GH airman's death investigated

Tribune Staff • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:50 AM

U.S. Air Force serviceman Donald G. Norvell, 30, died Nov. 14, said Staff Sgt. Patrick Harrower of the 60th Air Mobility Wing’s public affairs division at Travis Air Force Base, Calif.

“There has been an active-duty member death off base,” Harrower said in a statement. “The cause of death is under investigation (and) the base is working with local officials. Travis is a close-knit family and we are all experiencing this sorrow together.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the airman’s family and friends,” he continued. “Right now, our efforts are focused on providing the support and assistance needed during this difficult time.”

The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department assisted the Air Force in notifying Norvell’s family in Grand Haven Township last week.

The Klaassen Family Funeral Home in Grand Haven is handling arrangements locally. The funeral home said the stepfather is out of town at a memorial service and will likely arrange for a private funeral ceremony later this week.

As of Monday, the leader of the American Legion’s Grand Haven post Honor Guard, George Bennett, said he hadn’t been notified about attending a military service for Norvell.

“It’s an emotional thing,” Bennett said about a military funeral service. “We’re more than willing and proud to do this for our veterans.”

Community members have shown support for Norvell’s friends and family by reaching out on Facebook.

“Hats go off to the family in prayer,” Nunica resident Michael McPherson wrote. “Though I have not had the honor of knowing this family, their son is a comrade in arms, and as a veteran this makes me proud of him and his service to our country. Thank you, Donald, for serving and representing such a beautiful state.”

James Klomparens of Grand Haven expressed his condolences.

“I did not know Donald, but I have great respect for him for serving our country,” Klomparens wrote. “My greatest feelings go out to his family. This is so sad.”

The Klaassen funeral home had initial information that Norvell died in a military training incident, and a funeral home in California listed in Norvell’s online obituary that he died unexpectedly at his off-base home.

The Nadeau Family Funeral Home in California noted that Norvell’s funeral will be Friday at the Klaassen funeral home, 1500 Robbins Road in Grand Haven. He will be laid to rest in the Grand Haven Township Cemetery.

The obituary said he’s resided in Vacaville, Calif., for the past four years and was a precision measurement equipment laboratory specialist at the military base. He had his bachelor’s degree in physics and planned to get his doctorate in mathematics.

Marleen Vaughn, a longtime family friend who knew Norvell since he was a baby, said he was the most intelligent young man she has ever encountered. She said as a child he enjoyed puzzles and books. He grew up primarily in the Cincinnati area and moved to Grand Haven when his stepfather transferred to the area.

His mother, Donna Sacks, and Vaughn frequently played rock music, which influenced Norvell’s musical favorites.

“I  was so proud of Don for choosing the military,” she said. “I am saddened deeply by his passing.”




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