A 10-year survivor of breast cancer, former Tahlequonian Norma Boren says she’s looking forward to moving back.
She appreciates the people, the geographic beauty and community atmosphere of Tahlequah.
“Everybody is so warm and friendly,” Boren said. “And being married to a full-blood Native American, I wanted my two sons to grow up in a community that respected their heritage.”
In 1970, she moved here with her first husband, Kiowa Indian artist David Williams. She took a job as a bookkeeper at Tahlequah Ready Mix Company. The couple met a Bacone College.
Williams’ paintings can be seen as murals at Cross Fit, and in permanent collections in museums including the Philbrook Art Museum and Gilcrease in Tulsa, the Heard Museum in Arizona, the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, the Southern Plains Museum in Anadarko, and the Cherokee Heritage Center.
“Actor Vincent Price purchased over 50 paintings of David’s to sell through the Fine Arts Collection of Sears & Roebuck back in the 1960s while we were living in Los Angeles,” she said. “Mr. Price was a renown Indian art connoisseur and hired by Sears to choose the art sold through their stores nationwide.”
Williams won many national awards before he died in 1985 from complications of diabetes.
To provide for her family, the Muskogee native earned three degrees from Northeastern State University in education, Native American history, and criminal jstice, as well as a master’s degree. She began her teaching career in 1982 at Tahlequah High School, where she would remain for 20 years before retiring.
She and her second husband, Jim Boren, moved to Whitesboro, Texas, in 2002. They met when Boren came to NSU as a professor in 1991 and they married that same year.
“Although most people remember Jim as a political humorist, he was very serious in his political beliefs,” she said.
In 1996, he ran for the U.S. Senate, losing to incumbent Sen. Jim Inhofe.
“However, the campaign was very enlightening to me as an Advanced Placement government teacher. I gained much more insight into the election process as a result,” she said.
Jim also served as chief of staff to Sen. Ralph Yarborough, D-Texas, back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, as well as working on John F. Kennedy’s campaign in Texas. He earned a diplomatic appointment in Peru from Kennedy..
He started a program called Partners of the Americas in 1963, getting Kennedy’s approval just before his assassination, she said. Theprogram linked private organizations with Latin American countries to improve schools, medical facilities, and public works projects. The program is still in existence today.
“This particular part of Jim’s life is what he was most proud of,” she said.
He died in 2010 and is buried at the Fort Gibson National Cemetery.
In Texas, Norma taught AP government at Callisburg High School, near Gainesville, and Denison High School, before retiring a second time. She also became a grader for the national AP government exam, which she’s done for the past 15 years. She continues to stay active in education as a substitute teacher.
One of Boren’s favorite memories of Tahlequah is of swimming near Welling bridge.
“When I first moved to Tahlequah, we had no air conditioning in our house. However, swimming in the cold water of the Barren Fork would keep our bodies cooled down for a few hours in the hot summer,” she said.
Boren said she loves to travel. Visits to Tahlequah are usually to see family.
“I have a lot of friends who still live in Tahlequah, and I visit from time to time. My son’s family, James and Angela Williams and my grandson Emmett, still live there,” she said. “James is the treatment coordinator at the Cherokee Nation’s Jack Brown Center. I spend most of my time visiting with them on my weekend trips to Tahlequah.”