Nova Anne Darnell passed away on December 25th, 2021 at the age of 87. She was one of the last cowgirls to come from the families that pioneered the Santa Catalina Mountains.
She was born on September 6th, 1934 to Francis and Ruth Knagge. From a young age, she learned to cowgirl with her siblings and ride the rough terrain up to Mount Lemmon. A fun game her siblings and she played included “knock the head off the rattle-snake”, where they saw who would knock the most heads by throwing rocks, at a place called rattlesnake rock in Mount Lemmon.
With her family, Nova spent her childhood helping her family develop classic Arizona trails along the Santa Catalinas, like Finger Rock and Pima Canyon trail. Her family spent all summer helping Tucsonians make it up to Summer Haven at the top of Mount Lemmon in order to escape the Tucson Summer Heat. When Nova wasn't helping her family with the real cow-girling at the family homestead that was a tent at the base of Finger Rock, she was helping her father herd the cattle at Old Tucson for John Wayne Movies. This childhood made Nova into a true cowgirl with love for the Santa Catalina that lasted her all her life.
She was married to Rex Melvin Darnell on March 11th 1955. Rex was in the United States Air Force, and together they experienced a vast amount of cultures and places throughout his career including Puerto Rico, Japan, Farmington and Aztec New Mexico, Rapid City South Dakota and Minot North Dakota.
Through the many years of travel, Nova always made sure to teach her kids about horses and get horses for her kids to ride. Every kid had to learn how to ride without a saddle in order to truly earn their seat. Towards the end of Nova’s years in Minot, she got homesick for Arizona and its calm climate, and decided to move back to her home state where she lived out the rest of her years.
While living in Arizona, Nova was awarded Newspaper Carrier of the year for her work at the Arizona Daily Star. Nova is survived by their five children, Nora, Donna, Rexanne, Melvin and Henry.
Nova was an avid reader, lover of history and gardener with a special love of roses. She will be forever remembered as a keeper of Arizona History and a woman that had a Hard working disposition from her years as a cowgirl.