Pat Norling is an “everyday” person in the best sense of the word. Like her parents and grandparents, Norling was born and raised in Brookline. She and her husband raised three wonderful children—two daughters and a son. Norling has worked for our Town for more than two decades. Never fond of talking too much, she quietly took care of business—first and foremost wanting to do her job well and be with the people she loved.
Pat’s youngest daughter, Jennifer Lynch, also lived and worked in Brookline, but later moved to Oregon. On Valentine’s Day, 2006, Jennifer was shot to death by her husband, who then took his own life. Jennifer was the victim of domestic violence even before her murder. Her husband had “accidentally” broken her ankle. She endured a two-hour car ride while her husband pointed a gun to her head.
But like many victims, Jennifer couldn’t find a way out, making excuses for her husband to her family and friends, hiding the truth of her horrors. Her family and friends suspected, but they didn’t know for certain because they didn’t understand the signs. Later they would be left wondering what they could have done. A domestic violence victim’s family and friends are victims, too, often feeling guilty for someone else’s crime because they didn’t see it coming. It’s a story that’s played out all over the world, every day of the year.
So if you’re Pat Norling, where do you go from here?
The first thing she did was what we would all do. She suffered. She questioned herself. She wondered whether she could go on. But then she decided to act. Inspired by Jennifer’s memory, she dedicated her life to helping others escape the clutches of domestic violence. The woman who never liked to talk started to speak to our young people and help them learn about healthy relationships and how to see the signs of trouble. Pat Norling founded the Jennifer A. Lynch Committee Against Domestic Violence as a tribute to her daughter, a place where all of us can help stamp out domestic violence, and provide a safe haven for those in need.
It is a great honor to be able to recognize Pat Norling’s journey from grieving mother to tireless activist with this year’s Roger Grande Social Justice Award. The award—which is presented each year to an adult who shows a path for our young people in the area of social justice—will be presented to Norling at the Brookline Youth Awards on May 6 at the Coolidge Corner Theatre.
The Roger Grande Social Justice award was first introduced at the 2012 Brookline Youth Awards. It was our belief Roger Grande’s mentoring in social justice and his daily dedication to his BHS students deserved recognition. Roger’s influence spawned many BHS social justice activities including the Brookline Literacy Partnership, Food Justice Committee, The Hunger Banquet, Student Action for Justice and Education and Students Against Human Trafficking. Pat Norling is the 4th recipient of the award. In addition to Grande, the inaugural winner, other past recipients include Kate Leslie and Paul Epstein.
Please come to the Coolidge on May 6 from 7-9 p.m. to celebrate our young people, Ethel Weiss Service Award Recipient, Chobee Hoy and Roger Grande Social Justice Award Recipient, Pat Norling. The evening will feature video interviews with Pat, Chobee and our Youth Award recipients, as well as the naming of the 2015 Brookline Youth of the Year. We will also feature the video “Real Hurt” created by BHS students for the Jennifer Lynch Committee to stamp out domestic violence.
See you at the Coolidge.
—R. Harvey Bravman, Publisher