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Notable People

Henry and Emery May Norweb - Diplomat

9511 Lake Shore Boulevard
R. Henry Norweb
R. Henry Norweb

R. Henry Norweb was a career foreign service officer who held posts around the world. As a globe-trotting career diplomat, coin collector, expert in international radio, and retired U. S. ambassador, Henry Norweb, and his wife, Emery May, were eyewitnesses to some of the 20th century’s most stirring events.

They saw the first American troops march through Paris after World War I. They experienced four revolutions in Chile in as many months. They witnessed the Japanese government deleting all reports of American aid during the 1923 Yokohama earthquake.

Raymond Henry Norweb was born on May 31, 1894, in Nottingham, England. At age 18, he moved to Elyria, Ohio, with his family. He received a B.A. degree from Harvard in 1916, and began his diplomatic service that same year, taking the second secretary’s post in Paris to William G. Sharp, the ambassador to France.

Emery May Holden the gutsy and determined daughter of Albert and Katherine Holden, was born on November 30, 1895, in Salt Lake City, Utah. She had just graduated from Westover School in Middlebury, Connecticut, when at 21 years old, she went to London as World War I began. Emery May then volunteered in Paris, driving an ambulance and caring for the wounded in French hospitals. In Paris, she met Henry Norweb and was immediately taken with the charming and well-mannered young Englishman. Emery May and Henry married in Paris in 1917.

Emery May Norweb
Emery May Norweb

Following the war, the Norweb’s diplomatic career included postings to Japan as secretary of the embassy in 1922, to the Netherlands as secretary and chargés d’affaires of the embassy in 1925, and to Chile as a counselor in 1929. Henry was appointed envoy to Bolivia on April 25, 1936, envoy to the Dominican Republic on April 22, 1937,  and ambassador to Peru on January 12, 1940.

President Roosevelt promoted him to the ambassador to Portugal on November 15, 1943. This was one of the most important wartime posts for an American diplomat since Lisbon was among the largest neutral capitals in Europe. Portugal was the center of much diplomatic maneuvering and was considered a country to which only the most astute diplomat should be assigned. Norweb headed the negotiations for establishing the United States airbase in the Azores, in time for the Azores to play a substantial role in the Far Eastern Campaign.

After Portugal, Norweb continued as ambassador to Panama on February 9, 1945, and ambassador to Cuba on May 21, 1945.

After thirty-one years of diplomatic service abroad, Henry and Emery May retired in 1948 to Katewood, the Bratenahl home they acquired in 1948 and maintained during their period of diplomatic service abroad. Norweb was appointed to serve the remaining term of William Hallaran, who resigned from Bratenahl Village Council in 1960. Norweb served ten years until he resigned in 1969.

With the return of the Norwebs to Bratenahl, Emery May, who as a child bounced tennis balls off fine old paintings in her grandparent’s home, became an active member of the Cleveland Art Museum's accessions committee. In 1949, she joined the museum's board of trustees. In 1962, she became the first woman president of the Cleveland Art Museum, one of two women holding such a position in the United States.

Henry Norweb and Emery May pursued their interest in coin collecting as a team. Emery May began collecting coins as a schoolgirl when given an American colonial coin from her father. She joined the American Numismatic Association in 1914, continuing her membership for over seventy years.  Emery May and Henry served together as members of the American Numismatic Society’s governing council. Henry began his first term in 1960, and Emery became the first woman member of the council when she took office in 1969. They both served until 1978.

After more than fifty years of coin collecting, they had the most extensive American collection of English coins and specialized in American colonial, Canadian, and South American coins. Emery May was a fellow of the Royal Numismatic Society in London and of the Smithsonian.

They made numerous gifts of rare coins to American numismatic institutions through the years, including a 52-piece collection of U.S. colonial coins and the Proof 1913 Liberty Head nickel to the Smithsonian Institution in 1982. and the Brasher doubloon to the American Numismatic Society in 1969.

Emery May became blind while in her 70’s, which interfered with her enjoyment of gardening, embroidery, and painting. She quickly learned to read Braille and worked with her coins through touch.

Henry Norweb died of cancer on October 1, 1983, at age 89. Emery May died just five months later, on March 27, 1984, at age 88. Both are buried in Lake View Cemetery.

Raymond and Emery May had three children: Raymond Henry Jr., who was born in a Paris cellar during an air raid on August 19, 1918, Jeanne Katherine (Mother Mary Joseph), born on April 18, 1920, who lived at Loch Hame with her great uncle, Guerdon Holden, while her father and mother traveled the world on diplomatic assignments; and Albert Holden, named for his grandfather, was born on November 20, 1921.