Norbert Henry Ebel, Jr. December 26, 1962-February 21, 2022
“I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7
After years of exuberantly worshipping Jesus, Norbert stepped into eternity to worship his beloved Savior face to face. On February 21, 2022, at 59 years of age, his intense and painful 14-month battle with tongue cancer ended. Without complaining, he worshipped through and fought valiantly the good fight of faith to the end, always believing he would overcome it, never once considering he might not make it through. His optimism and strong will to live helped him to persevere courageously through many tough moments and close calls even to the end.
Norbert was a delightful Christmas present to the Ebel family in the waning days of 1962, arriving a few minutes after midnight on December 26 in Omaha, Nebraska. The seventh of nine children, he was born to Norbert Henry Ebel, Sr. and Georgia Claire (Staudacher) Ebel, both of German heritage. Since his very first day, he had a way of making events special and bringing joy to all those he encountered.
Norbert was a joyful kid who loved to laugh and tease and was known for his many antics growing up. Norbert learned a strong work ethic at home, tending the large family garden, trimming hedges, mowing the enormous lawn, and doing plenty of dishes. Norbert’s dad was the first one of his large family to move off the farmlands of Northeastern Nebraska to attend the University and raise a family in the big city of Omaha. Frequent family vacations back to Creighton, Nebraska to visit “The Farm” and extended family cultivated those farming roots in the heart of Norbert and his brothers.
In 1982, a year after graduating from Creighton Prep High School, Norbert followed 3 of his older brothers Mike, John, and Mark to Alaska seeking adventure, fresh air, and clean rivers. He loved Alaska and the great outdoors. His brothers and he had the adventure of a lifetime in the fall/winter of 1983 when they flew out to the raw Alaskan wilderness to homestead a parcel at Big River near McGrath. They built a cabin, made friends with the birds, ate caribou pizza in their homemade oven, and read stories together in the evenings after their work was done. The biggest highlight of Norbert’s whole life came after his brother Mike asked each of the brothers one evening if they were “saved”. Norbert answered yes because his brothers did, but it really bothered him that he had lied. The next day on his domestic duty turn, while the other brothers were building the cabin, Norbert looked up the word “saved” in their Study Bible and found that it was short for salvation. He learned that because he had done wrong things he was separated from God and deserved punishment, but he found hope in the verses that God still loved him and eagerly wanted a relationship with him. Sitting on the side of a mountain looking over the tributary of the Kuskokwim River, Norbert poured out his heart to God asking forgiveness for all the wrong he had done and declared his desire to follow Jesus the rest of his life. He always said, “the heavens didn’t open up and the angels didn’t sing, but something changed in me right then.” His heart was flooded with a supernatural peace, and he determined to read the Bible cover to cover to find out what happened in his heart. Later he learned that he had encountered God’s love and received His free gift of salvation. After his life changing encounter on the mountain, he eagerly wanted to study 2 things: God’s Word and people. He continued his studies at the University of Alaska Fairbanks the next fall.
Norbert’s college days were rich ones full of learning, friends, Bible studies, and lots of large gatherings and adventures. Norbert was always a people gatherer and had a philosophy of “the more the merrier”. He was known to frequently stuff 30+ people into his tiny one-room dry cabin for a Bible study and pizza making event. With a thirst to learn, Norbert took 2 degrees from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in Speech Communications and Sociology in 1988 and was one credit shy of a third degree in Psychology. He loved his time at the University, and he loved his season of studying people and the Word of God. He considered going on to become a counselor, but life took him other directions.
To pay for school Norbert worked on the grounds crew with many other dear friends during the semesters at UAF, doing landscaping and greenhouse work, and shoveling sidewalks in the winter. During that time, Norbert knew almost everyone on campus on a first name basis. He always enjoyed work and he worked hard. During the summers Norbert took up long-lining commercial fishing for halibut and black cod on the Gulf Maiden and did one season of crabbing in the Bearing Sea. In 1990 Norbert did a Discipleship Training School with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) on the Mercy Ship Anastasis sailing to Costa Rica and Guatemala for their missions. He loved the heart of YWAM and eventually served on the YWAM board in Fairbanks years later. That same year Norbert and his brothers started homesteading a large parcel of land down in Nenana affectionately named “The Farm”. They cleared land and collected machines and dreams with the intent of someday helping rehabilitate young men, giving the men skills to work hard and discipling them to know God. It was in this season with no lack of broken things laying around that Norbert determined that he wanted to learn how to fix things and went back to school to receive training as a Heavy Equipment Diesel Mechanic at Hutchinson Career Center. One year later, upon completion, he began his career as a diesel mechanic at NC Machinery where he enjoyed rebuilding components like transmissions and covering the service contract at Ft. Knox. After 14 years at NC Machinery, he started his own business: Norbert’s Equipment Repair, Inc. For 11 years, based out of Fairbanks, Norbert repaired broken equipment and did contract work all over the state of Alaska. He was exceptional in his field and could repair most things. In awe, his son Jonathan was known to say, “Dad, you can fix anything except broken lightbulbs and potato chips.” Norbert never shrunk back from a challenge. However difficult it might’ve been, he would find a solution and had the perseverance and resourcefulness to bring projects to completion.
Norbert loved being married. Before he met Lori, he met her mom on a young adult/singles trip to their family cabin. Lori’s mom came back from the weekend saying she had met the man Lori would marry. The following weekend, Norbert was part of the rescue endeavor when record snows snowed Lori’s family in at their cabin. When Norbert met Lori, he instantly liked her and threw her in the snowbank to show it. He thought this was a little too obvious, so he threw her mom in the snowbank, too. The next weekend, Norbert invited Lori to Easter service with him. They enjoyed worshipping together so much that they went later that evening to a city-wide worship service. Their 25 years of marriage was characterized by sweet times of worship and encounters with God. Lori was the love of Norbert’s life. He would often be heard quoting one of his favorite verses, “He who finds a wife, finds a good thing.” They loved ministering to broken people together and raised their 2 boys on a little farm outside of Fairbanks.
Norbert was an amazing father to their 2 children David and Jonathan. He and his wife Lori homeschooled their boys all the way through high school. Norbert delighted in being a part of their schooling but thought education must go beyond book learning and introduced the boys to all kinds of practical things… hunting, fishing, packing airplanes/helicopters, fixing things, contracting, growing a garden, and raising and butchering animals. He modeled for them loving God, people, and life as well as having determination, perseverance, and an amazing work ethic. Norbert also sowed into many other young peoples’ lives, becoming a spiritual father to many.
Norbert was funny, fun-loving, charismatic, mischievous, exuberant, adventurous, and just fun to be around. He was a jokester, loving to tease and make people laugh. He always had a big smile and his joy showed through the twinkle in his eyes.
With boundless energy, Norbert was known for going a thousand miles an hour, doing a million things at a time, and never getting overwhelmed. He was able to manage a lot. Norbert was very confident and was a risk taker, never afraid of a challenge. He was also known for doing extremes. At the Ebel house these extremes were known as “Ebel Maneuvers”, or “Manures”, if they got really bad. He would push limits especially with vehicles, often getting them really, really stuck. Because of this he earned another German middle name from his immediate family: Norbert Gutenstuck Ebel.
Norbert loved God deeply and loved worshipping Him, especially with Lori and his boys. He treasured his time with the Lord in the early mornings where he leisurely read his Bible with a good strong cup of black coffee, while praying through the cares and concerns in his and others’ lives. The Lord taught him how to love and serve those around him and forgive those who wronged him. Norbert’s relationship with God was not religious one bit. He lived by conviction but was free in Christ.
Norbert loved people and had many deep, genuine, and life-long friendships. He would do anything for anyone, and poured his life into his family, friends, ministry, and work. He loved praying for and ministering to people out and about or in the ministry line at church. He would often pray for peoples’ healing, walk them through forgiving others, and lead them to the Lord and His kindness. He was passionate about helping people walk in freedom and truth. He also had a way with people even in very difficult situations. He loved listening to God’s voice and then sharing what he perceived the Father was saying to them from His heart. Norbert also showed God’s love to others with his actions. He could often be found on cold Fairbanks days pulling people out of ditches or helping them fix their broken cars. He was generous with his time and resources and very attentive to peoples’ needs, offering prayer, encouragement, hospitality, and practical help for people through their rough times. He was a man who, without reservation, would help anyone and always do more for others than he did for himself.
Norbert loved the Native community dearly. He loved ministering to and with them at Mt. Mover’s Church and YWAM as well as working alongside them in the villages. He had many dear Native friends in Fairbanks and around Alaska. Norbert was known for his hospitality and loved hosting big gatherings, cooking for his family and friends, and drawing everyone in who needed a family.
Norbert is survived by his wife Lori Ebel and their 2 sons David (22) and Jonathan (19) Ebel of Fairbanks, Alaska; his mother Georgia Ebel of Omaha, Nebraska; sister MaryBeth Burton (Tom) of Omaha, Nebraska; brother Mike Ebel (Kelly) of Fairbanks, Alaska and Red Deer, Canada; brother John Ebel (BeLinda) of Fairbanks, Alaska; sister Catherine McDermott (Craig) of Omaha, Nebraska; brother Mark Ebel (Katarina Ebelova) of Fairbanks, Alaska; brother Tim Ebel (Nancy) of St. Cloud, Minnesota; sister Lisa Pfeifer (Doug) of Lincoln, Nebraska; as well as a plethora of nieces, nephews, great nieces, great nephews and cousins in Alaska, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wyoming, Montana, Iowa, Oregon, and New York. His legacy lives on through his sons and the many spiritual children he had.
Norbert is preceded in death by his grandparents; brother Tom Ebel; father Norbert Ebel, Sr; mother-in-law Joan Humphrey; as well as many aunts and uncles from Nebraska.
Thank you to all those who earnestly prayed for Norbert’s recovery this year and to all the wonderful caretakers this last year in Phoenix, Arizona and Tijuana, Mexico.
There will be a Celebration of Life Service for Norbert on Saturday March 5th at 2:30pm at The Lighthouse (formerly Door of Hope Church), 270 Fairhill Rd, Fairbanks, Alaska with a viewing beforehand from 12-2pm. Norbert-style, we will also have a divine potluck following the service at the church with lots of delicious food and fellowship, so bring your favorite dishes to share. There will be a time of sharing memories of Norbert during the potluck, so please consider bringing a written memory or recollection of Norbert ready to share and/or leave for a memory book we are compiling for his family and friends. The service should be available to watch live (and later too) on the Blanchard Family Funeral Home Facebook page if cell service cooperates. If you are unable to attend or unable to finish your memoirs by Saturday please send memories and pictures before April 10th to both Norbert's sister Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org and to his wife Lori at email@example.com. Please include how you knew Norbert and what you loved about him in your story. If desired, memorial contributions and cards may be sent to the family at PO Box 10927, Fairbanks, Alaska 99710.
Another memorial/burial service will be held towards the end of May 2022 in Fairbanks when the ground thaws. Norbert was well-loved, cherished deeply, and was a blessing to many. He will be greatly missed, but we know that he is now in heaven doing his favorite thing: exuberantly worshipping Jesus, as well as dancing on the golden streets where he would love to see you again someday. Please consider opening your heart to receive Jesus' precious love and forgiveness and invitation into His family. Look up and live for eternity!