As an oral historian, Don Norton has listened to countless life stories. But, he’s living quite the tale himself, especially as an 81-year-old gymnast.
The retired Brigham Young University English professor with a passion for oral history and personal stories can still flip around the horizontal bar with relative ease and even turn out a back flip dismount.
Norton was never a competitive gymnast in his early years. He actually taught himself the flashy moves thanks to a little creativity.
“In the front yard, there were a couple of elm trees, and somebody put a pole across the elm trees, so I hung a trapeze bar,” he told Universe BYU about where he got his start.
Not long after, he enrolled in a gymnastics class while attending BYU, and now decades later, he volunteers as a gymnastics instructor.
“He tries things most of us can’t do,” 26-year-old BYU student Ben Fisher said.
Gymnastics is just one of Norton’s loves, however. He also gets a thrill from interviewing people of all walks of life, and transcribing those interviews.
His interest in the craft was sparked in 1964 when he interviewed his father and transcribed the two-hour session on a manual typewriter to give his father on Christmas morning. The touching gift made his father shed tears.
“That was the beginning of my oral history work,” Norton explained. “I did 100 pages on my father, telling about his life as a journeyman electrician and a farmer. I think I was born to listen to people tell their life stories.”
And hopefully someone — maybe one of his students — has taken the time to interview Norton and write out his story, which is certainly one worth back flipping over.