Michael Norton, who died July 31, will be remembered by many for a long time, said his mother, Suzan Roberts Norton of Standish. Courtesy of Suzan Roberts Norton

STANDISH — Michael “HMC” Norton, an artist and filmmaker who last year released a documentary about his late brother’s battle with schizophrenia, died at his home July 31.

Norton, who had a rare form of muscular dystrophy called Duchenne syndrome, was 33.

Norton had a “really tender heart” and a “sick sense of humor,” said his mother, Suzan Roberts Norton. An avid Motörhead fan, he went by the moniker, “Heavy Metal Cripple,” or “HMC” for short.

When Norton was diagnosed with the degenerative muscle disease as a young boy, doctors told his mother and father, Terry Norton, that he would likely only live until his teens. Despite this prediction, Norton lived a “full life,” even though he knew that the “Grim Reaper was around the corner,” his mother said.

Norton began using a wheelchair at age 10 and had used a ventilator and sip-and-puff tube for the last five years.

He graduated with honors from Southern Maine Community College in 2019 with a degree in communications and new media. Besides his freelance work, he was constantly busy learning how to make mead and hot sauce, designing elaborate Lego structures or going to breweries and art museums, among his many other hobbies.


“Mike lived life boldly and dangerously, like his brother; while always helping others if they needed help,” his parents wrote in his obituary.

Norton’s younger brother, John “JT” Norton, died by suicide at age 27 in December 2016 after a years-long struggle with schizophrenia.

Since then, Norton took it upon himself to reach out to people who were in crisis to tell them that he cared about them and made sure they got the help they needed.

Since the coronavirus hit, he felt his brother’s absence even more deeply, his mother said.

Norton began working on a documentary to honor his late brother last year, eventually collaborating with professional filmmaker Reggie Groff of Portland, to create “Brothers.”

“(Norton) was brilliant. What he could do with his two fingers that somebody had to put on the keyboard (for him) … (He was) just a genius at work,” Groff said.


It took Norton 66 days to go through 188 tapes of JT skateboarding; the two brothers would travel around to different skateparks and Norton would film JT practicing.

Norton with his mother, Suzan Roberts Norton. Portland Press Herald file photo

Groff credits Suzan Roberts Norton and Terry Norton with giving their two sons their “strength and character.” He said it was often up to Roberts Norton, who was Norton’s “hands,” to learn everything that Norton wanted to do.

“It was like trying to keep up with someone who, once you’re done with one thing, he’s on to three more,” Geoff said.

Roberts Norton said that although she and Norton would sometimes get on each other’s nerves when they were tired or frustrated, “he really is like my best friend … I was just trying to give him the best life possible.”

Groff and Roberts Norton are asking for donations in Norton’s memory to film additional footage and recut the “Brothers” film.

“We want people to have hope, there are good reasons to have hope … (It’s) not being afraid to ask someone if they’re OK. That’s kind of what our legacy is really about as a family. Both of my sons were like that, even in their illnesses, (they) reached out to people,” Roberts Norton said.

“I was really lucky to have both of my sons. It’s just hard to believe he’s gone but I think he’s going to be remembered by a lot of people for a long time.”

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