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Demaine Funeral Home

520 S. Washington St., Alexandria, VA

OBITUARY

Karl Howard Norris

May 23, 1921July 17, 2019
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Karl Howard NORRIS, recently of Alexandria, Fairfax County, Virginia, was recognized internationally as the founder of the field of near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy. He died peacefully at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, at the age of 98, on Wednesday, July 17, 2019 following a brief illness.

Karl was born on May 23, 1921 at the family home in the village of Glen Richey, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania to Blaine and Marjorie Keturah (Rowles) Norris. He was predeceased by his parents, brothers Reuben Albert and William Daniel Norris, and sisters Avenell Mae Merry and Eleanor Marie Whitaker. He also was predeceased in 2017 by his beloved wife of 69 years, Maxine Evelyn (Thomas) Norris. Karl is survived by his daughter Deborah Norris DeVore, son Mark Norris, grandsons Justin D'Amato and David Norris, great grandsons Ian, Gannon, and Liam D'Amato, brother Harold Norris, sister Audrey Byron, a son-in-law, a granddaughter-in-law, and numerous nieces and nephews, all of whom mourn his passing.

For over 65 years, Karl was a resident of Beltsville, Prince Georges County, Maryland, where he worked at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He received numerous accolades over a long and distinguished career. Among the highlights are his induction into the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and his receipt of the eponymous Karl Norris Award in Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS), which was established in his honor by the Japan Council and later adopted by the International Council on NIRS.

On August 13, 2019, the USDA's Agricultural Research Service flew the U.S. flag at half staff in Karl's memory at its installations nationwide.

On Saturday, October 5, 2019 at noon, a Service of Remembrance will be held at Emmanuel United Methodist Church, 11416 Cedar Lane, Beltsville MD 20705.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Arthritis Foundation, a favorite cause of Karl's due to Maxine's challenges dealing with the chronic disease.

Memories and expressions of sympathy for the NORRIS family may be shared at www.DemaineFuneralHomes.com.

Services

  • Service of Remembrance Saturday, October 5, 2019

Memories

Karl Howard Norris

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Gail D'Amato

October 8, 2019

I remember first meeting Karl and Maxine Norris at their 50th wedding anniversary, which was my first date with my future husband. Karl and Maxine had a banquet hall full of loving friends and family to help them celebrate their enduring relationship which was a lasting testament to their commitment to family and friends through holidays, charity, and lifelong service to the community. Over the years, my family, including Karl and Maxine's three great-grandson's Ian, Gannon, and Liam, spent almost every major holiday of their childhood at the Norris home. I will always remember Karl and Maxine for their gracious hospitality and continued effort to make time and space for their family and will be eternally grateful to them for opening their hearts and their home to their grandson's wife.

RevDr Jalene Chase

October 5, 2019

I am honored to be the current pastor of the church that Mr Norris joined when he moved to Beltsville in 1950. When reading Emmanuel UMC's history, his name appeared several times. After reading about his achievements and accomplishments, I wonder how he had time. Hearing his family and friends today at his memorial service made me wish I'd had the honor of meeting this humble man. He was a Good Steward of God's creation and property.
My condolences to his family.

David Hopkins

October 1, 2019

Karl has been an inspiration and mentor to me, extending back to about 1976, when I was at the Smithsonian Institution Radiation Biology Laboratory and Karl was at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. I knew he had a accurate scanning radiometer, and in 1978 I asked him to measure the light in the growth chambers I was using for assessing the effect of increased UV light on the growth of peas. While we were waiting for the results from his instrument, he showed me the near infrared spectrum he had measured on a sample of ground wheat. He explained that an increase in the absorbed light at 2180 nm about the width of the plotted line indicated a measurable increase in the protein in wheat samples. I was very impressed. More than that, he suggested that I apply to a firm in Illinois that was looking for a lab manager. I found out later that DICKEY-john Corporation manufactured an instrument based on his research, that measured the protein in wheat and many other agricultural products. That was the start of my long career in NIR spectroscopy. All thanks to Karl Norris.

Megan Norris

August 12, 2019

I never really talked to Karl much at family reunions but right after I started college for computer science I had a conversation about him all about how he used to work with computers back in the day and I thought it was SO cool that he knew all these things that I was about to start learning. He gave me his business card and I stuck it in a special spot in his purse. My dad couldn't have a better person to be named after
~Megan, daughter of William Karl Norris

Bonnie Norris

August 12, 2019

In the mid-60's Karl (and Maxine) helped send Bill (Dan) Norris Jr on a bus to Chicago to attend DeVry Institute of Technology. I lived in Chicago and there met Bill, where we married in 1970, which is when Karl became "Uncle Karl" to me. For those almost 41 years of marriage I recognized that had Uncle Karl not encouraged Bill to get his degree in Chicago, I would not have met my dear husband, or been part of the loving Norris family which is now so "my own". I will miss Uncle Karl who always had a big hug and smile for me! He was an AMAZING man, whom I truly admired!

Susie Zarecky

August 12, 2019

Uncle Karl was a very kind, gentle, humble man, with a sense of humor, who always took time to talk with even the youngest members of the family. He was a favorite of everyone's at family reunions and will be greatly missed. I will always remember how he stood up and gave a speech at the last reunion, thanking everyone for the food and for being there. He also said he planned on being at next year's reunion as a 99 year old! Unfortunately, that won't happen and it saddens us. He also liked to attend the Curwensville High School alumni banquet, which is held close to his birthday every year. Curwensville is his high school alma mater. Debbie, Rick, Mark, and the rest of the family have my sincerest condolences.

Patty Bragg

July 25, 2019

Karl and Maxine moved into our Sunrise at Mount Vernon Senior Living community a few years ago. Karl was a loving, loyal husband and I’ll never forget the day he decided to humbly share his life’s accomplishments with fellow residents. You could have heard a pin drop as he described his professional path, so touched were his neighbors. We are all feeling the loss of this lovely man and will forever be grateful to the family for entrusting us with his and Maxine’s care. Rest In Peace, you gentle, smart and kind man. Warmly, your Sunrise at Mount Vernon Family

John Moynihan

July 25, 2019

Karl was an original charter member of The Beltsville, MD Rotary Club. He maintained strong, active membership for the club's entire 50 year history, from 1967 to 2016. He served the club with distinction in many capacities, including president. Karl, with his humble manner, was an inspiration to his fellow members. He was truly a great Rotarian.
Dr. John J. Moynihan

Steve Britz

July 24, 2019

I’m very sorry to learn of Karl’s passing. His contributions to science are outstanding. I remember as a young graduate student in 1971 using an instrument designed to measure light absorption by living tissue. What a treat years later to meet the man on whose research the instrument was based. He and the members of his group were very helpful to me in my early career at Beltsville. I wonder if Karl met my father (Army Air Force Signal Corps) in the CIB Theater.

Miranda Raggio

July 22, 2019

To Mark and Debbie(and Rick): We grew up together in Beltsville, and I always knew that your Mom and Dad were across the street in case of an emergency:) I was not notified about Maxine's Memorial Service at the Methodist Church in Beltsville, so Dad and I missed that. I'm so sorry to hear about Karl, so I wanted to reach out to let you know that I'm thinking about you all. Dad sold his house last October, so the neighborhood is not "ours" anymore, but I have lots of memories of the 60+ years that we considered Montgomery Road home. I watched your Dad walk to the mailbox thousands of times, and recall his gentle wave "hello". My best to you...Mandy Brooks Raggio

FROM THE FAMILY

Karl (age 65) when he received the Outstanding Engineering Alumnus Award in 1986 from his alma mater, the Pennsylvania State University, Class of 1942.

FROM THE FAMILY

"Uncle" Carlton Rowles, a maternal cousin and civil engineer, saw high potential in Karl and sponsored his undergraduate education at Pennsylvania State College. Carlton's prescient assessment launched Karl along the path to his many later achievements.

FROM THE FAMILY

Wedding photo of Karl's parents Blaine and Marjorie (Rowles) Norris.

FROM THE FAMILY

Clockwise from top left - Karl, his mother Marjorie, his younger brother Bill, and the oldest of his sisters, Avenell.

FROM THE FAMILY

Karl, 1940

FROM THE FAMILY

Karl's senior picture from Penn State, 1942.

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

Karl, his mother, and several of his siblings. From left to right - Karl, his youngest sister Audrey, his youngest brother Hal, his second youngest sister Eleanor, and his mother Marjorie.

FROM THE FAMILY

Karl's official Army portrait (age 21).

FROM THE FAMILY

Karl (age 23) pictured in India while with the Office of Strategic Services in World War II. The backdrop and props were provided by the photographer. Karl never hunted tigers!

Biography

Karl Howard NORRIS was born on May 23, 1921 at the family home in the village of Glen Richey, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania to Blaine and Marjorie Keturah (Rowles) Norris. He was the second child and second son born to his parents. He had three brothers – Reuben Albert, William Daniel, and Harold Russell Norris – and three sisters – Avenell Mae Merry, Eleanor Marie Whitaker, and Audrey Jean Byron. His father was a miner, an auto, truck, and machinery repairman, a farmer, and, late in life, a postman; his mother was a homemaker. Both parents lived into their eighties and were descendants of families long established in north central Pennsylvania. The village home in which Karl was born and the larger farm house in which he grew up with his siblings remain standing and in use to this day.

Karl enjoyed telling that initially he was named “Carl,” but his name was mistakenly entered as “Carol” on the birth certificate. When his mother noticed the mistake, she immediately took corrective action and insisted that it be corrected to show “his name was ‘Karl,’ spelled with a ‘K,’” to avoid any future mishaps.

Karl grew up on the family farm, helping with chores and assisting his father with the upkeep of the family car and farm machines. His facility with gadgets, which gained him international renown in his adult years, was inculcated early in his youth on the farm.

Karl attended nearby Curwensville High School. He was a very good student and quite active in dramatic plays performed by his junior and senior classmates. Karl graduated magna cum laude in the spring of 1938.

A maternal cousin, Carlton James Rowles, observed Karl’s talents and felt that he “had promise.” Mr. Rowles, known as “Uncle Carlton,” was a civil engineer. He encouraged Karl to attend college and put up his own money so that Karl could go. Regrettably, Mr. Rowles died prematurely in a 1942 automobile accident, never seeing the flowering of the talent he had recognized so presciently. Karl would emulate his cousin’s generosity on numerous occasions later in life, with members of his own extended family and through the encouragement and insight he provided to so many young engineers and scientists whom he encountered over the years.

Karl traveled the short distance east to begin his collegiate studies at the (then) Pennsylvania State College in the fall of 1938. He developed a lifelong attachment to the school, keeping a likeness of its Nittany Lion mascot in his home office, avidly following its football exploits, and holding membership in the Penn State Alumni Association at his death more than eighty years later. Karl excelled in both agricultural engineering and mathematics, graduating as Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Engineering with Honors on May 10, 1942.

Almost immediately, Karl enlisted in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. He was appointed an Engineering Aide on June 20, 1942 and ordered to report to Oak Park, Illinois for training at the University of Chicago. He ranked 2nd of 75 graduates of a course in Advanced Radio, Electronics, and Microwaves that, along with other study, qualified him as Bachelor of Science in Physics by April 1943. He transferred to the Office of Strategic Services in July 1943. During much of this time and after, as a sideline Karl built Geiger counters for a secretive physics project being pursued on the campus. He would learn only years later that his expertise had assisted the Manhattan Project to develop an atomic bomb. In March 1944, Karl embarked by ship to Calcutta, India, where he proved himself “virtually indispensable” to his unit due to his knowledge and skill with electrical and mechanical devices. For his service during the India-Burma and Central Burma campaigns, he received two Bronze Stars. After the conclusion of the war, Karl was discharged at Fort Meade, Maryland on November 12, 1945. Years later, he would join the OSS Society, a fraternal organization of OSS veterans, and attend social gatherings such as its 75th anniversary gala in 2017.

Karl returned to Oak Park, resumed his studies at the University of Chicago, and worked briefly for an instrument company before being hired as electronic engineer at the campus Institute of Radiobiology and Biophysics in 1946. At the institute through 1949, Karl would gain further knowledge and expertise in the application of electronics, including computers, to research in those fields. In retrospect, it seems clear that his then-recent explorations in electronics and computers, combined with his prior agricultural engineering training and his childhood experiences with farm life, uniquely prepared him for his future career: the development and demonstration of effective, reliable, and practical instruments and methods for evaluating agricultural commodities of many varieties.

Prior to commencing with the next stage of his professional life, however, Karl had taken a momentous step in his personal life. Upon his initial arrival in Oak Park, he had begun attending its First Methodist Church and engaging with its young-adult “University of Life” group. There he met an Iowa farm girl, Maxine Evelyn Thomas, who had moved to the city to be a caregiver for the disabled daughter of a family friend. She and Karl became friends, although both had more significant attachments to others, before he shipped out to India. Following the war, those other relationships faded but Karl and Maxine’s bloomed. In May/June 1947, he traveled to Woods Hole on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, for a research project. Near its end, she went to visit him. At Nobska Point Lighthouse on the coast, Karl proposed marriage to Maxine, and she accepted. They were wed at Oak Park’s First Methodist Church, where they had first met, on January 31, 1948.

In 1950, Karl took up a new, permanent position in the U.S. Civil Service at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Beltsville, Maryland. His task was to design, develop, and perfect instrumentation that would automate the sorting of eggs. Such a machine sorter would replace the then-current labor-intensive, error-prone process of candling eggs by hand and inspecting them visually. It was thought that automated sorting would be faster, cheaper, and more accurate. All of this promise would be realized, eventually, after Karl applied his broad knowledge, his creative and critical thinking, and his energy and enthusiasm to the project.

After they arrived in Maryland, Karl and Maxine set about looking for a new place to practice their faith. They settled on Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Beltsville and became members. They would be associated with Emmanuel for the rest of their lives – on a weekly basis until they moved to Virginia in 2016, and in absentia after that. Karl served as an usher and on church committees, and Maxine sang in the choir, through nearly all of those years.

Although Karl was very busy establishing himself in his career, he also made time for play. He and Maxine were avid bowlers. Karl enjoyed fishing and playing card games, and for a time he was a model rocketeer. But everyone who knew Karl knew that he was a devoted photographer, with a camera almost always at the ready.

The next year, 1951, saw another major milestone reached in Karl’s personal life: he became a father. Maxine gave birth to a daughter, whom they named Deborah Anne.

In early 1953, Karl was selected to demonstrate the egg-color sorting machine that he had developed, together with A. W. Brandt, during a tour of BARC by then-new U.S. President (and Pennsylvania farmer) Dwight D. Eisenhower. The President was sufficiently impressed that he penned a letter to the BARC Director thanking him for the photographs taken, the demonstration, and the explanation of Karl’s role in the invention of the egg sorter. Ike may have been Karl’s favorite public and historical figure prior to their meeting; he most definitely was Karl’s favorite ever after.

In that same year, Karl and Maxine moved from a small house on Cedar Lane in Beltsville to a much larger house on Montgomery Road. The new home was conveniently close to BARC, as well as being roomier for their growing family. For many years, Karl would walk to and from BARC on a regular basis, rather than drive the family car. Karl and Maxine would reside in that home for well over 60 years. Over most of those decades, they shared the house with one or more canine friends, eventually settling into raising and enjoying Siberian Huskies.

Karl engaged further with his community by becoming an active member, and occasionally serving as an officer, of the Beltsville-Vansville District Citizens Association. In later years when his children attended the local schools, he also was active as a member and leader of their Parent/Teacher Association affiliates.

In 1955, Karl’s advancements at work earned him his first Superior Service Award from the USDA.

In 1958, Karl became a father for the second time. A son, Mark Wayne, was born to Maxine soon after the New Year got underway.

In 1963, Karl received a second Superior Service Award from the USDA.

In 1967, Karl was among a group of civic leaders who established the Beltsville Rotary Club in affiliation with the charitable Rotary International organization. He was committed to the success and well-being of his community, participating in Rotary programs over many years. Periodically, he would serve the club as an officer, including multiple stints as president. Karl maintained his membership in Rotary until he moved away from Beltsville very late in life; in 2015, he was recognized with a certificate honoring 48 years of service. Karl also received two medallions as a Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary.

Also in 1967, Karl was honored by being named a Fellow of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers "for unusual professional distinction" in his development of new techniques and instruments for determining the quality of agricultural products.

In 1974, Karl received his first major award from beyond the USDA, the Cyrus Hall McCormick Gold Medal of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers, named for the inventor of the mechanized reaper. Karl was recognized for “exceptional and meritorious engineering achievement” in his development of instruments and methods for testing internal properties of foodstuffs using infrared light. His initial efforts were directed toward egg-sorting by color and bacteria content, but he adapted that approach and improved technology to advance the quality control of potatoes (hollow heart), apples (internal browning), and many other vegetables and fruits.

Karl became a grandfather in 1975 when his daughter Deborah gave birth to a son, Justin Antonio D’Amato.

Also in 1975, Karl was an honoree of the American Academy of Achievement, celebrated at a “Banquet of the Golden Plate.” While arguably neither the most prestigious nor the most personally satisfying award he ever received, without doubt the ceremony was the most star-studded and, probably, most fun of his entire career. Honorees were drawn from science, business, entertainment, and sports. They included Nobel Prize winners Carl Anderson and Melvin Calvin, planetary scientist Carl Sagan, rocket engineer Wernher von Braun, prolific author Isaac Asimov, TV personalities Jack La Lanne, Art Linkletter, and Jim Nabors, and Oscar-winning filmmaker George Pal (“When Worlds Collide,” “War of the Worlds,” “Time Machine”).

In 1978, Karl was selected by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (named after the early German earth scientist) to receive the annual Alexander von Humboldt Prize. He was cited for outstanding achievement in agricultural research, specifically for his development of near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS) and its application to analyzing proteins in grains, such as wheat, and oilseeds. His breakthrough was described as the most significant advance in the field since the 1880’s and having the promise to revolutionize the grain testing and marketing industries.

In 1980, the National Academy of Engineering elected Karl to membership. His citation reads “Research and development of systems for simple and rapid analysis of quality factors in food products and similar materials.”

In 1986, Karl was highly honored when his alma mater, the Pennsylvania State University (formerly College), named him an Outstanding Engineering Alumnus. Beyond citing his research achievements and other awards received, he was recognized for having “a long history of close cooperation with Penn State, primarily in providing educational opportunities for students through lectures and seminars” but also “[by opening] his laboratory facilities to graduate students for their research investigations.” Two years later, Penn State would honor him again by naming him an Alumni Fellow of the university.

Also in 1986, Karl received a Distinguished Service Award, the agency’s highest honor, from the USDA.

In 1987, Karl was selected by the American Association of Cereal Chemists to receive their Thomas Burr Osborne Medal. He was recognized for his development of near-infrared instruments for making ultra-fast, non-destructive measurements of protein and moisture content of wheat and other cereal grains.

In 1988, Karl retired from his U.S. Civil Service position at BARC after 38 years. He enjoyed a fine party with his peers and junior colleagues at BARC, celebrating all that he and they had accomplished over the decades. Never one to rest long, he immediately launched a career as independent consulting engineer.

In 1989, Karl was inducted into the Science Hall of Fame of the Agricultural Research Service, along with three other distinguished members, in a ceremony at the USDA’s National Arboretum. He was lauded “for developing principles and instruments using the electromagnetic wave spectrum to make rapid nondestructive measurements for evaluating quality of agricultural products.” In addition to his pioneering advances in grain, vegetable, and fruit testing and instrumentation already described, he was heralded for his key contributions to the spectrophotometric identification at BARC of phytochrome, the plant pigment that determines the response of plants to the intensity and spectrum of light. This was a major contribution to fundamental scientific understanding of plant physiology.

In 1991, Karl received the Maurice F. Hasler Award for outstanding contributions to spectroscopy at the 1991 Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy.

In 1995, members of the International Committee on Near-Infrared Spectroscopy unanimously, and secretly, selected Karl to become the honorary First Fellow of NIRS. The award was revealed in an editorial by A. M. C. (Tony) Davies accompanied by a compilation of short stories about Karl, his achievements, and his collaborators titled “Accolades, Accusations, and Anecdotes” (Journal of Near Infrared Spectroscopy, 1996, Vol. 4, pp. 1 and 3). A newspaper story in the Beltsville News by J. Butcher (1998, V. 43, No. 10, p. 8) describes the “reverential tones” of some of the accolades: “the father of near-infrared technology; a modern-day Edison; a man of light; a patient teacher and mentor; a blend of brilliance, generosity, and humility.” On the other hand, colleagues also warned “Never play poker with this smiling, sly-eyed engineer unless you come to the table prepared to lose!” Karl received a plaque that announced his selection “for excellence in research, mentorship to the NIRS community, and a continuing distinguished career” at the group’s 8th International Conference in Essen, Germany, on September 15, 1997.

Also in 1997, Karl became a grandfather for the second time when his son Mark’s wife, Darlene Klischer Norris, gave birth to a son, David Benjamin Norris.

Karl took the next step as a family man and became a great grandfather in 2000, when his grandson Justin’s wife, Carla Gail Haines D’Amato, gave birth to a son, Ian Alessandro D’Amato. Ian would be followed by two more great grandsons, Gannon Matteo in 2002 and Liam Giovanni in 2007.

Meanwhile, in 2001, Karl was selected to receive the Sir George Stokes Medal of the Royal Society of Chemistry, United Kingdom. The award is given for outstanding and sustained contributions to analytical science of fundamental importance to chemical analysis. His citation noted that Karl (1) established the principles and methodology of NIR spectroscopy, (2) designed the first generation of NIR instruments applied to grains, (3) developed “Norris Mathematics” – regression and derivatives – to calibrate the methodology, and, moreover, (4) pioneered the use of NIRS in medicine. He accepted the medal in London in March 2002.

Also in 2001, Karl was honored with the Gold Medal Award of the New York Section, Society of Applied Spectroscopy, for "contributions to spectroscopy, especially near infrared spectroscopy" by the "Father of NIR."

Over his more than 50-year career, Karl had traveled far and wide internationally. In particular, he had visited Japan to attend conferences, meet with researchers, and inspect facilities on multiple occasions. In 2003, without his knowledge, his colleagues on the Japan Council of NIRS established a new award for exceptional contributions to the field and bestowed it upon him as the inaugural recipient: the Karl H. Norris Award in Near-Infrared Spectroscopy. Karl was delighted by the honor, as well as by the prospect of new awardees being named annually.

Of all the meetings that Karl attended over his long career, the International Diffuse Reflectance Conference or IDRC, held biannually in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania was his favorite. It is a rather small meeting with morning and evening sessions and a free afternoon every day, and it always is held on the campus of the town’s Wilson College. In 2006, again in utter secrecy, Karl’s longtime colleagues planned a surprise for him: he would be awarded an honorary Doctor of Science award – at age 85! – in recognition of his distinguished research achievements. Karl was issued a gown and cap with tassel, and a ceremony was held in which the college president presented his diploma to him. He was very pleased.

In 2011, Karl’s family organized a 90th birthday celebration for him, with his participation. Numerous colleagues and friends from BARC, USDA, and Beltsville, as well as family, gathered to salute him.

In 2014, as he did every other summer, Karl attended the IDRC meeting in Chambersburg. This year, his colleagues had yet another surprise in store: he would receive the eponymous Karl H. Norris Award in NIRS for a second time, in this case as the inaugural winner after the award had been transferred from the Japan Council to the International Council for NIR. Moreover, the award had had a new feature added: now it was accompanied by a medal bearing his likeness (including eyeglasses). Karl was amazed and delighted at the generosity of the NIR community in presenting the award to him and personalizing it even further, as they had done.

A major transition occurred in Karl and Maxine’s lives in 2016. In late 2015, Maxine had fallen on the brick porch of their Beltsville home and gashed a leg, and the wound had become infected. She was admitted to a local nursing home for recuperative care. Before she was released, Karl and his family arranged for the two of them to move to an assisted living facility in nearby Alexandria, Virginia, near their daughter and son-in-law. Maxine recovered substantially, enough so that in the summer Karl was able to make the journey to Chambersburg once more for IDRC 2016.

As 2017 wore on, Maxine’s health deteriorated despite the excellent care that she was receiving, due to her longstanding chronic conditions as well as the debilitating effects of aging. She marked her 95th birthday in May, but soon after she went into a steep decline. She passed away August 28, 2017 with Karl by her side.

Although he had some challenges of his own, Karl’s health remained mostly robust, and he rebounded from the loss of Maxine in fine form. 2018 was a good year for him, with the exception of his declining mental faculties. He recognized his increasing challenges with memory loss and confusion, which were a bit distressing for him; for so long he had been so brilliant and effective. Although Karl surrendered what he could no longer control (e.g., his computer and his smart phone), he nevertheless retained his good nature and his quiet ways, and his neighbors at Sunrise at Mount Vernon continued to enjoy him – and he them – immensely. Karl also missed his first IDRC meeting ever in 2018, but he continued to relish his frequent phone conversations with colleagues, Ken Vonbargen and Phil Williams in particular.

Karl eased into 2019 on a steady path physically, if still on a slow decline mentally. He celebrated his 98th birthday in May, with his son on one day and with his daughter and his fellow residents for a cake social on another. In June, Karl traveled to Glen Richey, Pennsylvania, where he had a delightful time at the annual Norris family reunion. Over the weekend after Independence Day, Karl fell ill to a urinary infection that, by the following Thursday morning, was compounded by the onset of pneumonia. He was taken immediately to the hospital next door and given extensive, compassionate care. Soon, alas, it was discovered that his infections were resistant to antibiotics. Karl fought hard, but his condition declined inexorably, and he passed away peacefully July 17, 2019 in the presence of family.

On August 13, 2019, the USDA had all Agricultural Research Stations nation-wide fly the American flag at half staff, in memory of Karl.