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Steve Hansen The exceptional Dennis Norton of Lodi

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Steve Hansen

Posted: Saturday, July 7, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:55 am, Sat Jul 7, 2012.

You can meet some interesting people in Lodi. Sometimes, these folks are right on your front doorstep!

Take the guy who delivers my morning News-Sentinel. His name is Dennis Norton. I took an interest in the 65-year-old deliveryman because my paper is always on the porch. There are never any excuses, no matter what the circumstances. This kind of service is not commonly found in today's America.

Norton told me that he and his wife "Lulu" take pride in everything they do. The couple's strong work and social ethics are practiced daily. Their only son, Roberto, is a prime example of this.

Roberto came to the United States when he was four. Although Lulu was in the country earlier, she did not want her son to be born here. Being a Mexican citizen, she did not believe in taking advantage of U.S. taxpayers, even though the opportunity was there to do so. Years later, both Lulu and her son became U.S. citizens. Coincidentally, that took place on Sept. 11, 2001.

The Nortons raised Roberto with the values of hard work and education. The youngster was delivering papers before he entered school. He learned some English by collecting from News-Sentinel customers.

One story told by his father described the boy's $6 "tip." The cost of the paper in those days was $6 per month. When Dennis asked the child why he thought the money he had collected was a tip, Roberto responded with, "It was fee." The child thought that meant "free."

Lulu had homework waiting for her son every day upon his return from school. His father insisted that only A's were acceptable. Despite some teachers believing that Dennis was "too hard" on his boy, Norton stuck by his standards and his son lived up to them.

Just a few weeks ago, Roberto graduated from the University of Notre Dame with high honors.

Although extensive unemployment is common among new college graduates, this amazing young man, who speaks three languages, quickly landed a job with General Electric.

Dennis is more than a newspaper deliveryman. He knows his customers and looks out for them. One day, he drove by a home and noticed a moving van parked in front at 3 a.m. Norton knew something was wrong because the customer was on vacation. He called the police and the bad guys were "busted."

He also speaks about the "zoo" that wanders our streets in the early morning hours — especially north of Turner Road. Norton has spotted opossums, skunks, raccoons and even deer. When a young officer came to check on a buck, he wasn't quite sure how to handle the call. Apparently, there was nothing about corralling large antlered animals in the LPD procedural manual.

Despite a life-long physical problem, Norton continues his route with no plans for retirement. He lives by his values of hard work and an honorable sense of ethics. He takes full responsibility for the satisfaction of all of his 100-plus newspaper customers.

"My employer may physically sign my check, but really, my customers sign my check. Without them, none of us get paid. I never forget who I work for," he proclaims.

Thank you, Dennis, for a job well done. We can all learn from your example. You truly are one of the shining lights that make us all proud to be a part of this community.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

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