Arizona Says Goodbye To Historian, Mentor, Friend

Noble gave us enthusiasm, encouragement, humor, friendship

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Marguerite Noble died Jan. 1, 2007, less than a month before her 97th birthday.

She was the recipient of many awards over the years. She was named one of the first 10 CultureKeepers by the Westin Kierland Resort Arizona Centennial Project and given the Spirit of Arizona award.

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Marguerite "Dickie" Parker with Homer Ward, near the dude ranch resort, Castle Hot Springs, circa 1930s near Wickenburg.

But locally, Marguerite is best known as the author of the books, "Filaree" and "Crossing Trails," for her frequent articles on the history of the area and, until her health began to fail, as a popular guest speaker.

She was also one of four authors of a definitive book on the history of Payson and the Rim Country, the Northern Gila County Historical Society's "An Illustrated History of the Rim Country."

She is also known by many as a dear friend and the mentor of a great many writers.

Once you met Marguerite, it was hard to remember a time when you didn't know her.

She was a tiny woman, with a voice softened by the years. But she was a dynamo who left an impression larger than life everywhere she went -- usually wearing her signature sunbonnet. "Marguerite was a wonderful woman," said town historian, author and fellow Arizona CultureKeeper Jayne Peace Pyle. "She loved to entertain. She was gracious. She was a real pioneer woman.

"She inspired me and encouraged me so much. Without her, I don't know if I would ever have released my "History of Gisela, Arizona" book. I was so timid then, and she pushed me right along. Then two years ago, when it was time to send my novel, "Muanami," to the printer, I first took it to Marguerite. She read it and loved it, so I sent it on. She was at all my book signings, being my cheerleader.

"She took me to the Arizona Women's Hall of Fame 20 years ago and showed me that we need to write, we need to tell our stories, we need to leave a record for future generations. I am so glad that she was my friend."

Pyle wasn't the only author to be inspired by Noble's encouragement.

Arizona author Don Dedera said, "She was one of the best friends I've ever had in my life. She was such a special person and had such special talent. Her book, ‘Filaree' was one of the earliest major statements in the literature of the West on the sacrifice of women. There was no greater champion for women in Arizona. She reminded us through her teaching and preaching that the men of the West would not have got very far without the women. She was always encouraging, always trying to lift spirits."

Her legacy will outlive her in the Marguerite Noble Research Library of the Rim Country Museum (in Green Valley Park), he said.

Marguerite was one of very few natives of Arizona Territory.

"I used to tease her about being born where Roosevelt Lake is, telling her she should have gone into bass fishing because she spoke the language," Dedera said.

What made Marguerite so special to many can be heard in words she wrote to the Payson Roundup in mid-May 2000.

She wrote, "Your My View about May Day baskets was very, very good. I wish the practice would be revived.

"When we moved here from Phoenix and were strangers, I was amazed and delighted to find a beautiful bedraggled May Day basket on my door knob come May 1. No one in sight.

"This was such a welcome to Payson. I knew it came from the little preschool girl across the street, Shea Hatch.

"It was the most beautiful floral arrangement and container I have ever seen. The paper basket was woven from strips of various-colored paper, all punched and glued and stapled with no reason nor rhyme. The flowers were precious, native wild daisies, wilted and broken-stemmed by a child's fingers.

"This was a welcome to Payson and was the beginning of a friendship. The little girl is now a teenager and no longer gathers the wild daisies, but our friendship was cemented with her first May basket. We are bonded.

"The May basket wilted years ago, but the memory remains fresh and treasured in my keepsakes.

"I know the child's action came from her mother, who must have remembered her own childhood practice of May 1. Oh, that the young mothers of today would up and revive the practice."

Marguerite Noble was born Thelma Marguerite Parker to parents Arminda Jane Solomon and Daniel Webster Parker on Jan. 29, 1910 at Roosevelt of the Crossing, as some old-timers call it, or Arizona Territory. Her family and long-time friends called her "Dickie" -- a nickname she acquired as a girl.

Her son, Roger Buchanan, said it was the name of one of her first boyfriends and her brothers teased her about him by calling her by his name. It stuck.

Marguerite, according to information from her daughter, Cynthia Buchanan Cowley, was the youngest daughter in the Parker family and only she and her brother, Port, were born in Arizona Territory. The older siblings were born in Texas.

She attended school in Punkin Center and Florence and went on to Tempe Normal School and received bachelor's and master's degrees from Arizona State University.

She was an educator for many years, teaching at Morenci for a time, and, in El Paso, Texas while married to her first husband, Henry Buchanan, who worked for the railroad.

Most of her teaching career was spent at the Creighton School District of Phoenix, first in the 1930s and then again from 1945 until she retired in the 1970s. She divorced her first husband and later married Charles Noble, who died in 1993.

One would think someone born in the Edwardian era, even in Arizona Territory, would be somewhat reserved. While Marguerite was a fine lady, she also loved a good joke.

She invited this writer to lunch at her home one day and served sandwiches. It was an unusual meat, but it tasted fine. I asked her what it was and told me it was beef tongue. I don't know what my expression was, but she laughed so hard she made herself start coughing.

She shared another example of her humor when she was named an Arizona CultureKeeper.

CultureKeepers are defined as "individuals who have made a positive impact on Arizona's history, culture, environment or economy."

When told she was being honored for her contributions, Marguerite reportedly said, "I can contribute a lot. I know how to make jerky gravy on a campfire and I know how to make coffee in a tin can on a campfire."

She could do all that and so much more. And she contributed so much more than her written works. She contributed her enthusiasm, encouragement, humor and friendship to everyone lucky enough to meet her.

In addition to being survived by her two children, Marguerite is also survived by a granddaughter, Lane Buchanan of New York, many nieces, nephews, cousins and a multitude of friends.

Graveside services were held at 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 4, at the Payson Pioneer Cemetery.

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