Former Whitman County Commissioner Nora Mae Keifer-Olfs died Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023, at the age of 89 in Spokane at Faith Adult Family Home after a brief illness.
The youngest of seven children, she was born Nora Mae Butterfield to Ben and Bessie Butterfield in LaCrosse on Aug. 28, 1933.
After spending some of her growing-up years in LaCrosse and Newport, Wash., her family moved to Pullman when Nora Mae was in the third grade. She grew up to attend Pullman High School, where she began to show the interest and involvement in the selfless acts of community service for which she was most well known. Nora Mae became the first female student body president of PHS, participated in Girls Federation and was a recipient of the M. Joy Bell award for her active involvement in school activities — and she did it all while working part time for Miller’s Variety Store.
Upon graduating from high school in 1951, Nora Mae planned on becoming a telephone operator until she was approached by local farmers, Carl and Minnie Boyd, who offered to sponsor her through college. With their help, she attended Washington State College (now WSU), majored in speech and theater, and was a member of Sigma Kappa Sorority, eventually serving as chapter president. She appeared in many productions in WSC’s Theater Department, including the lead in The Madwoman of Challiot, which she considered her “crowning achievement.” She graduated from WSC with the class of 1955.
While attending the wedding of friends Lola and Howard Finch, Nora Mae met and later married Dale F. Keifer on Sept. 25, 1955. They settled in Pullman, where Dale took over the farm from his father, Dan Keifer, and where they would live happily for the next 42 years. They raised four children together, and Nora Mae was involved in many community activities, including her 60-year service to Pullman Child Welfare, Alumni President of Alpha Gamma chapter of Sigma Kappa (also over 60 years), Eastern Star, Pullman Chamber of Commerce, Blue Birds leader, Cub Scout pack leader, West Country Club and many other groups and organizations, all while partnering with Dale as he ran the farm. She returned to working retail sales in the early 1970s, working first for Dick Emerson at the Empire Department Store and later for Bernie Myklebust at Myklebust’s Department Store managing the women’s clothing department. The Keifers bought Myklebust’s in 1980 and Nora Mae ran the store for the next seven years.
In 1987, the Keifers decided to sell Myklebust’s, Nora Mae went to work for the Community Action Center for one year before she ran for her first term as Whitman County commissioner in 1988. Along with her good friend, Maggie McGreevy, she was elected as one of the first woman commissioners in Whitman County’s history. She served three terms, and was most proud of her efforts establishing the Bill Chipman Trail and the Dry Creek Road projects. In life and in public service, she was known for her fairness, good judgment and willingness to listen to her constituents.
Her husband, Dale, died of cancer in 1997, and Nora Mae retired from the commission in 2000. Not willing to just sit at home, she became house director for Gamma Phi Beta sorority at WSU, and served there for the next five years. It was during this time that she met Harold R. Olfs, of Pullman. Though the two had first met in third grade, they never knew each other as adults until Harold contacted Nora Mae to discuss a political matter. But love blossomed once again, and they married May 27, 2005. Together, they settled in Harold’s country home, 1 mile outside of Pullman. They enjoyed movies, music, attending theater and socializing with friends. Harold died of cancer in 2013, and Nora Mae spent her remaining years in quiet retirement.
Nora Mae was preceded in death by her parents and her husbands, as well as her siblings, Alice Reiber (Harvey), of Pullman, Florence Lyle-Haynes (Robert-Abe), of Pullman, Luella Knapp (Robert), of Spokane, Ray Butterfield (Estelle), of Texarkana, Texas, Ben Butterfield (Donna), of Kent, Wash., and John Butterfield (Irene), of Ellensburg, Wash.
Nora Mae is survived by her children, Kevin Keifer, of Pullman, Connie Reeves (John), of Eatonville, Wash., Dave Keifer (Anna), of Madras, Ore., and Daren Keifer (Carla), of Pullman, as well as 10 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren, and many nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews. She was loved and will be greatly missed by her family and friends.
A remembrance of Nora Mae’s life is being planned for 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 20, at the Community Congregational United Church of Christ, 525 NE Campus St., Pullman. She will be laid to rest at the IOOF Cemetery in Pullman.
Corbeill Funeral Home of Pullman is in charge of arrangements. The family suggests donations may be made in her name to Pullman Child Welfare, Hospice of the Palouse or the Regional Theatre of the Palouse. Online condolences may be sent to corbeillfuneralhomes.com.