Ajo Copper News
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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 of Ajo.
 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 care.
 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 program.
 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 age students.
 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 sought.
 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, and Overgaard.
 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  thus far.
 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 Newspaper Association.
 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 board.
 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 home.
 Ajo Lions Club presented the Melvin Jones Fellowship award to Richard Park in recognition of commitment to humanitarian service.
 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 morning.
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 will be.

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