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CHICAGO (STMW) – A Mount Carmel High School graduate who was killed in an avalanche while skiing in Colorado was remembered Wednesday as a selfless and determined “lovable kid” who came from a “wonderful” family.
Chris Norris, 28, a married father of two young children, died of asphyxiation after he was caught Sunday in a small slide at Mary Jane Ski Area, near the Winter Park Resort, according to Grand County (Colo.) Coroner Brenda Bock.
Resort officials said his body was found in a wooded area on Mary Jane Mountain after he failed to meet up with his companions.
Norris, who moved from Beverly to Colorado after going to college there, was married to his college sweetheart, Lynn. They had two children: a 3-1/2-year-old daughter, Indyka, and a 7-week-old son, Sage.
Norris was a 2002 graduate of Mount Carmel, where he played rugby. After he went to Western State College in Gunnison, Colo., he still would lend a hand to the program when he came home on breaks, his former coach said.
“He played all four years for me. He wasn’t the greatest of athletes, but he was one of those kids who never, ever quit trying,” said Jack Cushing, Mount Carmel’s rugby coach from 1988 until last year. “And when he came back from college for the summers, he was always saying, ‘What can I do for you?’ He was that kind of kid. He was absolutely a lovable, likeable kid, and he came from a wonderful family.”
Norris’ mother, Carol, and a brother, Craig, now live in Evergreen Park. Norris’ father, Herbert, died a few years ago.
A next-door neighbor, Eileen Rozhn, said she was surprised that Norris was killed in an avalanche.
“Who would ever think that? He really was a very good skier, so he knew what he was doing, but something evidently happened out there,” she said.
A teenager died in an avalanche the same day on an expert run in a closed area at Vail Mountain. Colorado’s weak snowpack may lead to increased avalanche danger through the season, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said. Six people were killed by avalanches in Colorado last ski season, the center said.
According to the Fox TV station in Denver, Norris moved to Colorado from Chicago to go to college and never left. He loved the high country and was passionate about skiing and the outdoors, as is his wife.
“It’s very, very hard. We were soulmates. I loved him more than anything in the world. He’s the best man, the best father. He’s the best husband,” Lynn Norris told KDVR earlier this week.
Chris’ brother, Nick Norris, told KDVR, “My little brother meant everything to me, and watching him go from a goofy kid in college I thought was going to be a ski bum, hanging out with friends, going to concerts, drinking beer, to starting a family with Lynn.
“Watching him be a dad, it was amazing to me. I mean, I was his older brother, but I looked up to him for that.”
Lynn Norris told KDVR she never really worried about Chris skiing. She knew it made him happy.
“If you really love somebody, you’re going to say, ‘Go for it,’ and you just say, ‘Be as safe as you can.’ I knew skiing was risky. I also know life. You have to live it,” she said.
She said their daughter would have been with Chris on Sunday — he taught her to ski when she was 2 — but Indyka came down with the flu.
Elizabeth Norris, 87, a great-aunt, said she knew Chris from various family gatherings.
“He was a nice young man, very nice,” she said. “As far as I can see, he was a happy-go-lucky kind of guy.”
Visitation will be from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday at Horan & McConaty funeral home, 7577 W. 80th Ave. in Arvada, Colo., followed by a funeral service.
Memorial donations for his family can be made to the Christopher Norris Memorial Fund at any Wells Fargo Bank.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)