Nora Winifred Nowell was one of five children born to John “Jack” Nowell and Agnes Kennedy, who had immigrated to Millet from Brigham, England. Nora was named after two aunts, both nuns, living in England. As a child, her father gave her the nickname of “Snooks” or “Snooky”.
Living in the Lucas School District, the children had quite a distance to go to get to school, so Jack would always take them in the morning, either in the wagon, sleigh or in their 1928 Chevy. In the wintertime, they would heat rocks or bricks in the oven, put them into sacks, and stick them under the horse blankets to keep warm. They had to walk home from school, sometimes walking on the railway tracks because it was a shorter walk. When the No. 2A Highway was built, cutting through the east part of the Nowells' land, they would walk back from school along the highway. The traffic was a lot sparser and slower at the time.
There was always plenty of work to do on the farm. They had cattle, horses, pigs, and chickens. They would have to pick roots on the new breaking, put up the hay, and look after their big garden with fruit trees and strawberries. During the war years they also kept bees, and so had the sticky job of extracting the honey from the cones. For many years, hail meant they had no crop to thresh. When they did have crop to thresh, Bill Winter would come to help with his threshing machine and his crew of eight to ten men. After the threshing there would be threshing parties and the men would settle their threshing bills with their neighbours. There was no power or telephone on the farm until 1959. Instead they used coal-oil lamps, gas lamps, and lanterns.
Living so close to both the highway and the railroad tracks, they had many transients come to the farm looking for food and for work. One such man was so hungry that when a bowl of jam was placed on the table, he ate it all as if it were a bowl of fruit! Other exciting events included Christmas concerts, which were potential opportunities to get a new dress. Track meets, held in the late spring, where also something Nora looked forward to. They would compete against other schools for ribbons and points. Nora boarded in Wetaskiwin while she finished high school there.
After high school, Nora began working as a secretary at a local lawyer’s office, where she worked until she married Edwin Ziebarth. They met at a Pie Social when he bought the lemon pie she had made and they ate it together. They were married on October 1, 1947. In August 1951, Nora’s mother, who had been sick for many years, passed away. This left her father alone on the farm, where he lived until March 1959, when he passed away due to a stroke. In July 1950, Nora’s first child, Diane, was born. She was followed by the twins, Douglas and Daryl, in December 1952. The family was greatly saddened by the sudden passing of Daryl, aged only two and a half months old, in March 1953.
The Ziebarths bought a lot in the village of Millet, where there were very few homes at the time. In the fall of 1956 they moved a two-roomed house onto the lot, later building on a porch. The house was heated with a coal and wood stove. Water had to be carried over from the neighbours and then kept in a pail on a cupboard. On some cold winter mornings, there would be a layer of ice on top of the pail. After deciding to build on their lot, they sold their little house and temporarily moved into a house across the track at the north end of Millet. In the fall of 1960 they moved into the basement of their new house. Their second daughter and last child, Darlene, was born in January 1961.
Nora was always a busy lady. She worked as a sales clerk at various local grocery and hardware stores, including Millet Hardware, Millet Super A Grocery, Wetaskiwin IGA, and Millet Bigway. She was a people person with a kind and gentle manner, and she loved the contact with people that working as a cashier brought. When Darlene started school, so did Nora, as the Millet School secretary.
Nora spent countless hours volunteering. She hosted 4H meetings for years, even when they still lived in the basement. She also kept busy with her children’s activities like the W.I. Girls club, Scouts, hockey, skating, baseball, and Girl Guides – and she didn’t even drive! Both she and Ed were very involved in the Peace Hills Lutheran Church, southwest of Millet. Nora taught Sunday School and typed the church’s financial records. She would also type the financial report for Ed’s cabinet shop business. She helped with the Municipal Census for approximately five years. As well as doing charity fundraising and canvassing, she helped in the production of Tales and Trails of Millet.
Nora did not get her license until her youngest child received her driver’s training and license. Then, after around thirty years of renewing her learner’s permit, she took driver’s training herself and received her license. Before she received her own license, she was co-pilot/navigator for her good friend, Eleanor Grant, in several memorable Millet car rallies. The best was in 1973, when Nora and Eleanor not only won first place but also beat both of their husbands’ teams, neither of which had placed near the top. However, their driver-navigator skills were not as keen when their roles were reversed. During one census season they were using Nora’s car, and managed to put a dent in it. Hoping to keep Ed from seeing it, Nora went over to Doug’s auto body shop to see if he could fix it. In a twist of fate, Ed was at the shop when she arrived, and she had to confess what had happened.
On top of her volunteer work, her job, and raising her family, she also babysat and gave neighbourhood home perms. She and Ed were very social. In their younger years they enjoyed dancing –their favourite song was “In the Mood.” They also enjoyed playing cards (both for money or not), camping, bowling, and fishing. Some of these events, such as bowling and card tournaments took place through the Millet Royal Canadian Legion, which they were both very involved in. She wrote for the Tellim News (the Millet Legion newspaper) and was the Legion’s correspondent to the National Legion Magazine. During her time with the Legion, she served as Secretary, Membership Chair, Service Officer, and as a member of the phoning committee. She also helped with many pancake breakfasts, Remembrance Days, fundraising and more. If there was an event that needed help, she always stepped up. In honour of her long and dedicated service, Nora was awarded a lifetime membership in March 1999. She was also awarded the Chamber of Commerce Millet Community Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.
Community, friends, neighbours, and family were very important to Nora. Her entire life was centered around her family and good friends, such as Albert and Eleanor Grant. A large part of this was cooking, baking, and entertaining. Visits always included a full meal. Oftentimes she would have the kettle boiling and be in the midst of preparing something to eat before family and friends were even out of their cars. She was known for making sure that everyone was served and eating before she sat down herself - only to jump up to serve dessert two bites later! Her famous peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies were enjoyed by all her grandchildren, as well as her surrogate grandchildren from the neighbourhood –although some of the dough always seemed to go missing before they could be baked.
Nora’s life was centered around family, friends, and giving of herself. She remained an active part of the community until her death on March 1, 2011. As the type of person who put everyone before herself, she was willing to give the “shirt off her back” to others. She taught her children to find a career they enjoyed, to give it their 110%, and that volunteering makes for a well-rounded life. She also taught them that no event was too small to celebrate, and that family comes first. Leading by example, she showed them how to serve others.