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Norma was born Dec. 13, 1920, to Harry R. Clark and Emma Muller Clark at home on the Middle Fork of the Malheur River west of Drewsey. Her earliest memories were of living with her Grandma Clark who was the postmistress and a milliner in Drewsey.
She started school at Pine Creek, where she finished first and second grade the first year. Her mother was her teacher the next two years at Pine Creek, and one year at Kimball Flat, where Marjorie Sitz and Eunice Cronin were in her grade.
While she and her brother, “Laddie,” walked to school at Kimball Flat from Howards with their mother, they ran their “trap line” (snares for rabbits which brought a bounty of 5 cents per pair of ears) — a hefty sum to them at that time. They hunted pheasants and ducks to eat, and muskrats and mink for fur to sell. She said times were hard, but they didn’t realize it.
Life was fun for them and Ned Howard that year. They harnessed Ned’s pet goat and hitched it to a wagon or sled, and put Ned’s gentle saddle horse in the bronco chute and swung on and off of him until he got tired of it.
The next summer, the family traveled over the Cascades to Portland, and on to California where she experienced many firsts: the redwoods, the ocean, cities, and her mom worked in a tuna factory while her father built houses with his brother-in-law.
She lived in Burns the next two years, where her mother ran a maternity home, and she and Laddie had an “Our Gang clubhouse” in the backyard where they and their friends played. The new friends they met there remained real friends the rest of their lives.
At home on the river, she and Laddie helped with the chores, the haying and trucking, but swam all summer when they weren’t busy — swimming until they chilled, and moving into the warm water from the hot spring that ran into the river until they got warm enough to move back to the cold water. She always loved swimming, and taught her girls and grandkids to swim early.
Norma always loved horses, and spent lots of time riding as a young girl, and on the ranch after she married, until she let Carol and Marjorie take over that part of the ranching.
She attended Wolf Creek School for ninth grade, and Crane High School for her sophomore, junior and senior years, where she was a top student, played basketball, and was editor of the school paper, the “Whirlwind,” and her high school year book. She had always wanted to be a teacher, but in high school, she thought she might want to be a beautician or a secretary. She abandoned these plans to become a ranching wife and mother when she married Chas Miler on December 27, 1938, and moved to the Kimball Flat Ranch, where she lived for the rest of her life. Their daughter, Carol, was born in May 1940, and Marjorie was born in January 1942.
She loved working outdoors, riding, working with the cattle, raising leppy calves and bummer lambs, milking cows and raising chickens, all the while taking her girls out with her, which instilled a love for the outdoors in them, too. She separated cream to sell and make butter, and traded eggs to the store in Drewsey for groceries. She drove horses, and later a jeep to help Chas feed, and when he purchased a Caterpillar, she drove the Cat to pull the hay onto the stacks during haying, jumping off and hooking the cable between each buckload.
Although she would rather have worked outdoors, she became an excellent cook, canning and cooking for her family, the hay crews, and community potlucks. Her pies were out-of-this-world delicious, and she derived joy from cooking dishes which were a special treat to someone. She was also an excellent seamstress, making clothing for the girls and sewing many dance costumes for them and their friends whose mothers did not sew. She tirelessly spent time teaching her daughters to cook and sew. She also led a 4-H leather club for several years, teaching her grandchildren and many of the community children leathercraft. She wrote poetry and drew pencil drawings for her own and her family’s enjoyment.
Norma was the wind beneath the wings of all around her. She was never one to seek notoriety, but supported everyone else in their endeavors, quietly sacrificing her own time, energy and desires. She served as chairman of the Cattlewomen’s Buckaroo Breakfast for two years, and was on the Drewsey Community Church board for several years. She also served as the cemetery board secretary for several years. In 1985, she was honored as Harney County Woman of the Year.
Most of all, Norma is the beloved mother, grandmother and great-grandmother to a family who were the most important of all to her throughout her lifetime. She remains an example of selfless Christian motherhood to all of her family.
She is survived by her sister-in-law, Marjorie Howard; daughters and sons-in-law, Alfred and Carol Dunten, and Gary and Marjorie Defenbaugh; grandchildren, Ross and Anna Defenbaugh, Robb and Liz Corbett, Mitzi Defenbaugh, Tad and Rosemary Dunten, and Seth and Anne Johnson; great-grandchildren, Alex, Kassi, and Logan Defenbaugh, Alaina, Olivia and Chas Corbett, Jake Frates, Kaylyn McClintock (Victor), Megan, Jake and Josh McKelvie; and many nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her husband of almost 64 years, Chas; her parents Harry and Emma Clark; brother, George “Laddie” Clark (Alice); brother-in-law. Ned Howard; sister-in-law, Adelyn Racine Daly (Owen); and brother-in-law, Alfred Welcome (Lillian).
Donations in Norma Miler’s memory may be made to the Chas and Norma Miler Scholarship Fund, in care of LaFollette’s Chapel, PO Box 488, Burns, OR 97720. LaFollette’s Chapel is in charge of arrangements.