Community rallies to finish home for Norman family

  • Written by Shannon Michael, Features Writer

John NormanPhoto by Shannon Michael. John and Breanna Norman’s unfinished home sits on a wooded lot east of Woodinville. Drywallers were working on the home, having just finished hanging sheetrock in the garage when this photo was taken. Tucked deep into a beautifully wooded lot east of Woodinville stands a 1,000-square-foot labor of love.

It is the house John Norman, 31, was meticulously building in his spare time for his wife Breanna, their toddler daughter Cadence and their baby, Abigail, due in September. He wanted the house to be completed before Abigail was born.

However, on May 11, John, a concrete worker, was tragically killed on a jobsite when a tractor rolled over on him.

Mike Barter, best friends with Breanna’s father, Eric Klos, began an effort to pay tribute to John by helping to finish the house for Breanna and their girls.

He knew it’s what John would have done if the roles were reversed.

"John would have been the first one here to help. He was that kind of guy. It is an honor to do this in his memory," Barter said.

He added: "We’re trying to get Breanna into the house to make her nest and have a healthy baby. We want to make this as easy as we can to reduce stress on the baby."

Barter reached out to a contact he knew at KING5 TV. They ran a story about the Norman family and the help needed to finish the house. That’s how Ron Upshaw and Don O’Neill, co-hosts of the Ron & Don Show on KIRO Radio heard about the Normans’ need and chose to become involved in helping the family.

"Most media outlets just report the story. The end," explained Upshaw. "Because we’re entertainers, not journalists, we don’t have to make it be ‘The end.’ Our show is a vehicle to empower people to be involved in their community."

That’s just what happened. Ron and Don talked about the Norman family during their show on May 28, and while they were talking about it, the emails and calls started flooding into the station with offers to help donate supplies and services.

John Norman House 2Photo by Shannon Michael. John Norman’s father, Marc Norman, discusses the progress made on the home with KIRO Radio talk show co-host Ron Upshaw while standing in the home’s spacious living room. John built the floor-to-ceiling fireplace and handcrafted the mantelpiece. The kitchen is behind the two men. Producer Libby Denkmann worked with Mike Barter to post a list of supplies and skills needed to help complete the home on the show’s website on May 29. The show’s co-hosts asked listeners to help try to finish the home by Father’s Day.

Since the story first aired on KIRO, Barter has been overwhelmed by the community support. "The benefit of the Ron & Don Show’s involvement is the outpouring of experienced workers to volunteer. I’ve been taken aback by the number of calls received to help," he said.  He is now coordinating all the donations of materials and services.

Upshaw, who recently moved to the Woodinville area, knew this would happen because a large number of the show’s listeners are blue-collar workers.

It was an asset the show knew they had that could help with this particular project.

The Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters Union #41 teamed up with the Northwest Wall & Ceiling Bureau to coordinate vendor donations of drywall and drywall tradesmen volunteers such as Jamal Middlebrooks to install it.

The volunteers have often had stories of their own to share about why they wanted to help the Norman family. Many of their stories have comforted the family.

Middlebrooks, a carpenters’ union representative and drywaller by trade, was installing drywall in one of the bedrooms last Wednesday.  He’d driven up from Tacoma to work on the house after the union posted the call for volunteers on Facebook. 

"This story grabbed me because John was a carpenter like me. I’ve been in the military, too, and wanted to serve. It also hit me because I’m the father of three girls," Middlebrooks said.

Over a dozen companies throughout the Puget Sound region have donated supplies and/or services. The Ron & Don Show’s page on lists the many generous donations.

The outpouring of support humbles Marc Norman, John’s father. "Amazed. Grateful. Overwhelmed," were the three succinct words he offered when asked what it felt like to receive so much help.

While he is hopeful most of the work on the home will be completed by Father’s Day, Marc thinks the home will be habitable a week or two after that day if all goes well.

Still on the list of projects to do are installing a septic system, finishing the concrete patio, creating a finished driveway and finishing the interior of the house.

The home is located on a pristine wooded lot owned by John’s dad, and that’s the way John Norman wanted the landscaping to be – natural, his father said. They would like to put in a small side yard later, though, once the home is finished.

Helping Breanna and her daughters are also on the list of things to do.

Kristina Spencer Becker, Breanna’s best friend since ninth grade, is working with the Kirkland Eagles Club to accept donations.

They are looking for girls’ clothing in sizes 2T and larger for Cadence and nursery and household supplies to help set up the new home.

"Breanna saved all of Cadence’s clothing from when she was born, so she’s all set for the new baby," Kristina said.

Donations can be dropped off at the club, located at 258 Central Way in Kirkland, Monday through Friday from noon to 10 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 8 p.m.

In addition to clothing and household supplies, Becker says Breanna and her girls could really use new furnishings, including window coverings, for the home, too.

The John Norman House Completion Memorial Fund on is a donation page set up for people to make monetary donations.

The fund was originally started to cover the cost for construction supplies to finish the house, but with the community so generously donating supplies, Becker hopes that any leftover funds can be used by Breanna to furnish her home.

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