The new year began with celebrations as the calendar
flipped from 2004 to 2005.
Newly elected Ajo Lukeville Health Service District
board members Andy Leap and Kate Garmise took office with re-elected
member Marty Branson. Other board members are Karen Gonzales and Linda
Feidt. They selected Linda Feidt to serve as chair and Karen Gonzales
as secretary/treasurer for the coming year.
New Ajo Unified School District board members John
Byrnes and Rose Cameron were seated in January. The board selected
Malin Lewis to serve as chair and Ken Kermode as clerk for the coming
Western Pima County Community Council members in odd
numbered districts were re-elected to serve another term. The council
selected Eric Marcus to serve as president, Ken Freese vice president,
Edith Vance secretary, and Rose Zimmerman treasurer.
The Ajo Garden Club officers are president Carol
Yokum, vice president Ernest Green, co-treasurers Ted and Sharon
Kuyper, secretary Carol Peek, scrapbook committee chair Marilyn
Williams, and sunshine chair Sue Ford.
Ajo Community Players presented a dinner theater
production every Sunday through the month. Jim Reiman was joined by
emcee Paul Crawford in Doc Holliday and the Angel of Mercy with Joe
Marts entertaining with his original Western songs.
Desert Senita Adult Care Home became licensed to
provide directed care. Only two people initially moved into the home
which could house ten residents. Work on the community garden in the
backyard of the facility continued through a grant received by the
International Sonoran Desert Alliance.
Lectures continued through the winter season
sponsored by Cabeza Prieta Natural History Association and Ajo/Why
The Desert Music Club held Grandma's Attic, a
fashion show featuring vintage fashions during a luncheon.
The good citizenship scholarship awarded by the Ajo
District of the Pima County Sheriff's Department to an Ajo High School
senior each year was renamed for the late Lt. David B. Allen, who
instituted the program. Allen was district commander when he died in
September of 2004.
Following news that the Arizona Department of
Transportation was unhappy with the maintenance of the trees on Solana,
Don Fedock, who originally planted them with funding from a CDBG grant
to the CofC, again took over care and maintenance of the trees. Ajo
Rotary Club has been contributing some funds for tree maintenance.
A health fair was held at Desert Senita Community
The Family Dollar Store opened in the location once
occupied by Olsens Marketplace.
Border Patrol continued their efforts to stem the
tide of undocumented migrants. USBP agents, along with other law
enforcement and emergency medical service personnel, were involved in
several rescues as the year progressed.
The 26th annual Old Time Fiddlers Contest, the
Piecemakers Quilt Show, and the Ajo Community Players' presentation of
Vaudeville 2005 made the first weekend of February a busy one.
Veterans of Foreign Wars and its Ladies Auxiliary
recognized award winners, community workers, youth leaders, and
folklorico dancers during its annual recognition program.
The Xi Alpha Sigma and the Xi Gamma Pi chapters of
the Beta Sigma Phi sorority held a joint Valentine Party. Rita Nord of
Xi Alpha Sigma and Mollie Pullum of Xi Gamma Pi were named Sweethearts
of the Year.
Arsenic was the subject of a study of 40 households
in Ajo. The results of the study were presented in a program at the
public library. Frank Nidas of Ajo Improvement Company said AIC is
working to meet the new standards for the amount of arsenic in the
water that will go into effect in January 2006.
More than 8 inches of rain fell between October and
March. The Sonoran Shindig was cancelled because of rain but the
ephemeral vegetation bloomed profusely, making the desert a riot of
Citizen Corps Council and preparedness were the
topics of a program sponsored by the Pima County Sheriff's Department.
The program included information about CERT training, Sheriff's
Auxiliary Volunteers, and other programs for volunteers.
The Tucson Symphony Orchestra performed in Ajo. It
was the debut of a new work by a composer-in-residence with the
The Sonoran Shindig, which was rained out in March,
drew a fairly large crowd. The highlight, everyone agreed, was the
"critter parade" of animals made while Puppet Farm Arts was in town.
The high school boys' basketball team ended its
season with a 16 win, 8 loss record. The girls' team had a 12 win, 5
Ten fawns were born to pronghorn in the
captive-breeding program on Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. The
births and the abundant rain allowed the Pronghorn Recovery Team to
close public lands for fawning season from May 1 to July 15 rather than
closing on March 15.
The annual Tohono O'odham Traditions celebration at
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was spread throughout the month of
March to increase opportunities for visitors to see the demonstrations.
Rather than 2500 visitors in a single day with people and cars crowding
the monument, each weekend saw increased visitation as Tohono O'odham
artisans and speakers showed their skills in basketry, dryland farming,
storytelling, and other cultural traditions.
The winter season ended with a month long wildflower
show. While not the most spectacular, it was the best in many years
since several inches of rain fell between October and January. Many
winter visitors stayed longer than in years past so they could enjoy
the blooming landscapes.
The Rural Arts Traveling Exhibit was joined by
Celtic harp and violin music during its stay at the Curley School.
Work began on the sewer lines and water lines in the
Ajo townsite. Ajo Improvement Company began cleaning and replacing
pipes to upgrade both systems. They continued to work on meeting new
standards for water quality that will go into effect in January 2006.
The Cabeza Prieta Natural History Association ended
its season of lectures, desert experiences for members, and Childs
Mountain tours, and opened a modest bookstore in the visitor center.
Easter was celebrated with church services and the
traditional sunrise service in the Plaza as well as with egg hunts and
Librarian Virginia Beauchel retired from service at
Ajo's public library.
Some of the revenue from the Tohono O'odham
Nation's gaming activities must be returned to other government
programs. One of the 14 recipients of these funds was the International
Sonoran Desert Alliance for use in the Curley School project. The
distribution was a requirement of Proposition 202 passed by voters in
The Phoenix Connector bus route brought bus
transportation back to Ajo after being discontinued in 2002. Ajo
Transportation took Phoenix–bound riders to meet another bus in Gila
Bend to complete the trip.
Pima County Health Department began charging for
shots in an effort to be more fiscally responsible. They say that many
people who can afford the shots at a private provider's office take
advantage of the free shot offered by the health department causing an
increase of 62% in the number of shots given over the past three years.
Ajo Townsite Historic District signs were installed
throughout the district.
Another 500 US Border Patrol agents were assigned to
the Arizona-Mexico border, many of them were sent to the Ajo area.
David N. "Davy" Davis was found dead near a shed
outside a residence on the Leon ranch on Well Road. Eduardo Leon was
arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
Plans continue for reconstruction of the 1st Avenue
bridge to alleviate flooding problems in that area of town. Members of
the Pima County Flood Control Department said permitting and planning
would probably take about two years.
Linda M. Lam began working as the librarian at the
Salazar-Ajo Branch Library filling the vacancy left by the retirement
of Virginia Beauchel.
Why Utility company was awarded $1,349,178 to reduce
arsenic levels in the water to new federal standards.
About half the teaching staff at the Ajo public
school were notified their contracts weren't being renewed due to
uncertainty regarding the population for the coming year. The loss of
41 students will affect the budget and cause some teaching staff
members to be let go, however, the possible loss of 85 students coming
from Lukeville may cause a more serious problem. The Attorney General's
office has said its investigation is complete with "no criminal intent"
recorded. Most of the teachers did receive contracts.
Lina Miller resigned as school principal.
US Marine Corps conducted on-the-ground and
in-the-air maneuvers from California's Salton Sea to Tucson, including
the Ajo area.
PhelpsHelps Safety Fair at Walker Park provided
games, prizes, and information about safety to those attending.
A wet winter led to a green spring, but the dried
vegetation later led to brush fires. One at Cabeza Prieta National
Wildlife Refuge burned about 1000 acres. Local house fires in April
were due to other causes.
Kelly Moore took over as manager at The Stockmen's
Bank branch in Ajo with the promotion of Keith Stone, who was
transferred to Safford.
Ajo's middle school students worked for almost a
year in science classes to develop a pupfish pond for the endangered
species. The project was completed this spring and an exhibit and video
were shown at the celebration.
The Ajo Lions Club dedicated its building at Center
and Cameron. They had been working on renovation of the building for
almost a year.
Fiesta de Mayo brought out many community members to
enjoy entertainment, food, and fun.
The Ajo PTO sponsored a carnival to celebrate
students' survival of end-of-the-year testing.
The Ajo High School golf, softball, and track and
field teams ended their seasons without reaching the playoffs; but the
baseball team made it to the first round of the state tournament.
Throughout the month Arizona superintendent of
public instruction Tom Horne said his investigation of students bussed
to Ajo schools from Lukeville continued to move slowly, but by the end
of May he said he had evidence of fraud. He asked Pima County's
superintendent of schools Linda Arzoumanian to do more thorough
verification of residency. She declined, saying it would be regarded as
discriminatory unless she did it for all 135,000 Pima County students.
Horne then asked Ajo School District to do the verification.
Superintendent Bob Dooley discussed the issue with the Pima County
The school year ended with the annual poetry
contest, award banquets, honors assemblies, musical program, and other
activities. The Ajo Rotary Club held its annual honors banquet and
students were awarded scholarships and received academic recognition.
Ajo High School graduated its Class of 2005.
Graduating with distinction were valedictorian Judith D. Salcido and
salutatorian Anna Lilia Vega. Graduating with honors were Joseph M.
Alvillar, Jonathan R. Clements, Brandon Alton Grissom, Vanessa Reid,
and Shawn C. Spitzer. Other Class of 2005 graduates were Charles N.
Bauer, Brian Bissell, Ana M. Diarte, Ricardo P. Encinas, Tanya R.
Espinoza, Viviana Gray, Kimberly A. Hobbs, Michaela Kuebler, Cody L.
Manuel, Orion J. Mattia Fry, Mandy R. Pickle, Mike T. Pickle, Joel P.
Sandate, and Griselda E. Sandoval.
Donald German was named principal of the Ajo
schools. He moved to Ajo from Prescott.
The Ajo Unified School District #15 received
recognition from Governor Janet Napolitano for successfully
participating in her Nickel Plus education program to successfully move
an additional five cents per dollar into the classroom.
Ajo's letter carriers gathered 1606 pounds of food
for the Ajo Food Bank.
An editorial in the Arizona Republic suggested that
the resources on Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and Organ Pipe
Cactus National Monument, as well as citizens of the area, would be
safer if legislators and the president created a meaningful immigration
Following end-of-the-year awards, sports banquets,
and graduation ceremonies at the Ajo public school and Christian
academy, summer fun began. Activities for kids included T-ball, coach
pitch, swimming lessons, swim team, and just free time at the Ajo
swimming pool. Hook-a-Kid on Golf and the Challenge Golf League, and
prizes and programs at the public library were available. Watercolor
painting classes were offered by artist Michael Chiago. The Tucson
Youth Development program provided jobs and on-the-job training for
some of Ajo's young people. Two winners of a contest sponsored by the
IGA went to the US Space Camp.
Phase one of the Curley School Project was awarded
tax credits through the Arizona Department of Housing. Conversion of A
and J buildings into 30 rental units for artists and artisans and
renovation of the auditorium are planned. Construction should begin in
early 2006 with completion in about a year.
Desert Senita Community Health Center is using money
from fundraisers to purchase a bone density machine.
Lina Olais was named Woman of the Year by the Xi
Gamma Pi Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi. She was honored with a tea at the
Guest House Inn.
Fires on Barry M. Goldwater Range destroyed about
60,000 acres, coming as close as Crater Range. The flames raged for
almost a week keeping firefighters busy, and closing Highway 85 for
most of a day. Power was shut off for the protection of firefighters,
leaving residents without electricity several times in several days.
Ajo's HOPE Coalition, an activity of Pima
Youth Partnership, planted a Memory Garden on the public school campus
in remembrance of those affected by substance abuse.
The Desert Senita Adult Care Home, which opened in
August of 2004, has had few residents and has been threatened with
possible closure. They were accepted by the Arizona Long Term Care
System to pay part of the cost for eligible residents who could not
otherwise afford to live in the home. DSCHC and DSACH staffs continued
to hope the income would be enough so the doors can remain open.
A co-ed baseball league of seven teams played in a
friendly competition. The league was sponsored by Pima County Natural
Resources, Parks and Recreation.
Grand marshals Carl and Mae Ebann were joined by
Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson and many others who participated
in the Independence Day parade on Saturday, July 2. Instead of the
usual festival, several groups opened their air-conditioned buildings
to serve lunch. The fireworks on Monday, July 4, were set off by Ajo
Gibson Volunteer Fire Department from the traditional spot on the slag
Bone density testing can be done at Desert Senita
Community Health Center now that a DEXA scan machine has been
A group of residents and a group of youngsters got
together with the staff of the International Sonoran Desert Alliance to
brainstorm positive ways to show appreciation for Ajo. They encouraged
businesses, organizations, and individuals to try some of the ideas to
The Desert Sharks swim team placed fourth for the
season at the final meet in Marana.
Community Development Block Grants were awarded to
Desert Senita Community Health Center, Ajo Gibson Volunteer Fire
Department, Ajo Ambulance, and Why Fire Department.
An end to month-to-month leases for space in the
Curley School complex was announced. Renters were asked to vacate their
spaces by September 15 to make the ownership take-over and construction
safer and easier.
With the approval of Arizona Long Term Care System
funding for low-income people, Desert Senita Adult Care Home added
Ajo's student population spent the first two weeks
of the month getting ready for school or trying to enjoy their last
days of summer freedom. School began on August 15 with a new principal
and seven new teachers.
DSCHC celebrated National Health Center Week.
Several residents met with Minerals Research and
Recovery's president Mike Vick to express their concern about the dust
escaping from their operation. Vick said he would do a thorough
examination of the problem and confirm that air quality permit
requirements are being met.
Tom Dye was named "All State Commander" and "Most
Valuable Post Commander" at the Am Vets convention.
Artist Michael Chiago taught several Ajo young
people and some older folks about watercolor techniques.
Two 806-ton generators plodded up Highway 85 on
their way from Mexico to the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station at
about five miles an hour. Traffic delays were reduced because the
trucks carrying the generators traveled primarily from 10 p.m. to 6
a.m. and pulled off the road to cool down periodically.
The Stockmen's Bank celebrated its 25th anniversary.
The bank has 41 branches in Arizona and California, one of which is
located in Ajo.
US Customs and Border Protection and other agencies
in the US and Mexico have implemented the bilateral Alien Smuggler
Prosecutions Program titled Operation Against Smugglers (and
Traffickers) Initiative on Safety and Security. It is better known as
OASISS. The program expands previous efforts to identify and prosecute
violent human smugglers thereby saving lives.
Desert Senita Adult Care Home closed its doors
because it it had not been able to achieve financial viability.
Local individuals, organizations, and agencies sent
people and funds to help the victims of the Hurricane Katrina disaster
in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
The Ajo schools achieved Annual Yearly Progress
according to the Arizona Department of Education.
Murder charges were dismissed against Thomas Bates
due to his mental status. Bates was charged with stabbing his
13-year-old cousin, Richard Valadez, in February 2004.
A group of young people and adults held discussions
and will continue to try to create a skate park in Ajo.
More than 60,000 acres of desert vegetation were
burned but the desert will recover, according to biologists who said
the recovery will be slow, but with sufficient winter rain noticeable
progress should be evident.
Residents and visitors from Mexico celebrated peace
with a parade of desert critters and doves of peace on the
International Day of Peace.
Pima Youth Partnership, with many programs for kids
in Ajo, expanded into other parts of the state and changed its name to
Arizona Youth Partnership. The programs for Ajo youth have not changed.
The rifle range was renamed for the late Virgil
Ellis, a long-time Ajo resident who promoted safety and spent many
hours improving and maintaining the facility.
The Ajo Mountain Drive at Organ Pipe Cactus National
Monument was closed for repairs. Repairs were completed and the road
was opened again sooner that expected.
There was a strong turnout of those interested in
forming a skatepark. The group met several times and by the end of the
year had formed a non-profit association and begun research on funding
the park, ethics, and operation. They appealed to Pima County for
assistance and hope the skatepark can be built at Walker Park. There
were mixed emotions from others concerned with liability, the
reputation of skateboarders possibly attracting gang activity, and
Two bodies were found, one in Ajo and one in
Lukeville. One was determined to have been murder.
Forty second and third graders got to see the circus
compliments of the Ajo Masons.
The possibility of Whiplash Racing, Inc. bringing a
race to the desert near Ajo was also received with mixed emotions among
residents. BLM says there is a formal process before a permit can be
approved that includes a comment period and formal hearings.
Olivia Vanegas-Funcheon was inaugurated as the first
Tohono O'odham president of the Tohono O'odham Community College. She
is an Ajo native and graduate of Ajo High School.
"Stuff it" was the plea of the Ajo Food Bank when
they parked their van in the parking lot at Olsens Marketplace. The van
was stuffed with 1200 pounds of food for those in need. They repeated
the plea and stuffed the van again at Christmas.
Andy Fisher, ranger at Organ Pipe Cactus National
Monument, received an award for her creative efforts with students in
the Ajo school who studied, did research, designed, and built a
refugium pond for the endangered pupfish in Quitobaquito. The area has
been closed because of illegal foot traffic and visitors were unable to
view the pupfish. The alternate home for a small population also
increases the chances of their survival if conditions threaten them at
National Wildlife Refuge Week was celebrated with
tours to the top of Childs Mountain and other activities.
The Registrar of Contractors presented information
about promoting quality construction, preventing illegal home repair
scams, and giving homeowners tips about what to expect when contracting
The Pima County Sheriff's Department reiterated its
policy of zero tolerance for illegal ATVs. All all-terrain vehicles,
quads, and off-road vehicles driving on area roads are subject to
licensing, proper registration, and proper operation.
Homecoming saw the Red Raiders lose the football
game against the Panthers of Superior. King Andrew Mendez and Queen
Denise Mariscales reigned.
Representatives from the offices of Governor Janet
Napolitano, Congressman Raul Grijalva, and Pima County Supervisor
Sharon Bronson were at the public library to hear comments and concerns
of residents. They plan to visit quarterly.
Ajo's Xi Gamma Pi Halloween Parade saw lions,
tigers, and bears – Oh, my!
A welcoming reception for new librarian Linda
Lam of the Salazar-Ajo branch library was given by Friends of the
In spite of a late arrival, more than 500 flu shots
were administered to area residents at Desert Senita Community Health
Former resident Frank Gonzales Mesquita was a
suspect in the fatal shooting of Beatrice Rios Ochoa with whom he was
sharing a house.
A flood control department plan for the Second
Avenue bridge and the retention basin west of the Curley School was
discussed at the monthly meeting of the Western Pima County Community
Council. The basin is intended to be shallow and will collect rainwater
releasing it gradually to alleviate flooding through the townsite.
Plans for the replacement of the Second Avenue bridge are being
A reception to introduce the architect of the Curley
School restoration project, Richard Fe Tom, and hear updated
information and plans for the project from project director Jim Wilcox
drew more than 100 people to the auditorium. Plans include a job fair
in January to encourage the hiring of local workers and groundbreaking
Field trips and brush-up sessions were provided for
volunteers interested in participating in the Ajo Christmas Bird Count
which is part of the Audubon Society's annual national count.
Mountain lion sightings were reported in the area.
St. Juan Diego was honored with a mass and
traditional procession. The event included a dinner and music.
A tour of several artists' studios took place during
the Thanksgiving weekend.
Sign-ups, lessons, and interviews with counselors
were part of the process for many getting ready for the new Medicare
Part D prescription drug plans to be instituted in January.
The Ajo Copper News opened its two back rooms adding
more office supplies, art supplies, games, books, and more.
A pet parade and car show were added to the annual
Great Western Street Fair held on Lomita between the churches and
extending to the Curley School steps. Entertainment, food, and lots of
items for sale kept shoppers and lookers happy all day.
Phil Perkins retired as county attorney after 20
years in Ajo. He was feted and roasted at a community reception.
Twain by the Tale was the fall production of the Ajo
Community Players. They gave three performances which were
Jones Auto Dealership turned the Plaza into a
used car lot for a week. Balloons attracted attention, lookers, and
buyers. The event was received with smiles from some who enjoyed
shopping in the Plaza and frowns from others who thought it was in poor
taste to fill the Plaza with cars.
Noche Navideña VII drew a crowd of dancers
who danced after the show that has become an annual Christmastime
event. Local folkloric and professional dancers participated and
everyone, including audience members, danced afterward. The event has
become one of the most popular of the holiday season.
The annual holiday concert by the public school
music department helped put people in a festive mood, as did the annual
Christmas concert by the community choir and community band. Both were
directed by Susan Spitzer.
A new docent program is being developed at Organ
Pipe Cactus National Monument. Local volunteers are encouraged to
Artspace officers Kelley Lindquist and Chris Velasco
worked with local artists and others on marketing the Curley School
live and work spaces that are on schedule for completion in February
Kids in the Ajo public school's first grade were
given picture books. Second and third graders received dictionaries and
fourth graders each received a thesaurus. The books were donated by the
Governor's, First Grade Book Program, Ajo Elks, and individuals in the
community. The Ajo Masons gave bikes to lucky winners who read books
and won a drawing.
The annual Christmas Bird Count was held on the
Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge.
The public school board heard from superintendent
Bob Dooley about the difficulty of recruiting teachers from Arizona's
universities. He suggested they consider recruiting teachers from the
Santa's annual visit began on Thursday and continued
on Friday. On Christmas Eve, he appeared in the tower of the Curley
School, rode his sleigh to the Plaza, and talked with more kids before
leaving for his Christmas Eve rounds.
A moving vehicle ran into the front window of the
Circle K. The driver and passengers were transported to a medical
facility for minor injuries.
Christmas Day saw area churches filled with people
celebrating the holy day.
The holiday season was celebrated with the parties,
caroling, services, and concerts throughout the community.
Happy New Year!
In the 2005 issues of the Ajo Copper News, we
printed birth announcements, welcoming to our world: