Seahawks superfan received gift of lifetime before heart gave out

Eatonville man, 38, attended parade for Super Bowl winners, then died two days later

Staff writerMarch 19, 2014 

Two of the best moments in Adam Norton’s life happened the week the Seattle Seahawks made history.

For a lifelong fan, nothing could top Super Bowl XLVIII. The Eatonville resident watched the clock wind down with tears in his eyes as the Hawks won their first NFL championship in franchise history.

Three days later on Feb. 5 at the victory parade in Seattle, Tracey Norton said her husband was “giddy” as the Vince Lombardi Trophy glided past his family at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Cherry Street.

Then, just two days later, Adam Norton’s heart unexpectedly stopped beating. He was 38 years old, living with a congenital heart defect that appeared to be under control.

“It was just a normal day,” Tracey Norton said. “I felt like I left my body and I haven’t come back into it yet.”

More than a month after Adam’s death, his 12th Man flag still flies outside the family home, where Tracey is raising the couple’s three sons — Cannen, 10; Baley, 13; and Hunter, 15.

The Nortons, gathered around their table last weekend in their Seahawks gear, shuffled through Adam’s memorabilia spread out next to picture collages of the “goofball” husband and father.

The family is adjusting to what Tracey calls “a new normal,” but they continue to live the way Adam did — full of joy, and dressed in blue and green.

“He loved the Seahawks as much as he loved all of us,” she said.

A TRUE FAN

Adam Norton gushed about his Seahawks devotion for a January article in The News Tribune. Even before the divisional playoffs, he was confident the team would make it to the big game.

He and his wife grew up in fanatic households. Season tickets were handed down in the family “since Day 1 of their existence,” Adam said in an email, and “on Seahawk Sunday there was nothing else going on in the world but the game.”

A decade ago, the couple got “XIITHMN” license plates for their SUV, and Adam said he loved getting honks and cheers while driving around.

He was a season-ticket holder for 11 years, until making a sacrifice two seasons ago for his oldest son. Hunter’s class was taking a trip to Washington, D.C., and paying for it was expensive.

“I had to make the hardest decision I’ve ever made,” Adam wrote. “I gave up my seats so he could go on the trip of a lifetime.”

That didn’t keep the Nortons from CenturyLink Field. Adam would buy single-game tickets and said “it was always a battle to see which of the boys got to go with dad on the train to the game.”

When they weren’t at the stadium, the Nortons watched from home with the same rituals: firing up the grill no matter the weather, and eating Tracey’s homemade pretzels and double-chocolate-chip cookies with the same group of friends.

Hunter was even forbidden from watching the game with them — a superstition born in the team’s first win of the season when the boy was practicing guitar in his room while listening to cheers from downstairs.

“I couldn’t know anything,” Hunter said. “Those were the rules.”

BEST WEEK EVER

On Super Bowl Sunday, rituals remained the same, but tensions were high.

Tracey said her husband feared a repeat of the heartbreak in the Seahawks’ first Super Bowl appearance following the 2005-2006 season.

She teased that he needed to calm down and take it easy.

After the Seahawks beat the Broncos, he cheered and hugged friends and family before standing outside in the yard waving his “12” flag and lighting off fireworks with Cannen.

“He was bawling his eyes out,” Tracey said.

Plans for a family field trip to the victory parade started immediately .

Despite the cold weather and a five-hour trip to Seattle battling packed trains and crowds, Tracey is thankful the family seized that moment together.

“We took an adventure to be a part of history,” she said. “My goodness was it worth it.”

The morning after the parade, Adam texted his wife expressing gratitude.

“Thank you for making that memory with me yesterday,” he wrote. “It’s a day I will never forget.”

Tracey said it’s a day the entire family will never forget.

AN ABRUPT END

For most of Feb. 7, the day was routine for the Norton family.

Tracey and Adam headed to their jobs; Adam was a sheetmetal worker and Tracey works for cable and Internet provider Rainier Connect in Eatonville.

Tracey said the couple texted throughout the day and Adam visited her at work as he frequently did. She saw him again that afternoon at home before she took Hunter to an appointment in Puyallup.

A text to Adam around 5:45 went unanswered. A call to his cellphone reached Baley, who eventually found his dad unconscious upstairs.

As Tracey raced home, a 911 dispatcher remotely helped Baley perform CPR on his dad until the paramedics arrived shortly after.

“I had a million thoughts,” Baley said. “I didn’t realize what was happening until after it happened.”

Tracey showed up minutes before medics declared Adam dead, despite about 25 minutes spent trying to revive him. He had suffered cardiac arrest.

Adam was born with a heart defect that led to six heart surgeries throughout his childhood. His aortic valve was surgically replaced as a teen.

A routine trip to the cardiologist about five months ago showed he was healthy as anyone, his wife said.

His life ended quickly and without warning, something his family considers bittersweet.

“It sucks that we couldn’t say goodbye,” Tracey said, adding that they were all glad he didn’t suffer.

She said those final moments reflected her husband’s personality, as someone who loved being the center of attention.

“It was very Adam,” Tracey said.

A FITTING FAREWELL

Adam Norton’s funeral was heavy on the blue and green and light on “gloom and doom,” Tracey said.

“I wanted it to be a party,” she said. “I wanted it to be what Adam was.”

It was a party fit for a superfan.

More than 300 people showed up in Seahawks gear to speak — and scream — about a man who was involved in his community.

Adam coached youth soccer, baseball and football and organized a Relay For Life team with his wife. He was known for helping friends fix things around their houses.

“Adam would help anyone at any time whether he knew them or not,” Tracey said. “He loved our community and being involved with everything.”

During the memorial service, Tracey’s brother Matt Lewis shared memories and old posts from Adam’s Facebook. Each one ended with “GO HAWKS!” and the audience chanted the words together as Lewis rattled them off. Many others spoke, and Hunter put his game-day guitar practice to use by playing the song “Faithfully” by Journey.

A “tailgate” reception followed, with Seahawks flags, balloons and foods fit for a pre-game party.

Today, the family faces many unknowns. Their income has drastically dropped, and because of his pre-existing condition Adam didn’t have life insurance.

Friends and community members have brought dinner every night since Adam’s death.

Hunter recently fired up the grill for the first time, and family friends have taken the boys on outings they used to do with their dad, such as hiking. Tracey said everyone is trying hard to “fill some pretty big shoes they know can never be filled.”

This summer, Baley said he’s headed to a passing academy run by Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to cash in on his “big Christmas present.”

His dad encouraged him to start playing football, and Baley grew to love it after a reluctant start.

As for continuing Adam’s legacy as Seahawks superfan, Tracey plans to display all his memorabilia in the front room. The couple had talked about doing that for years.

Although he died young, Tracey said there’s no doubt her husband died happy.

“We had a lot more life to live together,” she said. “But his dream came true.”

Kari Plog: 253-597-8682
kari.plog@thenewstribune.com
@KariPlog

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