Sculpture to honor late skateboarder

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STANDISH — A sculpture will soon be installed at the Johnson Field Skate Park in honor of John Terrence “JT” Norton, a passionate skateboarder who suffered from schizophrenia and took his own life nearly two years ago.

Norton was a huge advocate of the park being built, according to Renee Prescott of Standish Parks and Recreation. When he was 12, he presented a three-dimensional model of what he thought the park should look like to the recreation committee, and the park was completed in 2011.

Last year, the recreation committee decided that something should be done to honor Norton, and Prescott, who has a B.F.A from the Maine College of Art, suggested a sculpture. She thought that in addition to creating a memorial, “it would be really cool to actually have a piece of public art in a small town,” she said. The committee commissioned and financed the work.

Suzan Norton said that she was “really quite taken aback” when the committee notified her family of its decision to commemorate her late son and called the experience “humbling.”

Prescott contacted various local artists about the project and received two proposals. Norton’s family and the recreation committee chose the proposal that Jude Collopy, a senior sculpture major at Maine College of Art, designed.

Norton said that the sculpture project has “really made an impact on us that it’s become a community thing.” 

Prescott and Collopy met with the family to discuss the sculpture before Collopy started working on it. “It’s a manifestation of everybody,” Prescott said.

Norton said she thinks the project has and will continue to help JT’s friends and other community members deal with their grief.

While Collopy has not yet finished the sculpture, Prescott said that “it’s not JT, but it’s a silhouette of a skateboarder in honor of him. It’s meant to sort of represent him and what the park meant to him.”

Collopy could not be reached for comment.

Norton said JT, who was was 27 when died, was “pretty humble, he didn’t like a lot of attention on himself,” but she thinks that he would have been OK with the sculpture of a skateboarder watching over the park.

Norton’s brother Mike has also been working on a documentary film about his relationship with his brother with filmmaker Reggie Groff. The film will be called “Brothers.”

“The vision was Mike’s. They’ve been working tirelessly on the documentary, especially to raise awareness for mental illness,” Prescott said.

Suzan Norton said that “things are just coming together” and added that she feels “good about people talking about it because I think that a lot of people don’t talk about it when someone takes their life, and I want people to see my son as a person, a person who struggled with this illness, and I don’t want any shame put on people for that.”

The sculpture will be placed on the grounds of the Johnson Field Skate Park. A dedication ceremony is being planned for the end of October. Those who are interested in attending should check the Standish Parks and Recreation website (standishrec.com) for updates about the date.

Jane Vaughan can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or jvaughan@keepmecurrent.com.

Maine College of Art student Jude Collopy’s design was chosen for the sculpture memorializing John Terrence “JT” Norton, which will be installed at the Johnson Field Skate Park. The artwork, still in progress, will be dedicated at the Standish park later this month.

JT Norton