Monday, June 4, 2012

Salem's Cultural Entrepreneur ~ Nora Anderson

        A major honor accorded to Nora Anderson during her lifetime was the dedication of the first bench in Bush Pasture. On that spot she remembered her favorite patch of wild strawberries. The tribute was more than deserved: she had helped found the organization that sponsored the dedication, the Salem Garden Club.  She was also an organizer of the Oregon State Federation of Garden Clubs and their first president. 
The Anderson home on Court Street
 The beautiful garden at the Anderson home on Court Street was the scene of many garden club activities. Upstairs in her home, Mrs. Anderson performed another community service:  during the Depression she rented rooms to single
            Nora Anderson's deepest concern was with the welfare of children and their development. If a family needed clothing she would ask for the money; the forerunner of the Salem Assistance League. The Andersons had no children of their own, but took three Hispanic children into their home where they lived until graduating from high school. Her interest in school children extended to their musical education: she solicited funds for the instruments for children who played in the Junior Symphony, never hesitating to ask anyone. She believed the rich should give to the poor: even today, prominent businessmen recall she was quite insistent, "Almost impossible to resist!" one remembered.
            Before World War I, she was involved with the Women's Club and their effort to found the Salem Public Library. A bequest from her to that institution was appropriately used for the Nora Anderson Auditorium, now two meeting rooms.
            She also worked to develop facilities at the Salem General Hospital.  Her bequests have benefited the Women's Medical Surgery Department at the General unit there and the Outside-In Clinic run by the First Unitarian Church of Portland. She was also instrumental in reviving the local Unitarian Church after World War II.
            Perhaps her most dramatic experience was with the Salem Art Center Association when its headquarters Pringle Park was flooded out in 1942 and she was there to rescue its possessions.  Then, in 1947, she revived that organization as the Salem Art Association and began to raise funds to buy the original furnishings for the Bush House.
            It is an interesting footnote that Nora was born an Anderson and so did not have to change her name when she married William Everett Anderson, the owner of a local sporting goods store. Mr. Anderson was of a more easy-going disposition than his wife and probably was a good balance to her commanding personality. After his death, Mrs. Anderson was unable to manage the Court Street house and its responsibilities.  She moved to a local nursing home where she lived for a number of years.  Harvey Fox, the succeeding owner of the Anderson business, became her guardian. He recalls the years when he would take her out for drives through the city which she did so much to improve and preserve.
            Nora Anderson died in 1969 at the age of 89. Her humanitarian efforts for the citizens and institutions of our city continue to honor her life and name.
Much of this information comes from: "Nora Anderson". Panegyric II , David Duniway, editor, Jan 13, 1973. Salem, OR. Harvey Fox also contributed his memories of Bill and Nora Anderson for this profile.

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