Gardner, Nora Lee

Nora Lee Gardner
Submitted by: Cynthia Sample, granddaughter

Nora Lee Gardner Pettey was born to Irena V. Impson and Rodolphus Cantin Gardner on October 5, 1892 in the Old Bennington community, Indian Territory. Her father was a County Judge for the Choctaw Nation. Nora Lee was one of eleven Sunday afternoon reading Bible stories to the younger children. She also remembered fondly her visits with her grandmother, “Aunt Polly”, on her way home from the Old Bennington School. This trip was often made by horseback. Nora Lee attended college at O.P.C. in Durant. On October 28, 1908 her parents put her on the train in Bennington, thinking they were sending their pretty young daughter back to school. Instead, Grover Cleveland Pettey convinced Nora Lee, by way of secret correspondence, to elope. They were married that day in Durant. Irena was so angry with her sixteen-year-old daughter that she didn’t speak to her for some time. Nora Lee and Grover had six children, three of who are still living. Grover died in 1976. One of Nora Lee’s proudest accomplishments was her role in collecting building funds for the New Bennington Presbyterian Church in 1933. She even received a donation from will Rogers! Nora Lee later served her church as treasurer and elder for many years. When she was in her 50’s, Nora Lee completed training and worked as a licensed practical nurse until an auto wreck ended her career. This was only a year after she, although already in her 70’s, was able to build a new house and pay cash for it. A happy occasion was when she was honored in September of 1986 as the oldest living original Choctaw enrollee, and served as grand marshal of the Choctaw Nation Labor Day Parade at Tushkahoma. Nora Lee Gardner Pettey died five months later in Durant on January 6, 1987. She was enrolled as a Choctaw on August 17, 1899 when she was seven years old. My grandmother was always proud that she was Choctaw.