Norman “David” Atkinson
August 26, 1944 – April 2, 2021
Norman “David” Atkinson, 76, formerly of Bergenfield, passed away at Villa Marie Claire Hospice at Holy Name Medical Center on April 2, 2021.
David is predeceased by his loving parents Norman and Elizabeth, who saw the potential and promise in their young son despite him having been born with cerebral palsy. They defied doctors’ recommendations to place their son in an institution when he was 3, 4 and 6 years old. David, in turn, defied the odds and achieved many notable accomplishments in life…undeterred by his disability.
From the perspective of seven decades later, his parents’ hopes and dreams for their firstborn son came true. David will always be known for his true grit, courage, and strength of character as he overcame his challenges to attain a successful and independent life. The quiet resolve and determination that led to his accomplishments are his legacy.
David developed cherished friendships and forged unbreakable bonds with his family members. He is survived by six siblings: Susan Braeske, Elizabeth (and John) Vivenzio, Diane (and Christopher) Sto.Domingo, Teresa Atkinson, Patricia (and William) Hollenfer, and Thomas (and Paul) Atkinson. He is also predeceased by his brother John and devoted brother-in-law George Braeske. He was the proud Godfather of his loving niece Kristine and uncle of 13 other nieces and nephews and 16 great nieces and nephews.
For 42 years David worked diligently to achieve a self-supporting life. More than half of those working years began each weekday at 4:30 a.m. to commute into New York City for his job as a mail handler with the United States Postal Service.
That tough work schedule did not stop him from his 45 years of volunteer service at St. John the Evangelist Church in Bergenfield, where he proudly helped with the religious education program. His simple task of holding open the heavy door for the children and greeting them warmly as they entered and exited the building brought a smile to the faces of countless little ones.
David was a dedicated member of the church’s special needs ministry, which hosts a diocesan-wide program for parents of children with disabilities. He was lauded as an inspiration by the young parents who looked to David as an example of the possibilities for their own children. David also received numerous awards from the Diocese of Newark for his self-advocacy and, as a member of the Diocesan Legacy Society, for his financial commitment to children, especially those with disabilities.
In addition, the national and regional chapters of The Arc of Bergen and Passaic Counties have recognized him for his contributions to the community as well as his own initiative towards independent living. His efforts were so noteworthy that David went on to become the first person with disabilities to sit on The ARC’s Board of Trustees from (1976-1993), where he advocated for those with disabilities.
David’s family will be forever grateful for all those who have embraced and championed him throughout his life. His church family was instrumental in his happiness; they showered him with genuine love and acceptance for more than 70 years. The members of ARC of Bergen-Passaic helped to nurture him in his prime years. The abundant kindness and skill of Dr. Narpat Jain and his dental care team made David’s flashing smile even brighter in his senior years. And in his final two years, David was blessed with the most empathetic care from his Villa family, the compassionate group of devoted caregivers at Villa Marie Claire Hospice.
A Funeral Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. John the Evangelist Church, 29 N Washington Ave, Bergenfield, NJ on April 7, 2021 at 11 am with Msgr. Richard J. Arnhols officiating. Due to the pandemic, arrangements have been made to livestream the Mass for virtual attendees. Social distancing and masks will be required for those who attend the church service.
Livestream the church service (or view afterwards): www.facebook.com/sjrcbergenfield
A video tribute, and a condolence guest book can be found at: riewertsmemorialhome.com
In lieu of flowers, donations in David’s memory can be made to Villa Marie Claire Hospice Center @ Holy Name Medical Center, 718 Teaneck Road, 07666 (villamarieclaire.org), St. John the Evangelist Church, 29 N Washington Ave, Bergenfield, NJ 07621 (sjrc.org), or The Arc of Bergen and Passaic Counties, 223 Moore St, Hackensack, NJ 07601 (arcbp.com).
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Norman "David" Atkinson, please visit our floral store.
Villa Marie Claire
12 W Saddle River Rd., Saddle River NJ 07458
St. John the Evangelist R.C. Church
29 N Washington Ave., Bergenfield NJ 07621
ARC of Bergen and Passaic Counties
223 Moore St., Hackensack NJ 07601