John Palmer Norback, a compassionate renaissance man, 73, of Middleton, Wis., died on March 10, 2017, at Oakwood Village’s Covenant Memory Care. He was born Feb. 3, 1944, in Minneapolis, the son of Wilbert and Dorothy (Peterson) Norback. John received his B.A. in Physics and Mathematics from Luther College as well as an M.A. in Mathematics, and Ph.D. in Quantitative Analysis from the School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The work in his dissertation became known as the “Norback Method” for the Traveling Salesman Problem.
John first taught Mathematics at Marion College for six years and spent the remainder of his career in UW-Madison’s Food Science Department. He solved business problems for the food industry, applying math and software tools. At UW, John served as director of the WISPLAN Computing and Telecommunications Unit. He also taught in Mexico, Tunisia, Australia, Uganda, Bangladesh, Japan, and England. His daily joy was educating students.
In 1993, he married Kathleen Ley and together they formed Norback Ley & Associates LLC, a food safety software company. Their work helped businesses, governments, and universities around the world reduce and eliminate hazards in their food systems.
John lettered in high school football, basketball, and tennis. He played competitive tennis in college and maintained an active lifestyle. He loved hunting and gardening at his farm in Sauk County. John loved fly fishing as well. He enjoyed being by the shore of Lake Superior and walking its beautiful beaches. John took great pleasure from many home dinners with Kathy, family, and friends. He loved the creative process and was a prolific artist, applying his talents to encaustic art, acrylics, oils, wood cuts, and sculptures.
John is survived by his wife, Kathleen Ley; sons, Christopher Norback ‘90, Nathaniel, and Sebastian; grandson, Avery; and younger siblings, Sally Polarski, David (Sher), Tom, Joan Verdegan (Colby), Carol Forsberg (David); as well as many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his father.
His family thanks his many caregivers at Oakwood, Northwest Dane Senior Services, and UW Health.