Catherine (Norris) Norton


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death of retiree Catherine (Norris) Norton on December 22 at her home in Falmouth after a battle with cancer. She was 73.

Cathy and her former husband Thomas J. Norton moved to Falmouth for the "summer" but never left.

Cathy lived for her family, friends, fun, faith, and flowers. She remained longtime friends with classmates from grammar school all the way through graduate school and showed how much she valued their friendship. Cathy had a flair for life, and her tremendous energy and can-do attitude guided her more than 30-year career at the Marine Biological Laboratory. A graduate of Regis College, Cathy came to the MBL in 1980 as a member of the MBLWHOI Library staff and earned a master's degree in information science from Simmons College in 1984. In 1991, as the electronic frontier began to enhance information access, Cathy embraced change to become the MBL's first director of information systems. Cathy became Director of the MBLWHOI Library in 1994.  Her inspirational and innovative leadership assured that the library was at the forefront of modern library and data services, arguably one of the better if not the best biological and marine science library in the world.  In so doing, Cathy was a true citizen of the collective Woods Hole scientific community influencing all scientific and educational organizations in Woods Hole. In addition, her influence spread globally with her involvement with the International Association of Aquatic and Marine Science Libraries and Information Centers (IAMSLIC). While keeping the library at the forefront of modern services, she was a strong advocate of the preservation of rare books, artifacts and historical documents in the library collections, including the WHOI Archives. She became a leader in promoting the digital library and open access.

During her tenure, she spearheaded the development of uBio, a digital biodiversity database that served as a foundation for the subsequent Encyclopedia of Life project. She helped develop an innovative biomedical informatics course, sponsored by the National Library of Medicine, designed to enable biomedical researchers and practitioners to embrace the power of technology. Cathy was also a founding member and served as chairman of the Biodiversity Heritage Library, a worldwide collaboration of libraries and museums making biodiversity literature freely available. In 2011, Cathy retired as MBLWHOI library director and was named library scholar.

Cathy was a justice of the peace for 39 years, marrying many happy couples on the beaches and back porches of Cape Cod. She was a member of the Falmouth School Committee, served as a consultant to the National Library of Medicine, was president of the Boston Library Consortium, and most recently was the Falmouth representative to the Steamship Authority's Board of Governors. She was instrumental in naming the new vessel "Woods Hole" that will be serving the islands from the Mainland.

Everyone who knew her has a "Cathy story" of how she inspired them with a project, connected them with another collaborator, worked her "magic" to make the seemingly impossible a reality or made them laugh, especially with stories of weddings she presided over as a justice of the peace.

A memorial Mass will be celebrated at 11:00 a.m., on Saturday, December 27 at St. Patrick's Church, 511 Main Street, Falmouth. Internment will be private. A reception to follow will be at The Beach House Restaurant, 17 Nathan Ellis Hwy, North Falmouth.

She is survived by her four children, whom she idolized, and were with her when she passed, Dr. Margaret Molly Norton, Michael Norton, Kerrie Norton Marzot, and Thomas "Packy" Norton; her grandchildren, Buddy Norton Estes, Toby Marzot, Drew Norton, Kate Norton, Hailey Norton, Roberto Marzot, Julietta Marzot, and her sister Joan Gardner.

The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Catherine N. Norton Fellowship at the Marine Biological Laboratory,