May 11, 2015
Audree Norton, a trailblazing deaf actress who was a founder of The National Theatre of the Deaf, passed away on April 22, 2015. She was 88.
Norton contracted spinal meningitis at age 2 and, as a result, became deaf. She attended the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf in Fairbault, Minn., and went on to Gallaudet College, where she met her future husband, Kenneth Norton. She graduated in 1952 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Language and Literature and married Kenneth that same year, moving to Sulphur, Okla., where he was teaching at the Oklahoma School for the Deaf.
In the ’60s, the couple moved to the Bay Area, where Audree became one of the founders of The National Theatre of the Deaf. She toured with the company across the U.S., on Broadway and in Europe.
She became the first deaf actor to appear on American network television in the CBS crime series MANNIX in 1969. Among her other TV credits are FAMILY AFFAIR and THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO, as well as an episode of THE MAN AND THE CITY and in NBC’s EXPERIMENT IN TELEVISION opposite Phyllis Frelich, a fellow deaf actress who eventually won a Tony Award for her role in CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD.
According to her local obituary, Audree was preceded in death by her son, Dane, in 1990. She is survived by her loving and devoted husband of 63 years, Kenneth; her daughter, Nikki; son, Kurt; son-in-law, Gary; granddaughter, Tessa (and her husband, Justin); grandson, Travis; and her beautiful great-grandson, Wesley.
A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 at 2pm at the Klopping Theatre on the campus of the California School for the Deaf, 39350 Gallaudet Dr., Fremont, CA 94538. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider a donation to Gallaudet University in memory of Audree Norton. Please send donations under Audree’s name to: Dr. Alan Hurwitz, Gallaudet University, 800 Florida Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20002.