the Homegoing celebration in Fort Smith. So many people attended that an additional room had to be opened up and the service shown via television.
“I had never been to a Homegoing before — what an amazing experience!” Ms. Melissa Mullin, language arts teacher said. “We did not cry and hang our heads in sorrow. Instead, we laughed at stories told by Mr. Norwood’s Kappa Alpha Si fraternity brother Ken Jordan, coaching colleague Eric Burnett, and fellow administrators Drew Cone and Mr. Watkins. We gleefully sang along with the choir. We smiled as Adrian Norwood reflected on how he wanted to ‘be like Mike.’ And, we rejoiced in the knowledge that our Mr. Norwood had lived a life of integrity, as his son-in-law Pastor Sean Jarrett preached.”