1997 News Recap
The year began with
Ajo's mention in Trailer Life magazine and the Sonoran Suncatchers
volkswalking group inaugurating a walking course in Ajo.
A resident was stabbed at a home
in Ajo following an argument.
The logo design was chosen for
the Ajo Spanish Renaissance Faire.
Harold Smith retired as superintendent
of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Bob Schumacher retired as manager
of Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge.
The International Sonoran Desert
Alliance (ISDA) celebrated its first year with an open house and festivities.
Julian Hayden awards for support and organizational assistance in creating
ISDA were presented to Bob Schumacher and Harold Smith.
Newly elected school board members
Lonell Blow, Bob Bryant, and Kord Klinefelter began their terms.
Fidel Gonzales celebrated the 43rd
year of operation of his barber shop at 1105 N. 2nd Avenue in Ajo.
Concerned residents noticed that
BHP Minerals began some exploratory investigation on the BLM land northeast
The VFW held its third annual Chili
Cookoff. Proceeds will assist the VFW in its community service activities.
The 18th annual Old
Time Fiddlers’ Contest was a two-day event which included many impromptu
jam sessions as well as planned events.
The drivers’ refresher course,
"55 Alive", sponsored by AARP, was taught by Bob & Carolyn Barger.
Four of the five real estate agents
in town met and formed the Ajo Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
The Cabeza Prieta Natural History
Association and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument continued their seasonal
interpretive programs for the education and enjoyment of residents and winter
visitors to the area. Members of the Natural History Association guided caravans
to the top of Childs Mountain several times during the winter season.
The "Sonoran Desert People's Tapestry,"
a multi-cultural collaborative art project that promotes a greater understanding
of the biodiversity of the Sonoran Desert Bioregion, is in residence at OPCNM.
Stephen K. Williams, M.D. joined
the staff at the Ajo Community Health Center.
Marceline Marietti retired after
11 years of writing her column for the Ajo Copper News.
Ajo Gibson Volunteer Fire Department
fundraising efforts began with a presentation at the Western Pima County Community
Council meeting on February 6.
Dwight Ogden of Saguaro Cable gave
donations to the AGVFD and the Ajo schools.
The sixth annual Household Hazardous
Waste Event took place at the Ajo landfill with 80 families contributing hazardous
waste materials. The event was sponsored by WPCCC.
The Ajo Red Raider basketball team
traveled to Eastfork for the last time. In the fall, they became competitors
in the 2A division and opponents will be schools closer to home.
The Desert Music Club presented
its annual Parade of American Music at the Ajo Federated Church. Members
of the club performed.
The speed limit on Highway 85 was
increased to 65 mph between Buckeye and Ajo. The controversial change on
the section of highway through Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument remains
unresolved at the end of the year.
Public meetings were held to discuss
the 4-day school week. After much thought, the board decided to continue the
experiment for the 1997-98 school year.
The name Gringo Pass was suggested
for Lukeville. However, the proposal was withdrawn from the Arizona State
Board on Geographic & Historic Names by its proposer, Al Gay.
The community of Ajo and its Blood
Drive coordinators, Paula Holt and Patty Gibson, were awarded the "Giving
Tree Award" for participation in the American Red Cross blood drives.
Ajo school students presented a
musical with music performed by Julie Horton, Brook Peed, Jennifer McBride,
and Bob Poole.
The Royal Renaissance
Singers sang after supper following the festivities in the Plaza at the Ajo
Spanish Renaissance Festival. Costumed participants and attendees enjoyed
the day-long entertainment, raffles, food, games, and craft booths.
WALD sponsored Saturday Night Out
at the Hotel Cornelia, an evening of activities for adults with free child
The usual bustle of visitors in
town may have been responsible for accidents in which an Ajo Stage Line van
was struck from behind and a car went off a residential street into the home
of a family. There were only minor injuries reported in the accidents.
A new phone system was installed
at the Ajo Community Health Center which drew complaints; callers preferred
speaking with a person rather than a machine. The system was subsequently
changed so callers talk with a person.
Ajo Community Players presented
two plays at the Curley School auditorium. The cast of local players enjoyed
performing as much as the audience enjoyed watching.
Dr. H. J. Mills received a commemorative
plaque honoring his 40 years of service as a member of the American Academy
of Family Physicians.
Ajo Rotary celebrated its 52nd
anniversary. Rotarians sponsor the Christmas Eve celebration in the Plaza
and the annual academic honors banquet for the high school.
Local amateur radio operators were
given training by the Radio Amateur Communication Emergency Services (RACES),
so they can operate the Pima County emergency vehicle in case of an emergency
in Ajo. Eleven Ajo residents and two men from Why were trained.
Ajo Lions Club presented copies
of videos from the National Missing Children's Locate Center to the Ajo Schools
and the public library.
The seventh annual O'odham Day
celebration took place at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument's visitor center.
Demonstrations of O'odham traditional dryland farming, basketry, native plant
use, pottery, and O'odham language, dance, games, and storytelling were on-going
throughout the day.
The International Sonoran Desert
Alliance meeting was held on the border between the US and Mexico to call
attention to the frustrating and sometimes humiliating difficulties their
board members and others have in crossing the border.
Roberta "Birdie" Nixon was recognized
at a dinner in her honor by the Woodmen of the World Fraternal Lodge 93.
The Ajo Foundation held
a golf tournament in Chandler. The fundraiser is for scholarships for young
people with a connection to Ajo.
The Ajo-Lukeville Health Service
District has been in a state of flux. The Tucson Medical Center terminated
their management contract and clinic manager Sherry Hartman announced her
plan to move to Casa Grande. A new physician has been hired, but the search
continues for a physician assistant. In addition, University Physicians did
not renew its contract for Intergroup SeniorCare patients. This caused confusion
and concern for many Ajo residents, but most problems were eventually resolved.
Forrest R. "Rick" Rickard, Sr.,
compiled a book about Ajo called The Development of Ajo, Arizona. It covers
aspects of development related to exploring, mining, leaching, and concentrating
ores through 1942.
John Zamar of Phelps Dodge Corporation
gave an update on the activities at the Ajo mine. He provided information
about the permitting process that precedes the mine opening. In May, the PD
board of directors gave the go ahead to reopen the mine by October 1999.
The Ajo Association of Health Care
Providers celebrated Public Health month with activities provided by various
service organizations and the county health department.
The Easter Bunny showed up at the
Pima County Parks & Recreation tots’ class.
The Roots Youth Group sponsored
by International Sonoran Desert Alliance continued its aluminum can recycling
Saguaro Cable became a thing of
the past when it was sold and renamed Mediacom. The system was upgraded and
some changes made.
The Ajo PTA challenged readers
in their "Raiders ‘R Readers" program. Readers spent 30 minutes reading and
reportedly read 3500 pages.
Sheriff's Auxiliary Volunteers
began offering a new program to make firearms in the home a little safer.
A Key-Cuff can be used to render a firearm inoperable.
Arlene Tschop's volunteer services
were recognized by the Southern Arizona Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Table Top Telephone Company provided
equipment for the Ajo school's golf team.
Pima County Board of Supervisors
instituted a new animal protection ordinance. It prohibits the use of tie-outs
as a method of confining animals. Dogs, in particular, are the focus of the
new law. They must be kept inside a fence, wall, or kennel.
The firm of Shaller & Sicurello
were hired to manage the Ajo Community Health Center. Katherine Schumacher
spent her spring break in Hong Kong and China. She was a member of a Lutheran
Campus Ministries group and taught English to junior high and high school
Olsen's Market received a face-lift
and a new manager. The manager was subsequently transferred. In July the store
announced its affiliation with IGA. That manager has since left the job,
but produce manager Juan Leon and meat manager Ronnie Whitley remain.
A cyclone, tornado, demon of a
dust devil, or something blew through Ajo. The funnel damaged several residences,
other buildings, and vehicles.
After 31 years with Bank One, Paul
Vasquez retired. Esperanza Workman was promoted to manager.
Robert Rose of the Ajo Post Office
received a plaque naming him Arizona's Postmaster of the Year for 1997.
New presidents of Xi Alpha Sigma
and Xi Gamma Pi chapters of Beta Sigma Phi were installed. They are Pat Taylor
and Elena Jensen.
Ajo Why Business Association erected
a sign that welcomes motorists to Ajo. It is on the east side of Highway 85
at Walker Road.
Cinco de Mayo and whooping
cough struck in Ajo simultaneously. The Cinco de Mayo celebration was more
fun. A musical group from Sonoyta performed as well as PCPR Ballet Folklorico
and the Ajo Ballet Folklorico groups.
The National Federation of Music
Clubs and the Desert Music Club sponsored a poster contest. Winners were
Felicia Valadez, Jennifer Fimbres, and Monica Leon.
Graduating from Ajo High School
with distinction were Eva Pena, Eva Jimenez, Cary Chatham, Joshua Allen,
Carlo Vasquez, and Beverly McBride. Graduating with honors were Joaquin Vega,
Sonia Detrick, and Talia Williams.
Barbara Kelly retired after 32
years as a teacher in Ajo schools.
Ajo gained easier access
to the information highway via Table Top Telephone's offering of Internet
service. Service was limited to fifty subscribers so busy signals could be
held to a minimum.
The Ajo Community Players made
plans for three productions for the winter season.
Norma Walker was honored as Ajo
Woman of the Year by Xi Gamma Pi chapter of Beta Sigma Phi.
A storm that battered Gila Bend,
causing considerable damage and adding 3.25" of water to the town in a half
hour, sprinkled Ajo with only a light shower.
William E. "Bill" Wellman was named
superintendent of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. He replaced Harold
Smith who retired in January.
After getting off to
a shaky start, several volunteers of the CofC threw themselves into organizing
the Fourth of July festivities. The event began with the parade through town
led by grand marshals Cheto & Lina Olais, continued with entertainment,
games for the kids, and craft & food sales. The Elks donated prizes for
the swimming activities at the pool all afternoon. A baseball tournament
was held at Bud Walker Park which was won by Twelve Pack with Desert Raiders
coming in second. AWBA sponsored a community picnic in Bud Walker Park prior
to the fireworks which were set off by the Ajo Gibson Volunteer Fire Department.
A busy, eventful, and interesting day was had by all. Float winners were
Boy Scouts, JonJon!, and Pima County Parks & Recreation. The VFW float
received honorable mention.
Their sale of the Ajo Bowling Lanes
and The Hut will allow Chito & Sarah Cubillas to retire.
Eight people were arrested in a
drug raid on Rocalla after an investigation that lasted for more than a year.
"The Ajo District in concert with the citizens of Ajo identified a problem
and worked together to resolve it," reported Lt. Paul Wilson, commander of
the Pima County Sheriff's Department Ajo District.
Hickiwan Trails, the convenience
store 1.5 miles east of Why next to the still unopened casino, was plagued
with problems, but finally was opened on July 11. The fate of the casino
is yet unresolved.
New staff members are in place
at the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. Manager, Don Tiller, assistant
manager, Cris Dippel, and ecologist, Selso Villegas, are settling in and finding
out what life is like in the desert.
Rededication of the Ajo branch
library took place on July 18. Supervisor Sharon Bronson and officials from
the Tucson Pima Public Library, were joined by local residents and members
of the family of Lillie C. Salazar for whom the library was renamed. The Salazar-Ajo
Branch Library was renamed for "Lillie from the Library" who had been the
head of the library for 12 years until her death on May 27.
Several power outages over several
weeks were explained by Ajo Improvement Company as the result of increased
consumption due to lower rates and a disruption in APS power.
Ajo joined the National Night Out,
America's Night Out Against Crime. Held in the parking lot of the Elks Lodge,
volunteers working on the event gave away prizes galore donated by area businesses.
Activities lasted well into the rainy evening.
The Ajo Landfill put
up a sign making Ajo area folks aware of the new county policies being enforced.
School started August 20, operating
on a four-day week for the second year. The board will look at statistics,
scores, and reports again at the end of the year and decide whether or not
to return to five days a week.
Superintendent Ron Fletcher resigned
with the permission of the school board and was replaced by Marc Alop who
had been principal in Ajo. Bob Dooley was hired as business manager to assist
with the financial aspects of running the school system. He is also doing
some of the principal's duties.
Dress on campus has been slightly
different since the school board adopted a revised dress code. Superintendent
Marc Alop said it was working well though not all students and parents agreed.
Countywide, voters rejected the
opportunity to reorganize Pima County government. Voters said "No" to adopting
a charter government for Pima County.
Several deer were sighted in and
around town due to the dry conditions being experienced in the area. They
and the people were looking forward to getting some rain.
The Air Force presented a proposal
to widen some training routes, particularly those through the Tohono O'odham
Nation, and consolidate others to minimize disturbances to residents. Following
this announcement, many residents noticed an increase in the number of sonic
booms heard in and around Ajo. Discussions with the Air Force indicated that
no additional flight activity was causing the noise. Some residents were
dissatisfied with the Air Force's statement.
In the area just south of the border,
El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Reserva de la Biosfera has made several
improvements including the addition of directional and informational signs.
Many are in Spanish, but are slated to be produced in English as well.
Following months of discussion
and efforts to relocate the food bank, the Community Food Bank's Ajo
branch is currently being operated out of Tucson. The truck continues to
use the ramada at the old location on Fridays. A new location is still being
The summer saw snowbirds who winter
in Ajo join in Ajo picnics and golf tournaments across the country. Friends
made in Ajo met in some unlikely places like Fort Macleod, Alberta, Payson,
Many agreed it's hot
in Ajo. But just how hot had many faces. You can tell it's hot in Ajo (or
Why — or Lukeville) when ... (first prize) the Gila monsters buy tickets
to the Rocky Mountains (Samantha Gonzales, age 12, Utah), ... (second prize)
the Ajo Copper News runs the ‘you can tell it's hot in Ajo when...’ contest
(Don Fedock, Ajo), ... (also tied for second prize) Ray Giger blocks his
refrigerator door open so the cats can sleep on the bottom shelf (Gene C.
Mann, Playas, NM).
Bob Harral, Ajo resident and Ajo
Copper News sports writer, returned from Bosnia where he spent several months
as a United Nations monitor trying to keep the peace. "Ajo looks like paradise,"
he said when he returned. But most Ajoites knew that already.
The Bureau of Land Management continues
to have a representative in Ajo on the first Monday of every month to answer
questions about its services, regulations, and policies.
The Fiesta de Septiembre was celebrated
with activities in the Plaza — entertainment, dancing, food, fun, and games.
They were followed by the Queen's Ball at which Queen Christina Vega presided.
The school band put out a request
for instruments for students interested in learning to play. The need remains
although several residents came forth with some loans and donations.
Pima Youth Partnership's Burgers
and Books program has been a rousing success every month. Students bring
adults to read with them and all are treated to a free hamburger meal after
the reading session.
Volunteers have been doing a variety
of tasks at the school in all grades. More are always needed and welcome.
An announcement was made that BankOne
has sold its rural branches. Ajo is one of the branches that was sold to Community
First Bankshares, Inc., along with 36 other offices in three western states.
The changeover will take place in January.
Another staff member was added
to those already working at the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. Vergial
Harp is the outdoor recreation planner doing volunteer coordination and public
outreach. He is working closely with the Cabeza Prieta Natural History Association
to continue its winter lecture series and other volunteer outdoor activities.
A festival and rodeo were held
in Hickiwan District of the Tohono O'odham Nation. Coronation of a queen,
food, music, and dancing were among the activities that took place.
The Ajo Why Business Association
agreed to support the CofC in its efforts to create unity within the community.
They encouraged their members who were also voting members of the CofC to
run for their board, but short of that, at least to nominate and vote for
a candidate they felt would be a strong leader. They wanted to see someone
who would be active and supportive of their convictions and at the same time
do what is best for the community as a whole for the next two years.
An intensive search for a missing
hiker at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was instituted after it was
discovered that he had not returned home at the appointed time. He was not
found although the search continued for three days.
The traditional Memorial Day weekend
reunions brought more than the anticipated response. Two more scholarships
than in previous years will be given to students with an Ajo connection by
the Ajo Foundation.
Nora, the hurricane
predicted to breeze through Ajo, stopped at Puerto Penasco and, happily,
ignored Ajo. It was labeled a "ho-hum-icane" by local residents.
An impressive array of events and
informative presentations filled Minority Health Week from Sunday, October
5, through Saturday, October 11. There was something health-related for everyone,
amazing some at the many aspects of the health field.
James Schnell was named head of
the Salazar-Ajo branch library. The search for an assistant was ended in
November when they hired Michele Anderson as assistant.
The Ajo Gibson Volunteer Fire Department
had an open house to celebrate National Fire Prevention Week. In addition,
AGVFD along with many Ajo businesses encouraged Halloween trick-or-treaters
to enjoy a safe Halloween by getting treats there.
The Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife
Refuge celebrated National Wildlife Refuge Week with eco-tours (nature walks),
open house talks, and Childs Mountain caravans. All were enjoyed by the participants.
Tom Diehl died on October 10, 1997. He was a member of one of Ajo's founding
families and a leader in the community. He is greatly missed.
Homecoming saw the Raiders lose,
but the homecoming activities were enjoyed by many. Malin Lewis and Gabriella
Castillo represented the student body as king and queen.
VFW took 111 pounds of aluminum
can tabs to Tucson. The recycling project assists with the support of the
Ronald McDonald House which benefits the "home away from home" for the families
of children requiring medical treatment.
The Ajo Council for the Fine Arts
contributed to the Ajo school's music program fund for instruments and piano-tuning.
Ten names were on the ballot of
the Ajo District Chamber of Commerce election for its board of directors.
After all was said and done, Steve Rainey, John Hayes, Dixie Lovingier, Betty
Tibbett, and John Zamar were elected.
Employees at Circle K were proud
to have won the "Circle K 5-star award" for cleanliness, overall appearance,
and customer service.
Ajo schools held its bi-annual
parent-teacher conferences; students enjoyed the half-day break.
Dr. Stephen Williams
became the Ajo Community Health Center's new medical director thus giving
Dr. McDonald more time to do what he likes best — treat patients.
The management plan for Organ Pipe
Cactus National Monument has been submitted for public input after 9 years
of work. The plan is a general guideline for management for the next 20 years.
It has received both positive and negative comments from the public
Romance of the Ranchos III, considered
by some to be "the event of each season," featured Las Coquetas — a group
of area women who made matching skirts and learned Mexican dances for the
performance — Curley & Sergio, and a bullfight with matador Laura Thompson-Olais
and bull Cheto Olais, Jr. The weather was more cooperative and the warmth
of the evening helped make the event more pleasant than last year.
The Ajo chapter of the Arizona
Archaeological Society had its first function and members are in the process
of arranging field trips, writing bylaws, and paying dues.
The Lady Raiders volleyball team
went to the State playoffs where they lost to Duncan.
VFW celebrated Veteran's Day with
an open house.
The Ajo Lukeville Health Service
District appointed Richard Travis secretary/treasurer. The board interviewed
7 candidates for the enhanced board of the Ajo Community Health Center. Those
chosen to represent the community on this board were Karen Gonzalez, Susan
Guinn-Lahm, Tony Ramon, and Paul Vasquez.
From over 30 participants in the
Punt, Pass & Kick winners were Jade Valenzuela, Yardley Torres, Jeremy
Ayala, Alexis Macias, and Ryan Rodriquez. Jade Valenzuela won first place
in the girls age 12-13 group and advanced to the championship competition
on December 21.
Bob Harral, sports writer for the
Ajo Copper News, won first prize for feature sports writing from the Arizona
Mitzi Frank, chief of resources
education at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, received a certificate
of recognition as National Park Service's Cooperating Association Coordinator
of the Year for 1997. She was selected from among coordinators in 57 bookstores
in national parks and monuments in 9 states.
Several citizens proposed that
the Ajo townsite be considered for designation as a National Historic District.
Preliminary work had been done previously, but funds must be found so forms
can be filed with the Arizona Historic Sites Review Committee.
Construction began on the multi-use
path on the west side of Highway 85 between Rasmussen and Briggs Road. The
"sidewalk to nowhere" drew many letters both pro & con.
Sharon Bronson assured Ajo area
residents that she will do what she can to see that the "ranch roads" are
maintained by the county. The road maintenance was done with the recommendation
of the former supervisor, but can no longer be done. Bronson said she would
try to "bring all the players together in December." The reaction of area
residents was mixed. Western Pima County Community Council held election for
six members of its board. Elected were Eric Marcus, Marty Branson, Dianne
Gallerani, and Artie Julander.
Ryan Orr's Eagle Scout project
involved desert cleanup in the areas around Field Tank and Bob's Tank. Orr
said Scouts collected about 400 pounds of trash.
The Ajo school's drama presentation
"My Cousin Lino" was put on at Dicus Auditorium the same week the Ajo Community
Players presented "Spirit" at Curley School Auditorium. There was plenty of
interest and large audiences enjoyed both groups’ performances.
An announcement was made that the
"Company Store" is closing. After 80 years, Phelps Dodge Mining Company has
decided that it no longer wants to be in the grocery business. However, their
stores in Morenci, Arizona, and Playas, New Mexico, will remain open.
Education Week events organized
by the Education Association of Ajo included students in all grades and a
variety of activities.
Fire destroyed the rented home
of Sergio & Pili (Alegria) Mariscales and family on November 22. They
spent Thanksgiving grateful for the fact that none of the family was hurt.
Stella Krznarich was presented
a 30-year pin by postmaster Robert Rose in November, but actually celebrated
her 30th year on December 2.
Bob Dooley, the business manager
of the Ajo Unified School District, earned a Ph.D. at the UofA.
Benito Lopez was awarded the Associate
of Boardsmanship in recognition and appreciation of his work on the school
Elselien Dijkstra of Holland, Tobias
Harijanto of Germany, and Eugeny Dje of Russia are exchange students living
in Ajo for the school year. All agree things are different here compared to
Ajo Lions Club presented the Melvin
Jones Fellowship award to Richard Park in recognition of commitment to humanitarian
The Rural Arts Traveling Exhibit
opening night was a kick-off for the Tucson Symphony Orchestra's performance
on January 16. Advance sales netted purchasers seats in a reserved section
of the auditorium on January 16. The Rural Arts Exhibit will remain on display
at the Hotel Cornelia until January 15, 1998.
Celebration of the holiday season
included parties, open houses, and concerts at churches, meeting places of
community organizations, and at the homes of many residents.
Pima County Sheriff's Department
announced that Lt. Paul Wilson, who has been Ajo's station commander for
4 years, will be accepting a new assignment as director of the Tucson Public
Safety Academy. No replacement has yet been named.
International Sonoran Desert Alliance
has named Joseph Joaquin as its new president. Other officers are Graciela
Barajas, Manuel Gonzalez, Diana Vega, and Kenia Castaneda.
Phil Perkins has been recognized
for his work in Ajo as the deputy county attorney.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
has invited area residents to volunteer their time along with staff and volunteers
at the monument to clean up the 22 miles of highway running through the monument.
Several Ajo residents have already agreed to help.
The traditional Christmas Eve in
the Plaza organized by Ajo Rotary members brought Santa to town and gifts
and treats for the kids. Church services took place that night and on Christmas
We don't know yet:
Whether the winter will
be colder than normal, warmer than normal, wetter than normal, or otherwise,
as the result of El Nino, will be clear in the spring.
When Tom's Pharmacy will move to
its new location (where the library used to be, as many folks will remember)
in the Plaza.
What the effects of the RV tax
Copyright 1998 by
Ajo Copper News