'Octopus' remembered for his generosity

Eric Norris' martial arts clothes were draped over a table laden with his belts and medals Friday afternoon at Mile Square Regional Park. The rest of the table featured other mementos of his 30 years: a motorcycle jacket and helmet, an acoustic guitar, photos of him with his young son.

Nearby, friends, family members and colleagues wrote about treasured moments in a memory book. A white posterboard invited attendees to post favorite photos. Under a white tent in the hot sun, a deejay spun a selection of the Westminster resident's favorite songs — heavy on Johnny Cash.

Less than two weeks after Norris died in a hit-and-run boating accident in Lake Havasu, the athletic trainer's death still felt like a shock to many of the nearly 200 people who attended his memorial service.

"Eric left a great legacy here, and his legacy is his love for others," said Terry Hairston, the owner of Team America Fitness, where Norris once worked. "We all need to honor his legacy and do the same."

Pastor John Antonuccio of the Father's House in Garden Grove, whose son once competed with Norris in jujitsu, gave the opening speech at the service. At one point, he cited a quote from St. Francis of Assisi that he said embodied Norris' generous spirit: "Remember that when you leave this Earth, you cannot take what you have received, only what you have given."

Norris, nicknamed "Octopus" for the tight grip he put on opponents, died July 3 after he fell off an inner tube while being pulled by a boat across the lake. As he waited for the boat to circle back and pick him up, another boat struck him in the water and left the scene.

Arden Wiltshire, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner Department, said the identity of the boat's driver remained a mystery.

"Unfortunately, we haven't had any leads," she said.

Norris, at least one speaker said Friday, had been enjoying himself at Lake Havasu up until the moment he was killed. But then, many said, Norris rarely seemed to have a bad day at all.

Clark Bevans, the owner of Anytime Fitness in Fountain Valley, said he met Norris at a jujitsu academy seven years ago and was taken aback by his resilience.

"I didn't know much about him, except I could punch him as hard as I could and he would just laugh at me," Bevans said.

When Bevans opened Anytime Fitness a few months ago, he hired Norris as a trainer — and got a utility man instead, as Norris volunteered to take out the trash and do other odd jobs around the studio.

"The way Eric gave to people daily, I can never understand," Bevans said. "He was the most unselfish person in the world."

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