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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Former Mayor Pickett dies at 74

Friday, October 31, 2003

Former Brazil Mayor Norval Pickett Jr. died Friday afternoon, Oct. 31, 2003, at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Hospital in Indianapolis, a wing of St. Vincent Hospital for the terminally ill. Pickett suffered from kidney failure, a complication of an infection resulting from a broken foot.

The colorful luminary loved people and politics. Born in Glasgow, Ky., when his father worked on an oil rig, the family returned to Brazil where Norval Jr. grew up. He attended Brazil High School in the Class of 1947.

After high school Norval worked several years with his grandfather, Henry Pickett in Los Alamos, Calif. Just 18 at the time, he worked in a mechanics garage involved with nuclear testing.

Norval used to tell his own children about bulldozing brand new Buicks, with only six miles on them, over the cliff at Bliss Canyon because they were radioactive.

Back in Brazil, Norval was married to Mary Thomas Pickett in 1946 by Rev. Garrigus. The ceremony took place in the Marlow home on North Meridian Street. They had two children, Margaret Louise Cooper, who resides in Zionsville, and Kenny Ray Pickett, from Terre Haute.

Mayor Archie Hamm appointed Norval to be a Brazil City Police Officer when he was just 20 years old. The youngest man to hold the position, Norval wasn't even old enough to drink in the bars legally, but it was his duty to patrol them.

Norval was a charter member of the Brazil Fraternal Order of Police. He drove to Indianapolis and hand delivered the papers to the appropriate authorities. He was the last surviving charter member.

Raised with a strong work ethic, Norval had various jobs throughout his lifetime. He had Pickett's Auction barn for over 20 years from the 1950s into the '70s. He was president of Twigg Aircraft Co. at 240 N. Depot St. in the 1960s.

In 1962, Mayor Ted McCoy appointed him to be the Brazil City Chief of Police. It was quite an unusual honor as Norval wasn't even a police officer at the time.

His love of people and his belief that a mayor is just a caretaker for the citizens, led Norval into politics and 16 years as the leader of his beloved Brazil.

Always community minded, as president of the Chamber of Commerce Norval brought in Windbreaker, a national garment factory owned by Phillips-Van Heusen. It was on East Mechanic Street situated in a 42,000 square foot building on 18 acres. Morris Manufacturing is now located there.

After he became mayor, Norval was responsible for bringing Great Dane Trailers to the Brazil area.

Retired Great Dane President Harvey Granger said in the fall, 2000, "Great Dane News", "Norval Pickett had a tremendous role in helping us choose Brazil. Brazil was an attractive place to consider, but Norval's attitude really sold us."

Norval's son Ken said, "After the Arketex plants closed, downtown Brazil was just bleak. We really needed some industry. Great Dane was considering going to go to Clinton."

But they had to pay that city for the opportunity. Norval said they could come to Brazil for nothing.

"We didn't even own the land where the plant was to locate. It cost $80,000 and we had to get grants to pay for it which takes a long time. We didn't have the luxury of time," Ken said. "Dad ended up trading some black swans to the grant director to expedite a state and federal grant for that ground. Those were our birds. It didn't cost the taxpayers anything."

Norval loved, not just exotic birds, but all animals. He was a great and continual supporter of the Humane Society.

But his greatest pleasure during his 16-year reign as mayor was hosting the Mayor's Senior Citizen Breakfast at the Brazil Armory. It was funded by donations, gifts and some of Norval's own money.

Each year usually more than 1,000 people enjoyed biscuits, gravy, fried chicken and all the trimmings. Entertainment was frequently provided by Phil Harris and Alice Faye or Randy Carmichael, Hoagy's son. A key to the city was given to special residents and all the ladies left with a potted flower.

Norval, also, had a special place in his heart for the military and those who lost their lives fighting for this country. While mayor he had all the roads in the Brazil City Cemeteries named after a soldier who died in the Vietnam war.

"I think Brazil is still reaping rewards from Dad's hard work," Ken said softly. "He really loved this town and he loved being able to help others. He was always for the underdog, the common man. Dad always said he wanted to be buried in a pine box."

The wishes of Norval Pickett Jr. will be granted when he is laid to rest in Stunkard Cemetery, north of Brazil, beside his parents.

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