Norlene Weech was born Jan. 23, 1934, in her parents’ Pima home to David Henry Weech and Hannah May Allen Weech. She was the sixth of eight children. Her older siblings were Lanair, Bertell and Bulan, May Louise (Taylor) and Lawana (Morris). Two younger sisters came later, Verla (Wheeler) and Davida (Baumgartner).
Her dad had been brought to the new settlement of Smithville (Pima) from Utah at age 4 by his parents, Hyrum and Sarah Dall Weech, Hyrum being one of the original 28 settlers. Norlene’s maternal grandparents were William and Mary Louise Alder Allen. The Weeches, Dalls and Allens were all from England, with the Alders being from Switzerland.
Growing up, the Weech children spent summers at Columbine on Mount Graham, where Hannah May was kept busy sewing school dresses for her girls.
Norlene recalls, “During the summer before my senior year, Lillie Berry and I worked on a girls dude ranch in Aripine for our seminary teacher, Jay Turley. The girls there thought we were real cowgirls and told us we had a cute accent. These were girls from New York City Jewish families, and it wasn’t us who had the accent!” Her pay for the whole summer was $100 — needless to say, the most she had ever dreamed of having. It was while working on that ranch that she heard the radio announcement that we were at war with Korea.
Her first 12 years of schooling were all in Pima. During high school, her time was taken up with volleyball, basketball and softball, playing in the band and singing in the choir. As a senior, she was also a cheerleader and a Salad Bowl (now Fiesta Bowl) princess. How exciting it was to ride through downtown Phoenix in a pink Cadillac with the Pima High School band marching behind her! At this time, there were only 90 students at PHS, with 30 of those in the band. The members held various fund-raisers and purchased new uniforms, which they were very proud of. Norlene said, “We marched in every parade in the Valley — two of which were for the grand opening of the snazzy new Gila Theater and our own Pima Theater. We even went to El Paso and marched in the Sun Bowl Parade!”
On Mother’s Day 1951, the first Pima Seminary graduation was held during sacrament meeting. Classes were 7 a.m. each weekday morning in the bishop’s office, and one had to attend four years to graduate. Four others achieved this with Norlene: Louis McBride, Cora Beth Hooper, Carol Carpenter and Keith Crockett.
After high school, Norlene attended Eastern Arizona Junior College, graduating in 1953 with a degree in business and secretarial training, having worked her way through clerking at the Corner Drug in Safford and as secretary to the basketball and football coaches, Bruce Larson and Wally Nalder. A job at Valley National Bank followed.
As a freshman at EAJC, she met Lyle Robinson, whom she would later marry. When she finished her schooling, Lyle came home from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and dated her and was drafted into the Army. They married Oct. 19, 1953, and were stationed in Atlanta.
During the 18 months Lyle spent in Korea, Norlene came home and, after losing their first baby, went to work at Pima High as a secretary and bookkeeper and evenings at the Pima Theater. When Lyle returned home, she took time off to start their family, and they began to build their home, a little at a time, without borrowed funds. They have lived there since 1961, having raised their five children there. Norlene again worked at the school and, in 1969, had the honor of having the annual dedicated to her.
Norlene recalls, “When I was a young girl growing up, my father was the Pima town clerk. There was no town hall in those days, so he did all the bookkeeping and town business in our home. The mayor and police officer would come to our home to conduct the town’s business. I never imagined that, many years later, I would hold the same position.”
In 1973, Norlene began working part-time with Dorothy Mattice, Pima’s town clerk. Town Hall was in the old bank building, combined with the museum. In 1975, a new Town Hall was built, which is now the library. One of the prison inmates and Norlene laid all of the floor tile. When the officials moved to the new quarters, Dorothy opted to stay and “man” the museum, so Norlene became Pima’s town clerk, a job she loved and held until 1985.
Pima’s Centennial Celebration took place during 1979, after a year of planning, and was filled with events that took almost a year to carry out. There were programs, a family rodeo, a beard-growing contest, dances and a town band. Norlene directed a children’s choir and sang in the adult choir. A horseback trek over the original route to Pima was a fun part of the activities. Heritage Park was dedicated, along with monuments to the pioneers and to the fallen soldiers of World War II.
The “Pima Centennial Book” was published, a result of the efforts of hundreds, with Norlene contributing the sections on church and the town. Historical sites were marked with signs. Multiple class reunions were enjoyed. The culmination was a big, colorful parade and performance of drama and music, topped off with a huge display of fireworks. Norlene compiled this “once-in-a-lifetime” event into a book, “Town of Pima — Centennial Memories 1879-1979.”
During her tenure as clerk, all of the cemetery records were organized and the Little League ball fields were built. A big challenge, but a very worthwhile project, was installation of the sewer system. Norlene also performed duties as the town magistrate and headed the Planning and Zoning Board.
After leaving Town Hall, she took a job at Eastern Arizona College as Maintenance Department secretary, then she and Lyle were dorm parents in Mark Allen Hall in the first year it was co-ed. Her last employment was that of a rural mail carrier for the Safford Post Office, retiring in 1993.
Both Norlene and Lyle have held many callings in their church, but a favorite of both is when Lyle was called as a counselor in the College Ward Bishopric, where they both worked with the college students. As a treat to themselves, they join thousands of others at Education Week on the BYU campus in Provo each year.
They have been married 59 years, and their five children, Colleen Rocha, David (Jolynn), Lisa Norton, Lori Ann Mark and John (Jennifer), have given them 16 grandchildren and 13 stepgrandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren and 15 stepgreat-grandchildren.