Vini was born in Hartford, Connecticut on May 10, 1949 to Barbara Coffin and Howard Everett “Squirrel” Norris. The eldest of 3 daughters, she attended Chaffee School in Windsor, CT, where she graduated in 1967, then Skidmore College in 1971 with her BA in English. She received her MA in English from Stanford University in 1972.
Vini taught in Palo Alto, Calif., From 1972 to 1974, then moved to Lander, Wyoming, as a student at the National Outdoor Leadership School. She then became a NOLS instructor from 1975 to 1983, then director of NOLS programs from 1977 to 1979.
Working for NOLS has taken her to Driggs, Idaho, the Tetons, and love. In 1978, she married Bill Scott and spent 10 adventurous years together. Vini started Main Street Case Company where she designed and manufactured hand-sewn musical instrument cases and other custom cases. In 1983, Vini worked for the Teton School District as Director of Migrant Education and ESL teacher. In 1989, she taught at Teton High School as an English teacher and theater coach. In 1990, the Teton Valley News recognized Vini as the Person of the Year.
A lifelong athlete, Vini has had an impressive list of achievements in the world of road bike racing, placing 10th in the very first women’s national race on stage in 1984, with the distinction of being the oldest female racer. As a member of the Snake River Cycling Club, she was a force to be reckoned with in time trial and criterium races in Idaho and Jackson, WY. Her impressive cycling times were instrumental in her women’s racing team winning the Pole Pedal Paddle Race in Jackson in the 1980s, a record never broken to date.
In 1993, Vini and Brad Exton married, bringing her the joy of parenting as a bonus mom to the children of Brad, Josh and Bailey. In 1996, they moved to Vernal, Utah. Vini has taught at Uintah High School as well as Utah State University. In 2002, the State of Utah awarded him the Researcher of the Year award. In 2005, she was recognized as Utah State University Continuing Education Teacher of the Year. After 6 years of dedicated work, she achieved the status of Dr Exton, Ed.D in English in 2008. In 2009, Vini was again recognized by Utah State University with an Innovative Practices Award.
Vini retired in 2017 and in 2019 while visiting friends she discovered the Cool Creek Co-op neighborhood in the village of Mesa, Colorado. She jumped at the chance to settle in a shared community and build her home on the Grand Mesa.
After her diagnosis in November 2020, she gardened, hiked, skiing and paddled, and was determined to see all 4 seasons in her new home. Ten weeks before her death, she took a 2 week raft trip to the Grand Canyon. She has often said that nature, friends and family have supported her during the difficult times of her illness. In addition to hospice care, she was lovingly cared for by her âwolf pack,â a small group of dedicated friends who stayed by her side until the end.
She leaves behind a rainbow of friends, family, students and colleagues who will forever be inspired by her legacy of lifelong learning and fun.
Vini is predeceased by her parents, Barbara Coffin Norris and Howard Everett Norris, and by her younger sister, Emily Norris.
She is survived by her younger sister, Dorothy “Dedo” (Jim) Norris, her son, Josh (Marie) Merrill-Exton, her daughter, Bailey (AJ) Exton, and her grandchildren, Sage and Willow Merrill- Exton and Taygen and Dalton Reitz.
Vini’s life celebrations are scheduled for spring 2022 in Mesa, Colorado and Teton Valley.
Commemorative contributions can be made to:
NOLS scholarship foundation
By link: https://nols.edu/en/portal/alumni/giving/
Loomis Chaffee – Norris Educational Environment Fund
By link – https://www.givecampus.com/campaigns/21129/donations/new
Posted by Teton Valley News October 20-16, 2021.