Nora Fayme Okeson 1953 Nora Fayme Richardson
1908 - 1987

BORN: 15 Jul 1908 - Winnebago, Minnesota
BAPTISED: 15 Nov 1908, Winnebago, Minnesota
         by J.F. VanCamp - pastor, Methodist
MARRIED: Clarence Wilford OKESON
         01 Jun 1935, at the home of Virgie KUSTER
         Turtle Lake, North Dakota
DIED: 19 Jan 1987
         Mesa, Arizona

Nora Fayme Okeson and her husband Clarence were the owners and operators of the Grand Theater in Parshall, North Dakota for thirty years. Nora was also a trained concert pianist and could play several other instruments of the woodwind family well. Besides music, she taught 5th and 6th grades in the public schools. From her father Nora learned how to run a business, having worked in his merchantile store from an early age and he taught her how to pound a nail better than "sew a pretty stitch". Nora also painted and it was her interest in genealogy that led her to record much of the Richardson history that she heard and lived.

Nora was born in Winnebago, Minnesota in the summer of 1908 with severe asthma. A physician advised her parents that a move to a drier climate might help improve Nora's health. Her father first moved them to Sidney, Montana, then Dickenson, North Dakota. In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson opened up tracts of land for homesteading near what would become Parshall, North Dakota and Nora's family moved once again to Plaza, one of three towns designated as registration points for those wanting to acquire land from the government. The quarter section her father selected was near what would become the town of Parshall.

Nora Richardson, 1927

Life on the plains was hard. Nora and her parents lived in a one room sod hut that Earl built. Indians lived nearby, and while there was no mention of any trouble, Nora's mother was afraid of them. Sometime during this period, Nora's mother was butted by a calf and soon afterwords developed spinal tuberculosis, from which she never fully recovered.

The government gave homesteaders clear title to the land after you had lived on it for 14 months and so once this requirement was met, Nora's father bought a trading store in Parshall. Nora often went with him to help out learning the merchantile business alongside her father, who also continued to farm his land.

When Nora was 15, her father harvested a bumper crop off his lands and used the money to build a concrete block home in Parshall.

Nora attended and graduated from the State Normal School in Minot in 1927, a requirement for anyone wanting to teach in the public schools. And then went to Minneapolis where she studied concert piano at the McPhail Music Conservatory for three years. By then the Great Depression was in full swing, her father could not affort for her to stay in Minneapolis any longer and the market for musicians had dried up just about everywhere.

Nora took a job working as a fifth and sixth grade teacher in the town of Turtle Lake, not far from Parshall in 1932. the following year she met Clarence Okeson at Jimmy Thompson's pool hall. Clarence and Nora were married at the home of Virgie Kuster, Clarence's sister, on June 1st, 1935. After the honeymoon they moved in with Nora's parents and worked in his General Store. Nora's first and only son was born a year later. The child was born healthy, but due to complications during the birth, Nora was advised not to have any more children.

Clarence, Nora and Gyman Okeson
Clarence, Nora and Gyman Okeson
abt 1942

Nora, Clarence and Gyman continued to live in the Richardson home and work in the General Store for the remainder of the Great Depression. Nora gave music lessions to bring in extra money.

In 1941 Nora and Clarence used every bit of their savings, $750, to buy the Grand Theater in Parshall. This was at a time when movies were transitioning from silent film to "talkees" and because there was no television, theaters were one of the principle forms of entertainment and information. Living quarters were built into the side of the theater, so they were able to have a place of their own to call home. Nora and Clarence both took on extra jobs to pay off the loan more quickly, Nora teaching music and Clarence delivering milk. Nora's parents lived only a block away and so they saw each other frequently and sometimes helped out in the General Store. After a few years they were able to cut back somewhat and focus primarily on running the theater.

Nora's father died in 1967 and her mother in 1970. Clarence and Nora moved into the old Richardson house she inherited, but with their main reasons for staying in Parshall gone and both Nora and Clarence in their sixties, the two of them decided to retire. They sold the theater so they could spend the winters in Mesa, Arizona but after a couple years they sold the Richardson house as well and moved south permanently.

Nora enjoyed living in Mesa, Arizona. There was a large retirement community there and lots of opportunities to pursue her musical talents. Best of all, there was no need to shovel snow.

In 1977, ABC television broadcast the ground-breaking mini-series Roots which told the story of 9 generations of a black family, from their beginnings in Africa to what was then modern day. Roots was one of the most widly viewed television programs of all time and inspired many people, including Nora, to begin recording and researching their own family histories. Much of what we know about the Richardson and Okeson families is due to Nora's efforts following the broadcast of this program.

Nora began to pull back from many of her activities as she entered her seventies. Her son tried to convince them to move closer to his practice in Texas, but both Nora and Clarence concidered Mesa to be their home.

Nora was hospitalized late in 1986, the asthma she had been born with had never completely gone away. On January 19th, 1987 she died in a hospital near her home of a pulmonary embolism. She was 78 years old.

Nora Fayme Okeson was buried near her parents, Earl and Edith Richardson, in the Apostles Section of the Sunset Memorial Gardens in Minot, North Dakota. Her husband Clarence was buried next to her later that same year.

View the Okeson Family Photoalbum, 1900-1962
View the Richardson Family Photoalbum, 1879-1962

HUSBAND of Nora Fayme:
    Clarence Wilford OKESON

PARENTS of Nora Fayme:
    David Earl RICHARDSON
    Ida Tina Wilhelmina "Edith" SCHLOTTMAN

CHILDREN of Nora Fayme:
   1. Gyman