“The park was my heart and soul and body.” (New York Times, 7/4/92)
When you go to Lake Compounce this summer, raise your cotton candy to J. Harwood Norton, better known as, simply, “Stretch.”
Stretch died Friday. He was 86. His family history at Lake Compounce dates back to the 1840’s. He ran the the park himself until he couldn’t afford to anymore, and sold it in 1985.
Stretch served Bristol as mayor and city council member. In 1974, he welcomed into his house a young radio reporter covering his very first election. If memory serves correctly, he lost that race, but he accepted defeat with grace and dignity, and lived to run another day.
In 1990, he honored that same reporter by asking him to succeed Bob Steele as president of his beloved “Crocodile Club,” the state’s largest annual gathering of politicians. In 1990, it was the 115th meeting of the Club. Standing next to giants named Norton and Steele, that reporter felt quite small, but quite proud.
Every community needs a Stretch. Bristol was lucky to have an original.