After retiring from a career in real estate, Birmingham’s Mark Norton enjoyed working a few hours each month for Bud’s Best cookies, sharing samples of “the little cookie with the big taste” with grocery store customers. When declining health led Norton to move into assisted living at Fair Haven Retirement Community, the owner of Bud’s Best, Bud Cason, decided Norton still needed his cookies. Boxes of cookies would routinely arrive for Norton and he would share his treasure with fellow residents. He soon became known as “the cookie man” and began hosting a monthly “cookie social” for his friends in assisted living and skilled care. His former boss, Bud Cason, and his son, Al Cason, made sure he had enough cookies to share each month, and despite major physical challenges including arthritis, the loss of a leg and loss of vision, Mark Norton continued to serve others with a smile and a cookie until his death at almost 94.
“He was like a flower in the concrete,” remembers son Tommy. “He hurt from head to toe but still was as sweet and positive as he could be. He was a man full of faith and he was not going to be unhappy.” When Norton died, his son Tommy and wife Dianne decided to continue his cookie tradition. “This is our ministry in memory and honor of my dad. I feel like every time we do this, he smiles, and these people are so sweet and so grateful.” Now in their eighth year of cookie service, the couple comes every first Tuesday of the month to Fair Haven with cookies donated by Bud’s Best to host two cookie socials, one in assisted living and one in skilled care. Tommy organizes the socials and oversees games for the residents while Dianne, who played the organ for Dawson Baptist for 43 years, plays the piano and leads the residents in singing. “Everyone loves Tommy and Dianne. They are a blessing and have done so many wonderful things for the residents throughout the years,” explains Fair Haven’s Lorrie Carruba. Bud’s Best’s Al Cason shares, “Mark Norton would be so proud to see his son continue this. Mr. Norton touched so many lives and continues through his son.
- Laurie Stroud