Donald Norkett, a former Newsday photographer and photo editor whose other jobs spanned from Army combat medic and welder to taxi driver and private investigator, died Aug. 8 at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside.
He was 84. The cause was congestive heart failure, said his wife, Alice Norkett, 74, of Merrick.
“He was always looking for another adventure,” she said. “He could do anything he set his mind to.”
Born on Dec. 1, 1932, in Astoria, Norkett grew up in Queens, New Jersey and Roosevelt and received his GED from Hempstead High School. He was drafted in 1952 during the Korean War and served as an Army combat medic and staff sergeant.
After his military service, Norkett built houses, worked as a welder for then-Republic Aviation Corp., drove a taxi and dabbled as a private detective, Alice Norkett said.
He started in journalism as a photographer for the now-defunct Long Island Press. When that publication folded in 1977, he was hired by Newsday to cover “sports, spot news, weather shots. In those days, they did anything and everything,” Alice Norkett said. He lived in Deer Park and worked in Suffolk County.
His first wife, Myrna Aims, became very ill and they moved upstate to Theresa, where Norkett briefly ran a general store. Aims died in 1977 and Norkett returned to Long Island and Newsday, where Alice Mann worked first as a secretary to the photo editor and later in the editorial department writing listings.
They had met right before Norkett moved upstate and reconnected when he returned to the Island.
“He was irresistible, he was interesting,” she said. “He could do everything.”
Norkett became a photo editor for Newsday in the 1980s because he “got tired of carrying that big bag of equipment,” Alice Norkett said. “He was a purist. He didn’t like to change what was real in a picture.”
He worked for The National Sports Daily for about a year and a half before it folded in 1991. Norkett went on to work for Eastman Kodak, frequently traveling both domestically and internationally for the company, where he remained until his retirement in the early 2000s when he was in his 70s.
In retirement, he became a gardener and a prizewinning fisherman, constructed a koi pond, carved wooden figures and painted, among other hobbies. At one point he hunted, but stopped because “he liked to capture them on film instead of catching them in the wild,” Alice Norkett said. He also had a pilot’s license and became “a major computer buff.”
“Anything he could touch, he could do,” she said.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his children Donna Bucaro of Hauppauge, Darlene Brown of upstate Liverpool, Dawn Dugan of Nantucket, Massachusetts, Donald Norkett Jr. of Syracuse, Douglas Norkett, also of Syracuse; stepson Brendan Mann of Merrick; a sister, Eileen Gettys of upstate West Henrietta; 14 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren.
His funeral is to be held at 9:45 a.m. Monday at St. Barnabas the Apostle Roman Catholic Church in Bellmore.