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Profiles, 2012

Special supplement to the Nogales International / Weekly Bulletin / 2

The sofa in the living room of the casita dubbed the “Canelo House” and two matching chairs have frames of heavy wood with a large floral design carved on the base. Hanging over the couch is a metal sign from an old Eagle Milling Country Store in Tucson PHOTOS/BETTY BARR

BillieDonaldson transformedhistoricElginhomestead share the things that I’ve collected. It’s important to me to keep alive the hard work that went into homesteading this country.” She learned that the Everharts lived in two tents while they “proved up” the property, converted them into tent houses, and later installed adobe walls, floors, windows, doors and a roof. With the help of general contractor, Mike Grombly, the Donaldsons remodeled the original homestead for

perceiving beauty in simple objects that others might The lives of Billie Donnot give a second glance. aldson and her husband, Her first collectible purMac and their families have chase, displayed in the livalways revolved around the ing room of the casita they cattle business. Ranching is call the “Homestead in their blood. Billie’s father, House,” is a cabinet made of Hayes Parten, came to Aribarn wood that she picked zona to work as a cowboy at up at a swap meet in 2000. Ralph Cowan’s Ranch in She needed to find things to Cochise County at the age display on its shelves and of 16. Mac’s father, John started collecting grey Donaldson operated the graniteware. That colleccattle leases at the Empire tion is now arranged on Ranch in Sonoita for many shelves near the ceiling. years. The bathBillie and room has a Mac have metal moved nine sunken times in their bathtub “I like to give people an idea of 35 years of and dual what it was like to live in an earlier marriage. All metal sinks of those all custom time and share the things that I’ve moves meant outfitted different-size collected.It’s important to me to with pipe houses and fixtures crekeep alive the hard work that went the need to ated by add furnishGrombly into homesteading this country.” ings. from scrap “Ranching found on is a 24/7 job,” the properBillie said. “If ty. you don’t get their headquarters, retainThe smaller casita, away once in a while, you ing much of its original dubbed the “Canelo become a workaholic, so we character, and turned two House,” was added onto a took the children on outbuildings into charming tool shed by a previous daytrips, packing the family casitas that they rent out for owner. It’s cozy, charming into the truck to go ‘junk- several days at a time. Their and boasts a queen size bed ing.’” sprawling ranch, complete- and two sets of bunk beds in They visited swap meets ly surrounded by pictur- an adjoining room. The and antique stores where esque wooded hills and “Homestead House” sleeps Mac would look at bits, rolling grasslands, is the two in the master which alspurs and books while Billie perfect getaway spot for so has a built-in captain’s searched for furniture and families or small groups of bed for a small child, plus a collectibles. She even adults interested in touring room with a single, another scoured the range at the local wineries, visiting Old with twins and a sofa bed. Empire for “found treas- West destinations such as Each casita has a fully ures.” Soon, they had so Bisbee and Tombstone or equipped kitchen and launmuch stuff that they had to bringing their horses for a dry room, assuring a compurchase a large container- few days of riding on the pletely private stay. style box to store whatever miles of surrounding Forest Their first guests came they couldn’t fit into their Service lands. during Christmas week current home. Over the years, the origi- 2011. Billie welcomed them When the senior Don- nal house had been added with a basket of Graham aldson died, the family sold onto, and with each addi- crackers, Hershey bars, the Empire leases and Mac tion it became darker inside. marshmallows and skewers. and Billie purchased the A priority was to bring in The family built a bonfire in Open Cross Ranch in Elgin more light while remaining the fire pit, made s’mores originally homesteaded by true to the original floor and set off sparklers at midCharles and Cora Everhart, plan. To do this, they raised night on New Year’s Eve. a couple who made an im- the roof over the porch on Her usual welcome basket pact on the community. the north side and added features fresh eggs, and Cora was the Elgin Post- large windows in the home baked muffins or cinmaster in 1919 and named kitchen area. Old fashioned namon rolls. Santa Cruz County School built-in bookcases in that Billie is passionate about Superintendent in 1944; room were retained and the western lifestyle. “I both were active at the given a fresh coat of white have a strong feeling for the Sonoita Fairgrounds. Billie paint to further brighten up land and I’m going to try my researched the historic the interior. The original fir darndest to keep ranching ranch and was inspired to flooring, no longer avail- alive,” she says. With the recreate the feel of the old able, was unsalvageable so renovation of the historic home. “I like to give people they stained maple to Everhart homestead, she an idea of what it was like to achieve the same effect. has taken a giant step tolive in an earlier time and Billie has a keen eye for ward fulfilling that dream.

By Betty Barr

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Billie Donaldson salvaged an old windmill sail that now points the way to the horseshoe area. It is mounted on an old bedspring hanging on a fence outside one of the casitas at the Open Cross Ranch in Elgin.


3 / Special supplement to the Nogales International / Weekly Bulletin

Profiles, 2012

SteveSchmitt walked500milesonestepatatime By Betty Barr

Steve Schmitt and his wife Carol own High Noon Feed and Tack in Sonoita. Steve loves to rope, has trained and shown horses in all disciplines, and is also an accomplished silversmith. He recently walked 500 miles across Spain on a pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of Saint James. Schmitt developed heavy metal syndrome from the fumes he inhaled during 20 years of making custom bits and spurs, and suffers from anxiety and panic attacks. When his daughter, who was studying in Sevilla, completed 100 kilometers of the walk, Steve was inspired to try it. There are many

Caminos, or routes, all leading to the cathedral city of Santiago. Steve chose the Camino Francés. Although pilgrims, or peregrinos, can pick up the walk at any point along the way, Steve began on the Spanish side of the Pyrennes at Roncesvalles. Over 100,000 peregrinos from 138 nationalities, ranging in age from eight to 80, make the trek each year. “Actually, you don’t walk 500 miles,” Steve says, “you walk this step, and then this step, one step at a time.” He walked 15 to 17 miles each day and completed the journey in about five weeks. On arrival, he was issued a large passport covered with small squares. Every lodging that he visited along the way filled in their sello, or ink stamp on a square.

Once on the Camino, he had to find his way and a place to sleep, wash his clothes and eat. “Each and every day is the same basically,” Steve said, “getting up, packing your pack, putting it on and heading down the road.” He carried about 20 pounds, which included a few changes of clothing, water, and a light lunch. He carried a camera but chose not to use it, as he felt it got in the way. “I found myself going from picture to picture, instead of walk to walk,” he explained. Schmitt emphasizes that while walking the Camino is a deeply religious experience for some, for others such as for himself, it is a journey of self-awareness. See SCHMITT / Page 7

“The day I stop coming to work is the day I’ll die.”

[ ] Mario V i l l a restocks and prices items at the store on Ocean Garden Drive, a long way and a long time from the store he opened on Western Avenue nearly 45 years ago. PHOTO/MANUEL C. COPPOLA

The Villas expect to open a second location by Mother’s Day at what was the Foxworth Galbraith Store on North Grand Avenue.

Steve Schmitt (right), at the counter at High Noon Feed and Tack, shows Joe Gamez his passport, stamped by all the hostels he stayed in during his 500-mile pilgrimage in Spain. PHOTO/BETTY BARR

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The pilgrimage, in existence since medieval times, commemorates the path of the Apostle James, who came to Spain to preach the gospel of Jesus.

MarioVilla setfoundationforfamily’s business By Manuel C. Coppola

Around the corner on Ocean Garden Drive is Villa’s, a neighborhood grocery store whose customers are not only from the Monte Carlo subdivision, but from miles around in Rio Rico, Nogales, Sonora and points further south. Upon first impressions there doesn’t seem to be anything special about this place located in an industrial area. The store takes up just 2,000 square feet of a 20,000-square-foot warehouse that services the store and several long-time wholesale customers. You have to hoof it up a ramp to the dock entrance, and

while the store parking lot is paved, it’s surrounded by a dirt lot. But while there may be nothing special about Villa’s, there is someone special about it. Mario Villa Sr., 85, started this enterprise nearly 45 years ago on Western Avenue before the advent of Circle Ks and other socalled convenience stores. Those places could learn a few things from Mario when it comes to servicing the border community. Villa’s offers more onestop convenience than any of them. It’s a cornucopia where one can go pick up a six-pack, a bottle of table wine, refreshments for the

kids, beans and rice in bulk, queso fresco, and homemade salsa. And get this: it features a full-line of freshcut meats from a real butcher shop operated by Eddie Simental, the neat, mustachioed man many Nogalians will recall directed the meat department like a symphony at the now-defunct Veteran’s Market. On weekdays, Eddie sets out a mean rotisserie chicken and barbecued ribs before lunch under a heatlamp next to a thermal box containing fresh-made corn tortillas. If you’re not there by about 12:30 p.m. it’s all gone. See VILLA / Page 7


Profiles, 2012

Special supplement to the Nogales International / Weekly Bulletin / 4

“Old things always fascinated me,and also Indian history. I love museums and did a lot of reading.”

[ ] Volunteer Barbara Ruppman speaks during a guided tour of the Barrio de Tubac archaeological area.

BarbaraRuppman HistoricTubacbenefitsfromher25yearsasvolunteerandmentor By Kathleen Vandervoet

Barbara Ruppman digs Tubac history. That’s not slang – she spent six years helping at an archaeology research project on the south boundary of the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park. Ruppman has introduced thousands of people to Tubac’s history for the 25 years since she and her husband, Richard, moved to Tubac. She trains new volunteers now at the state park reception desk, using a manual she put together during years of on-the-job learning. Richard was a custom home builder during the 1980s-90s, and the couple constructed seven residences in Tubac and lived in six of them. For the past 11 years, they’ve lived in their hilltop home west of Interstate 19. She always helped Richard as he needed it. “I was a go-fer, and I’ve been on roofs, and I’ve strung electricity.” But when time allowed it, she said, “I snuck away” to spend time on projects connected to Tubac’s history. “Old things always fascinated me, and also Indian history. I love museums and did a lot of reading,” she said. Joyce Thompson, a volunteer and member of the

Tubac Historical Society, said, “The essence of Barbara’s spirit is in the wide range and depth of her interests including architecture, archaeology and zoology. She has always had an open and inquiring mind and the generosity to share with others, which makes it great fun and a privilege to be her co-worker and friend.” Ruppman said that working as a volunteer at the Barrio de Tubac Archaeological Preserve was a unique opportunity which she relished. She assisted Jack Williams, who decided in 1987 to carry out excavations on the land, then owned by Baca Float Land Development, Ltd., as part of his doctoral thesis. The site, 10 acres on the south side of the state park, is “the rarest of the rare,” according to the current property owners, the Archaeological Conservancy based in Albuquerque, N.M. Ruppman said it’s described that way because it’s the only Spanish Colonial settlement in the Southwest that was never built on top of, as happened in Tucson, Santa Fe, N.M., and other cities. A map drawn in December 1766 and January 1767 by a Spanish cartographer, Joseph de Urrutia, shows about 40 houses there at the

time. Most of the foundations of those houses were found during the dig in nearly the exact spot shown on the map, Ruppman said. Ruppman’s memories of the dig brim with enthusiasm and finding artifacts was a bonus. One of those was a plaster trowel next to a stone foundation of a home and that brought history to life for her. “You see, I have a vivid imagination. I kept thinking, he was plastering that wall when the Apaches came, and he dropped it and ran,” she said. “My most exciting find was a little religious medal. On one side it showed what we all thought was a ‘good shepherd,’ but when we cleaned it good enough and we could read it, it said ‘good shepherdess,’ and I didn’t even know there was one.” Copies of the medal are sold in the state park’s gift shop. About the same time she volunteered for the dig in 1987, Ruppman also offered to help staff the reception desk at the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park. As well, she was among the first group of community members who worked to open the Anza National Historic Trail alongside the Santa Cruz River between Tubac and Tumacacori on an easement donated by

Ruppman recounts historial anecdotes. She has introduced tousands of people to Tubac’s history and trains new volunteers. PHOTOS/KATHLEEN VANDERVOET

Roy Ross. Since 1995 when the archaeology site was closed, Ruppman has devoted her time to the park, the Tubac Historical Society, and the Arizona Archaeological Society, she said. Guided tours are given of the archaeology site from time to time and information is available at the state park. The park struggled for a few years from 2008-2010 when the state legislature began cutting funding and even decided to close the park. An agreement between the state, Santa Cruz County, and the Tubac Historical Society allowed it to remain open. Now there is noticeable

vitality as the volume of visitors and programs has grown and the gift shop is bursting with crafts, books and souvenirs. Park Director Shaw Kinsley said of Ruppman, “She’s got the most delightful disposition. She’s incredibly easy to work with.” She’s accomplished at training new volunteers, he said. “She’s able to give them the background of what we have at the park” and said she demonstrates how to “gently inform visitors” of important information. The Ruppmans’ 25 years in Tubac may be coming to an end. They bought a house last summer in a St. Paul, Minn., suburb close to

the home of one of their sons. The move will be gradual, and depends on when their Tubac home is sold. Meanwhile, she’ll savor her volunteer work. “It’s a lot of fun. I bring magazines to read, and I never have time to read them. You’re always busy with visitors or talking with other volunteers. “I like it, especially now, because we get so many people (coming to the park). You’re getting people from all over the world coming in,” she said. “I learn more from the people who come there than they learn from me.”

JanetAnnett Nogalesnativetacklednuancesof bilingualeducationinherhometown By Kathy Scott

Janet Annett started out doing good deeds from the time she was first conceived. Her father was slated to go off to the war in Korea, but a rule then in effect said that if a soldier had three or more children, he would be exempted. “I was the third of my parents’ six children,” she said. “I saved him from going to war.” Annett was born in Nogales but her parents James and Beatrice Kissinger soon after moved to Tucson, returning when she was 10. She graduated from Nogales High School in 1969. And that is when the magic started happening. She was hired as a teacher’s aide to work in an experimental bilingual program at what was then Elm Street School. One of the requirements for the program was that both teachers and aides take classes brought to the site by the University of Arizona. “I decided I liked what I was doing, and that I was good at it, so I continued taking classes at night, commuting to Tucson, and in the summer until I received my degree,” Annett said. Thus began her journey through a host of educational reforms, some of which died out quickly and others that in a modified form continue today. Annett was part of a bilingual education movement in Nogales where students

whose first language was Spanish would be taught to read in Spanish, and those who were fluent in English learned in English until the third grade when the former would learn in English and the latter in Spanish. “In theory, this sounded like the way to go,” Annette explained, adding that the district would actually bus in English-speaking students to Elm in order to provide a mix of language speakers. However, the goal of the program of having students who graduated from high school literate in both languages proved elusive. “What happened was that after the students left our school, they went back into an environment where Spanish dominated, and many entered high school with poor literacy skills in both English and Spanish,” she said. “Another issue was that we simply did not have enough truly bilingual teachers to provide every student with a strong bilingual experience for as many years as is needed.” Annett then worked at the then new Challenger Elementary School where English predominated, even in the casual speech between staff members and also when responding to a student. “Frank Thompson (the principal) supported this because for most of these students the only time they heard English was at school. We wanted to create our own little communi-

ty where English was the main language.” It worked well enough that the school won a coveted Golden Bell award for excellence. But it was in the next phase of Annett’s own learning curve that she started to really impact the literacy of Nogales students. She was hired as a Reading First coordinator. As such, she worked with teachers throughout the state to teach them the most effective ways to teach reading, which included providing a foundation in skills such as phonics and vocabulary development. The previous practice, known as Whole Language or Language Experience, was based on the premise that if a child was surrounded by reading, he or she would somehow start to read in the same manner that a child learned to speak a language. “What ended up happening is that we produced a nation of children who could not read. Some did indeed learn to read in spite of ourselves, but most, especially second-language learners, needed that basicskills foundation before comprehension kicked in,” she said. After working for the state itself, Annett came back to Nogales, eventually heading GearUp, a program aimed at preparing students for post-secondary education, be that a university, community college, or

he or she would be a role round. trade school. Now Annett is working The program provided a model for other children in support system for students the family and community,” in conjunction with Santa who were often minorities, Annett said, adding that the Cruz County School Sufrom low perintendent Alfresocial ecodo Venomic situlazquez’s ations, and “What happened was that after often the office, to the students left our school,they first in their start CCREO, a families to went back into an environment even conprogram where Spanish dominated,and supporting sider going to college or a pathway many entered high school with a trade to post-secondary edschool. The poor literacy skills in both English ucation and cohort and Spanish.” training. group, which started when The they were in seventh grade, program with its limited U.S. Congress has not as of graduated in 2011. funding could not be all yet appropriated the funding. But the woman who as “We were often ques- things to all students. tioned why we worked with It was a great disappoint- an unborn child managed just one cohort, but our ment when no GearUp to keep a man out of a war is feeling is that if we could get program in the state re- not giving up the fight. that student to be a success, ceived funding for another

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Longtime Nogles eductor Janet Annett tells of her trials and tribulations in the realm of bilingual education. PHOTOS/KATHY SCOTT


5 / Special supplement to the Nogales International / Weekly Bulletin

Profiles, 2012

FosterDrummond At81,he’s servedschooldistrictfornearly17years

Past bad experiences inspired Foster Drummond to volunteer his time on the Sonoita school board. PHOTO/ROBERT E. KIMBALL

By Robert Kimball

Whenever you meet with Foster Drummond he looks you straight in the eye, smiles, shakes your hand and says, “Thanks for coming.” It’s a greeting that projects warmth and a sincere interest in what you have to say. With a full head of hair and upright posture it is hard to believe he is 81. He is now in his 17th year serving on the Sonoita Elementary School District #25 governing board. When asked why he decided to become a school board member he said, “We moved around a lot when I was in high school. I went to five different high schools on the east coast, all bad.”

Drummond thought that he could make a contribution to better education by serving as a school board member. He had planned to retire after 16 years but when he discovered that no one had put in papers to run for election, he decided to serve another term. Judy Neal, superintendent of Sonoita Elementary School District said, “Foster has unselfishly given of his time and sound judgment to the students, teachers, and Sonoita/Elgin communities serving on the governing board for the school district. Serving as president of the board, he has been instrumental in making sound policy decisions for the school district that have in turn resulted in

excellent educational opportunities for the students at Elgin School. He is well respected and loved at school and in the community.” Sonoita Elementary School District is rated 9 out of 10 based on school test results by the Great Schools website. Sonoita resident Wess Chambers who has known Drummond some 15 years says Drummond cares about the community. He not only serves on the school board he is also president of the Santa Cruz County Republican Party Committee and is a member of the Santa Cruz County Fair and Rodeo Association. He can be depended upon to come up with well-thought-out ideas and works hard to implement them, Chambers said.

Paris interlude Drummond met his future wife Katheryn in Paris France in 1957. They had arrived there on two different flights from the United States. For Foster it was a two-day layover on the way to Saudi Arriba on assignment for American Express. Katheryn was a stewardess on vacation on the other flight. Foster had a date with a stewardess from his flight and Katheryn had a date with the first officer on her flight. All four ended up at the same party where

Foster asked Katheryn to Paso 4th of July parade took was going to do a profile dance. They dated three place and continues to this story on her husband she times during those two days day. said, “Talk to me, he won’t including a moonlight trip In 1990, Drummond re- tell you anything.” It was ceived the El Conquistador her way of saying that Fosto the Eiffel Tower. After Paris they wrote to award from the mayor of El ter is a modest man, not one each other, Foster from Paso for his work develop- to brag about his accomplishments. He has earned Saudi Arabia and Katheryn ing the 4th of July parade. from Denver where she was The Drummonds raised dozens of awards over the based as a stewardess. They a family in El Paso that now years but never has diswere married 20 months includes one daughter, two played or talked about any later in Kansas City, Mo. grandchildren and one of them, she said. It was Katheryn who related the where her parents lived at great grandchild. the time. They will celeIn 1991 they moved to details of their meeting in brate their Paris. 54th wedding Katheryn is an anniversary in “Foster has unselfishly given of his June. artist who time and sound judgment to the has won But there is more to awards students,teachers,and Sonoifrom the Drummond. ta/Elgin communities serving on El Paso Art He served four years in Associathe governing board for the school tion and the U.S. Navy, from 1951 to has shown district.” her paint1955 during - Superintendent Judy ings at the the Korean Tucson War, one year Neal, superintendent Mountain on an aircraft carrier and Oyster Club Art three years as an areal mapping photogra- Elgin to retire. Show and at the Empire About seven years ago, Ranch Art Show. pher. He earned a degree in When asked about why public relations from Drummond visited his Boston University in 1957. friend Gordon Dutt, Sonoita Elementary School For some 30 years, the founder of Sonoita Vine- has been so successful, FosDrummonds operated a yards. Dutt asked Drum- ter Drummond said, “Low wholesale Mexican import mond if he knew any high turnover of school board business and had a retail school kids who could work members, administrative store at the El Paso airport. a couple days a week wash- staff and teachers; small Drummond is a Life Mem- ing out wine bottles and class sizes, emphasis on stuber of the Lion’s Club. In serving samples to guests. dent citizenship and the 1976 in El Paso he tried to Drummond said, “I’m your overwhelming support of start a 4th of July parade in man,” and has been work- parents and the communihonor of the U.S. bicenten- ing two days a week ever ty.” Write Kimball at nial. It turned out to be a since. When this writer told robertkimball326@ bigger job than he thought. Two years later the first El Drummond’s wife that he gmail.com.

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JaniceJohnson Agraciouscommunityteacher,activistandadvocateforthearts By Marion Vendituoli

“My first career was teaching school, my second career was selling fishing worms, and my third is hanging paintings” said Janice Johnson recently. But it could be argued that her real vocation in life has been improving the quality of life for people in Nogales and Santa Cruz County. Johnson spent the first ten years of her life “above the timberline” in Colorado, where her Dad worked with heavy equipment in a gold mine. She then moved to California in 1941 where the family ran a riding academy. “At that time it would have astonished me to think that I would not have been on a horse for 10 years now,” she reflected. In 1949, they moved to Tucson where Johnson attended the University of Arizona, graduating with a degree in elementary education. “I was going to be a veterinarian,” she said, but they asked me to leave a chemistry class after I melted a bunch of pipettes and beakers.” Her mother encouraged her to get a degree in education. “She said that after I got married, if I needed it to fall back on, I would have it. My mother was in the forefront of women’s liberation.

“I love Nogales people because they are family oriented,and families are very huge because everybody gets to be in the family. There is a different dynamic here.It’s a small town and people know everybody.”

Janice Johnson (pictured here in 1992) and her husband ran the concessions at Lake Patagonia for years.

She believed a woman could do anything.” She and her husband, Paul Johnson, a quality control officer and veterinary meat inspector for the State of Arizona, had two children. Paul Johnson passed away three years ago. She taught art for 15 years (“The most fun a teacher can have”, according to

Johnson) while earning a master’s degree in art education. In 1976 her husband read an advertisement in the newspaper for the concession at Lake Patagonia State Park. “He jumped out of his chair and started the wheels rolling,” Johnson said, and the family moved to the lake where they took over operation of the store and boat rental facility. “We bought a trailer home,” she said. “We had to dig our own water line up the rockiest hill I ever saw in my life,” she said. The family lived in that mobile home for 12 years until they built a home overlooking the Lake. She remembers a family of skunks that moved in under their trailer home, who would periodically get upset and let loose their spray. Her nephew was living with them at the time while attending Patagonia High School. “He started keeping a bag of clean clothes in his truck,” she said. “I always made him go to school even if he had been sprayed.” The lake “was a fun place to be,” Johnson said. “The inlet end was great for birding, and we discovered a lot of petroglyphs. One day a woman rented a boat and paddled under the bridge. She came racing back to tell us that a mountain lion was asleep on a rock under the

bridge.” The Johnsons ran the concession at the Lake for 25 years. “We were Mr. and Mrs. Lake Patagonia,” she said. “We knew lots and lots of people, not by their names, but by what kind of boat they had.” But even during this busy time, Johnson was reaching out into the community. Within one week of moving to Patagonia, Johnson volunteered to teach art in the Patagonia Elementary school. “A really cool thing is a lot of people say, ‘I remember when you were my art teacher,’” she said. Janice became involved with the Hilltop Gallery in 1978. She entered several metal sculptures that she had welded, having learned welding as part of her master’s program at NAU. The gallery is run by “Patrons of the Arts’, a non-profit organization celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. “In the art world, keeping a not-for-profit organization running that long is an accomplishment,” said Johnson. She has been involved ever since with the Hilltop Gallery, serving as president of the board several times. “I have worked with about 100 kids every day during the gallery’s summer art program,” she said. Johnson has been a Santa Cruz County Cowbelle for

20 years. “Muriel Noon invited me and I qualify because her cows are in the pasture in front of my house,” she said. Johnson has volunteered with the Pimeira Alta historical Society, and is head of ‘Library FANS’, (Friends at Nogales/ Santa Cruz). This group helps support the library outside the formal library budget, giving books to elementary schools and buying books for the library. She is part of a book club and volunteers with Tele-Care in Nogales. “In Nogales we have people alone at home, perhaps in frail health or lonely,” she explained. The group calls these people every day to check up and chat with them. Johnson also served on the Board of Directors for Southern Arizona Legal Aid (SALA). When she heard last year that they were closing their Nogales office due to budget cuts, she sprang into action. “I was quite passionate,” she said. “I wrote letters to everybody. She got the Women’s Shelter, the Women’s Community Health Organization, the Sheriff and the County Attorney to all attend a meeting with the board members of SALA, and got them to keep an office in Nogales. Bernie Medley, who

serves on the board of directors of Patrons of the Arts described Johnson as “Very involved in the community and very compassionate, and when she gets involved, she tries to solve problems.” Because of her tireless efforts on behalf of her community, Johnson received the ATHENA Award as Businesswoman of the Year from the Nogales Santa Cruz county Chamber of Commerce in 2006, and received the Governor’s Arts Award in 2007. ”I am proud of that,” she said, “Because it was for the success of the Hilltop Gallery. “I love Nogales people,” Johnson said, “Because they are family oriented, and families are very huge because everybody gets to be in the family. There is a different dynamic here. It’s a small town and people know everybody.” She loves the countryside and the beauty of the area, but says that, the biggest drawback, for her, is “How far you have to drive to get anywhere. I’ve always said, ‘When my accelerator foot goes, I’m really out of luck.” With all her activities and a horse, dogs and cats to take care of at home, Johnson is a very busy woman, but, she says, “I like to be busy and I like to be involved. I never learned how to say ‘No’”.

[ ] Janice Johnson ‘holds hands’ with an oil painting on exhibit at the Hilltop Gallery. PHOTO/MARION VENDITUOLI


Profiles, 2012

Special supplement to the Nogales International / Weekly Bulletin / 6

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“The conservation easements are part of our legacy to protect what we love so much.It is the ranchers’stewardship that protects these open spaces.”

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Sidney with the deer she raised on her Grandmother’s ranch CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Sidney Spencer visits with the horses she is training for work on her ranch. PHOTO/MARION VENDITUOLI

SidneySpencer SheheardSanRafaelValleycalling By Marion Vendituoli

It is a rare person who doesn’t stop in awe the first time he comes over Canelo Pass and sees the San Rafael Valley laid out below, a sea of grass unfolding into the distance until it runs up into the mountains of Mexico. But for Sidney Spencer the feelings run even deeper, entangled in her love of the land and the cattle and the dream she shared with her grandmother. Sidney’s grandmother, Dorothea Meigs, was running her ranch near Fort Huachuca when Sidney and her brother went to live with her. Their earliest years were spent there and every summer, as soon as school was out, they returned to the ranch. In the 1930’s, Sidney’s grandparents bought a ranch in the San Rafael Valley, which they named the LazyJ2. When the 8,000acre ranch was sold in 1953, it “broke my grandmother’s heart,” she said. Although Mrs. Meigs moved to Huachuca City and established the Lazy DS ranch, she always wanted to bring the ranch in the San Rafael back into the family. “It’s been my star to follow,” Sidney said. Sidney moved to southern California with her mother, where she started working at odd jobs at a young age. She was mowing lawns and washing windows at age 10, selling Fuller Brush products at 13, and writing for a local newspaper at 15. “Being a little ranch kid, there’s nothing you can’t do,” she said. When she was 17, she was starting racehorses, riding 20 horses a day. At 19, she became the personal assistant to Mabel Albertson, who played Darrin’s mother on the TV show, Bewitched. From there, she went on to work for Albertson’s son, George Englund, a producer/director whose work includes Shoes of the Fisherman, The Ugly American and The Dark of the Sun. “He was my education. He was a global thinker,” Sidney said. She worked for him for 5 years, travelling all over the world. In 1975, she left Englund to return to help her grandmother run the ranch. She also did the midnight news for KVOA in Tucson. “I would say things like ‘lunder and thightning’ (on the air),” because I was so tired,” she laughed. She married and had a daughter,

Alexcis, during this time. Returning to southern California in 1978, she started a marketing firm. In 1982, she became involved with InstaNet, the first electronic trading company. She was hired to develop the company’s relationship with investment companies across the country. She and her daughter moved first to Chicago and then New York City. “Boy, did I love New York,” she said. “It suited me just fine.” But the ranch was always in the back of her mind. She started negotiating to buy her grandmother’s former ranch in 1986, but had to abandon the idea when the stock market crashed in 1987. In 1991 she was in a position to purchase a piece of the ranch, which was being subdivided. Her first purchase was the ‘Picnic Pasture’, her grandmother’s favorite spot on the old ranch. In 1992, on a business trip to LA, Sidney was involved in an automobile accident, sustaining a head injury which went undiagnosed for some time. She started falling, had difficulty talking, suffered from short term memory loss, and lost her math skills. “My ability to work and have an income was gone in one fell swoop. It was a pretty big shock. The future didn’t look very bright when I couldn’t rely on my brain function.” In 1995 she decided that she would move back to Arizona and raise cattle. “I was physically strong and I thought that being on the land might help me heal. I bought my first 20 head of Angus heifers and spent 2 ½ months building fence, and piece by piece I started buying back the ranch.” She bought her last piece of property in 2003, and now has put back together 2/3 of the original ranch, which operates under the old ranch name of the Lazy J2. Sidney’s home at the LazyJ2 ranch headquarters was originally the feed room for the large, red barn that started life as an airplane hangar. Off the kitchen, a door leads to a storeroom filled with freezers packed with beef waiting to go to market. Just past her motorcycle, that she rides to check her windmills, chickens scratch about under the feet of the three colts that she is training as ranch horses. Beyond the ranch headquarters, the grasslands spread out in all directions, dotted with her

cattle. Sidney raises her cattle naturally and sells natural 100 percent grass-fed beef. “I feel that I am offering a premier product because I have enough grass to truly have them eat only native Arizona grasses. “I do lots of things differently,” she said.” I breed my cows later. I have them drop their calves towards the end of the summer.” She does the work herself, managing her herd of 83 Angus/Hereford cross steers and 53 heifers. She hires brothers Gilberto and Gerardo Valenzuela when she needs occasional help. “They work the cattle the way I do -- quietly” she said. Her beef is sold in farmer’s markets in Tucson and Green Valley, at Red Mountain Foods in Patagonia and at Maynard’s Market in Tucson. The U of A ‘green’ restaurant in the Student Union buys thousands of pounds of her ‘bull burger’ meat, and she also delivers to families in Tucson and Phoenix. “The big push this year is the summer sausage on the internet,” she said. She has recently made the decision to sell part of the ranch. She feels that she has accomplished her dream of restoring the ranch, stopping the construction of a subdivision in the 1990’s and protecting it from future development, having established conservation easements, so that it will be a “sea of grass” forever. “The conservation easements are part of our legacy,” she said, “to protect what we love so much. It is the ranchers’ stewardship that protects these open spaces.” Without support for the ranchers from the community, she warns, “You end up with all this land going into development.” Recently Sidney produced a documentary about the San Rafael Valley. “I know that this is the next stage of my life, making documentaries” she said. She will keep the Picnic Pasture that her grandmother loved so much, and plans to live in the San Rafael the rest of her life. “I plan to be buried out in the back,” she said. She hopes to continue to run cattle, as well. “As much work as this is,” Sidney said, “You don’t do this for any other reason than the love of the ground, the love of the animals, the love of the life.”


7 / Special supplement to the Nogales International / Weekly Bulletin

Profiles, 2012

Schmitt tries on his parka, at right, before starting his trek at Roncesvalles on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees. He was fortunate to have good weather, and never needed to use the rain gear. Schmitt was issued this compostela, certificate of completion, when he reached Santiago. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

SCHMITT ContinuedfromPage3

“It wasn’t a goal to see if I could walk 500 miles. Instead, it was a change of outlook.” The pilgrimage, in existence since medieval times, commemorates the path of the Apostle James, who came to Spain to preach the gospel of Jesus. When James returned to Jerusalem, he was crucified. His bones were later

VILLA ContinuedfromPage3

I called shortly after noon one day, and the lady on the other end of the line said, “Vente mi’jito aqui te estan esperando.” Now, I’m 50 years old and I’m not used to being called “sonny” in English or Spanish. But from her, I did not take offense as she urged me to come get my chicken and ribs while they were hot. So I go there and who is stocking shelves and chatting it up with some of his regulars? Mario Villa. By now one would think he would have a special caddy and chair for this daily routine. But like his store, there is nothing ostentatious about Mario who uses a grocery cart and drags around two old milk crates stacked like a T where he rests his heavy frame as he prices items and restocks shelves. “I thought you would have retired by now, and moved to Cancun or Puerto Vallarta,” I kidded him. “Not me,” he grumbled. “The day I stop coming to work is the day I’ll die.” Not surprising coming from a man who came over as a teen from Nogales, Sonora

Many monastaries charge whatever you can afford, even if it is only a prayer. Schmitt stayed in the municipal albergues for around $5 a night, where pilgrims, both men and women, sleep in a large dormitory-style room lined with double decker bunk beds. He stopped each day at about 3 p.m. so he would be sure to find lodging and get a shower before it got crowded and the hot water ran out. He washed his clothes, peregrino-style, by

dropping them on the floor of the shower, stepping on them as he showered, then rinsing them off and hanging them on the foot of the bunk to dry overnight. Siesta is from noon to 4 p.m., but some places, mostly bars, stay open for the peregrinos and serve what they call the comida del dia, or meal of the day. The usual fare is spaghetti and French fries, a high carbohydrate meal that’s easy to prepare and cheap. When he reached Santi-

ago, Steve was presented with a compostela, certificate of completion. Afterwards, he attended the special Mass for pilgrims at the cathedral. Steve returned with a new attitude, “I have a better understanding of what is important,” he said. He also brought home a key chain with a heavy medallion that has a yellow arrow on one side and a concha on the reverse. “It is a daily reminder and it shows me the way,” he said.

brought back to Spain and buried in Santiago. The symbol of the Camino is a sea shell or concha, often seen on walls and surrounding doorways of houses. According to legend, early pilgrims carried a seashell that served as a safe passage during the Crusades and protected them from the invaders. Today, the concha is considered a way marker and assures the pilgrim he is on the right path. Many peregrinos, including Steve, carry a con-

cha to honor the tradition. The other way marker is a yellow arrow, flecha amarilla. It may be painted on a tree, on the ground, or on the side of a building. The towns are roughly 10 kilometers apart and each town has albergues, hostels, or monasteries that cater to the peregrinos. Walkers are given preference over bicyclers. If it is crowded, a spot will be found for the walker somewhere, sometimes a blanket and a spot on the floor.

and worked for the Puchi family for 27 years before striking out on his own. He started out as a bagger and swept the floors. But he had a good head and the customers appreciated his people skill so he easily moved up the ranks after gaining his citizenship. “I am deeply grateful to Mr. (Gonzalo) Puchi for the confidence he placed in me. It’s where I got my schooling,” he said. It’s Mario’s children and grandchildren who do most of the heavy lifting these days. Several years ago, he handed the reins of the wholesale business to his son Aurelio, and Mario kept the store on Western Avenue. Then the rented building was sold from under him. Mario’s wife of 62 years and childhood sweetheart, Armida Termine de Villa, is the woman behind this family success story, he readily admits. “She told me, you can’t be without work, and she was right.” At his age there was not much available, except maybe as a greeter at a bigbox store, which surely would have killed his spirit. Aurelio wouldn’t have it and told his dad he needed him. His old man knows the

business and everyone knows Mario. They made room for the grocery store at the wholesale warehouse on Ocean Garden. “My son needs me,” said the beaming grocer, whom a cadre of young employees and clerks calls “Tata,” or grandpa. The partnership with his son flourished. In fact, the family expects to open a second location by Mother’s Day at what was the Foxworth Galbraith Store on North Grand Avenue. In the long run, the plan is to establish a warehouse-type of operation similar to Costco or Sam’s Club, where customers can buy products in bulk for a discount. For now, the new store will encompass 10,000 square feet of sales floor, featuring nearly 50 feet of meat cases, 40 feet of produce displays, a larger beer cave and best of all, more hot ready-to-eat meats. While the store may feature flashy new display cases and modern check-out counters, there’s one thing that won’t ever change, and Oscar Villa enjoys hearing his grandfather’s anecdotes about Nogales of yesthat’s the home-town ap- teryear as well as his hopes and dreams for his family’ s future. proach to business that is MANUEL C. COPPOLA the legacy of Mario Villa.

www.nogalesinternational.com/special_sections


Profiles, 2012

Special supplement to the Nogales International / Weekly Bulletin / 8

Edgar Gonzalez, left, dedicates much of his personal time on training youths like Esteban Valencia to box and stay in good physical condition while instilling the importance of education. PHOTOS/WILLIAM WILCZEWSKI

EdgarGonzalez FormerfightergivinglocalyouthafightingchanceatSnooppyBoxingGym “This just really helped me get out of trouble; it gave me lot of discipline and keeps me intact every day,” Soto said. “This place means a lot to me.” “I love it here,” added Guerrero. “I’m very comfortable.” For Duran, though, “This is another home. It gives me a place to come after school (at Nogales High) instead of being somewhere else and doing other stuff.” The gym has also helped Duran, a junior lose 30 pounds since his freshman year.

shirts will forever symbolize his father, Manuel, who still Esteban Valencia has allives in El Paso. ways wanted to be a profesBut, that’s typical of sional athlete. Edgar, who has always had a His mother also wants strong bond with family, him to have a backup plan. whether it’s blood relatives Now, the 23-year-old is or this stable of fighters that on track to have both— he calls his second clan. thanks, in large part, to “I put my family second Edgar Gonzalez, owner and because I spend the time trainer at Snooppy Boxing I’m supposed to be with my Gym and Fitness at 1138 N. family with these guys,” he Bankard Ave., in Nogales. said, “so when I built this “When I mentioned to gym I knew it was going to (Edgar) that I want to be a be a big sacrifice, so I wantprofessional athlete, he’s ed to create this environlike, ‘well, you know, I want ment as a family, not as a you to focus on school, as professor or a trainer.” well,’ so he’s been pushing That environment has me to go to school, which is not gone unnoticed. what I’m going “We’re to do,” Valencia all just said. “It’s allike a ways good to family "And just being with Edgar is a have somehere,” different experience for me.He’ll thing to fall Soto said. back on. “It’s just a go out of his way just for our bene“I am just fun place fit. He sacrifices a lot of his time more than to be and grateful to train.” with his family,and he sacrifices a meet some“He’d body like lot of his money when we go to rather Edgar,” he have you fights.” added. “It’s a here than huge inspirabeing out -Esteban Valencia tion, and like I there and said, I really getting didn’t want to Gonzalez, though, said into fights and beating peofinish school, and after he couldn’t do it without the ple up,” added Valencia, telling my mom (that I was) help of Alejandro Arellano, who struggled with drugs she was really glad.” who owns the furniture and skipping school as a By now, Valencia should store that sits in the front young teen. “The way my be enrolled at Cochise Col- half of the property where life is going now is really, relege—a decision that adds the gym is located. ally positive. I don’t drink. I bookwork to the three and He also says that former don’t do any drugs or anyhalf hours of gym work that hot dog stand owner Cele thing like that, but I am adhe puts in five days a week. Fonseca is like an “angel to dicted to the sport and “This is practically my me.” working out.” second home, you could Prior to Fonseca passing That’s one reason why say,” he said. “And just be- away last year, Gonzalez Gonzalez thinks his goal of ing with Edgar is a different said he constantly gave him bringing a state or national experience for me. He’ll go sound business advice in or- amateur champ to Nogales, out of his way just for our der to keep the gym afloat. Ariz., is a realistic one. benefit. He sacrifices a lot of That gym is open from 4“I want to put Nogales on his time with his family, and 8 p.m. Mondays through the map, if God gives me he sacrifices a lot of his Fridays, and Gonzalez the strength,” he said. “If money when we go to charges $40 a month or $10 not, it’s just something posfights.” a week to upkeep the gym. itive for the community; Those fights had put Va- He currently has about 35 something positive for the lencia at 2-1 in his last three, athletes coming to the facil- kids. If they can spread the with two first-round knock- ity, but Valencia, Soto, word, that would be great, outs within 30 seconds and Guerrero and Duran stand but I’m not doing it for the a decision loss that report- the best chance of making a money. If I can change edly left most in attendance name for themselves in the somebody’s life, I’ll be hapbewildered and scratching state’s and nation’s amateur py because this is my pastheir heads last year. ranks, just like Gonzalez did sion.” Valencia, though, isn’t in Texas prior to 1989 when That passion also comes the only life Gonzalez has he fought his last bout. at a price, because with a changed since he opened Named after one of his fulltime job at Wal-Mart— the gym a little more than a father’s old racecars—and plus nights at the gym— year ago. changed slightly to avoid there’s not a whole lot of Take, for example, the famous cartoon copy- time for Gonzalez to spend Manuel Soto, Alexis Guer- right infringement— with his wife Gloria Marrero and Angel “Cinna- Snooppy’s Boxing Gym is tinez and eight children. mon” Duran—three other an extension of those days “But they still support of the trainer’s top for Gonzalez, and the cross me,” he said. “I feel prospects. and wings on the gym’s T- blessed.”

By William Wilczewski

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Gonzalez’s passion comes at a price. A full-time job and the gym take him away from his wife and eight children.


9 / Special supplement to the Nogales International / Weekly Bulletin

Kelly Gullett and Ruben Rodriguez of Rio Rico sit with Gina, Rodriguez’s Shih Tzu, outside Kelly’ s Kritters in Rio Rico Feb. 8 PHOTO / ROGER CONROY

KellyGullett Waggingtailstelltaleof love have been here. I have never had a problem with one of them,” Gullett said. “No snapping, biting, nothing. I have been pretty lucky on that.”

groomer) went out of business, we decided it is time to Photos of dogs fill the get back into grooming. walls in the foyer of Kelly’s Gullett moved Kelly’s KritKritters in Rio Rico. All are ters into the storefront at wearing colorful scarves the Storage Plaza at 1279 and some of them seem to West Frontage Road, be smiling. If the photos Knight in owned by Kurt Ahrens and were videos, you could see located next to Family Doltails wagging. The scarf Shining Armor Gullett moved here from lar. “I love being here. comes with love from Kelly California four years ago Everybody welcomed us Gullett, owner and with open arms and has groomer at Kelly’s Kritters. and her husband, Keith, six helped us out so much. The The dogs feel the love, she years ago. “We just fell in Taekwondo is busy and said. “If there is no love love with (Rio Rico). We Hair by Johnny next door. there and you are in it for were dating, and then we Now we are working where the money, they will they know. drop off “The their dogs money is fine, and get a but I do it behaircut at cause I love the same “It is fun to get paid for what you dogs,” Gultime while love to do.How can you get any lett said. I’m doing Gullett has their dogs.” better than that?” been in busiThey run ness in Rio events at Rico for five the Storage months as of Plaza, KeiValentine’s th said. Day 2012. “Most of broke up when he moved Gullett has groomed more the holidays, we will have than 425 dogs, some more out here. He came back (to swap meets here. You ought than once. “We have 324 California) and asked me to to see the turnout then. new dogs; then the other come back and I did. He There are vendors all out in hundred are from previous came to rescue me. He is my front here.” Knight in Shining Armor.” clients.” Their marriage is a partWhen she first started nership. Gullett worked Clients list her shop, Gullett groomed Clients like it at Kelly’s one or two dogs a day. with Keith in construction Kritters. Ruben Rodriguez “Now that business is pick- before grooming and he is of Rio Rico began bringing ing up, it has been anywhere helping her at Kelly’s Krit- Gina, his shih tzu, there two from four to seven dogs a ters when his business is months ago. Rodriguez is day. We expected it to be slack. “He is my secretary, one of Gullet’s new cusbookkeeper and answering tight when we started.” machine while I do my tomers. “I love it here. I live (in Rio Rico), to begin with, dogs.” Beginnings Kelly and Keith met and I was passing by and Gullett began training while she was doing carpen- happened to see the sign when she was 13 years old outside. I pulled in to see and started grooming when try in California, she said. “I what the store was about.” she was 15, she said. “My got out of the dog grooming Gullett had been workbusiness for a while and demom taught me.” ing at the Groom Shop in Kelly’s Kritters is Gul- cided to go into carpentry. I Green Valley as an indelett’s second shop, she said. love working outdoors. If pendent contractor for “I had one when I was real- there was a way I could put eight months before openly young and silly and it did- my shop outdoors, I ing Kellly’s Kritters, she n’t work out. This is my first would.” said. owned business.” Some of her clients came Gullet has been groom- Getting back with her, Gullett said. “I ing for about 30 years, she to business think we needed the shop said. “I love what I do. I love Gullett’s move indoors here,” Keith said. my animals. I love every one was precipitated by a vacan“It is fun to get paid for of them with everything in cy in Rio Rico, she said. what you love to do,” Gulme and they know it. “Now that (another lett said. “How can you get “I’ve been so lucky since I any better than that?”

By Roger Conroy

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Kelly Gullett clips hair on Gina’s feet at Kelly’s Kritters in Rio Rico Feb. 8. Gina, a Shih Tzu, belongs to Ruben Rodriguez of Rio Rico.

Profiles, 2012


Profiles, 2012

Special supplement to the Nogales International / Weekly Bulletin / 10


Profiles  

Each year, we proudly produce our "profiles" section in which we introduce some of our neightbors in Santa Cruz County who have special stor...

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