Ajo entered 2004 amid a round of parties &
dances, family gatherings, and occasional quiet contemplation.
Frequent fires frustrated firefighters. One was an
arson fire was started by juveniles in a vacant lot. The others were
blamed on candles, electricity, and grease. The Ajo/Gibson Volunteer
Fire Department responded to all of them and to motor vehicle accidents
Newly elected officers of the Ajo Garden Club,
president Nancy Richeson, vice president Paul Vasquez, secretary Carol
Peek, and treasurer Rick Lehner, began the new year with big plans for
Western Pima County Community Council elected
representatives from even numbered districts – Terry Gentner, Carol
Yokum, Kord Klinefelter, and Lil Jones. Eric Marcus was appointed to
fill the vacancy in district 5.
The Ajo Unified School District board selected Ken
Kermode as chair and retained Kord Klinefelter as clerk.
The Ajo Community Players tried their first dinner
theater production. It was so successful they extended it for an extra
week. Love Letters starred MaryAnne & Fred Fout.
Ajo Transportation and ISDA received funds for
development of a high school training program to train students as tour
guides and for identification of ways to make Ajo a more age-friendly
The Ajo-Gibson Volunteer Fire Department continued
to investigate formation of a fire district to help pay for operating
More than 100 visitors attended the health &
safety fair held by Desert Senita Community Health Center. Many
community health and safety organizations participated.
Several pronghorn were transferred via helicopter
from Mexico to a holding pen on Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge
as part of a captive breeding program. When some pronghorn died during
the transfer, techniques were immediately modified and the rest of the
animals were successfully moved to the new site in Childs Valley on the
refuge. The area is now closed to visitors.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was listed among
the ten most endangered units of the National Park Service. The park is
threatened because of its problems with illegal immigrants and
smuggling of narcotics.
New streetlights were installed in Ajo along State
Judge John Casey, Ajo's justice of the peace,
retired after twelve years as a judge. His years on the bench were
preceded by twenty years as juvenile corrections officer. Five people
applied to be his successor.
Flute player R. Carlos Nakai and his Band of Native
Americans performed at Dicus Auditorium before a large, appreciative
audience. The event was sponsored by the Ajo Council for the Fine Arts.
Three ladies, one just 9-years-old, won prizes in
the VFW's salsa contest. Three men won the chili contest.
Wendell & Virginia Russ celebrated their 65th
wedding anniversary on January 28.
Maria Alvillar was sworn in as Ajo's new justice of
the peace. She started working in the courthouse over 25 years ago and
served in increasingly responsible positions before being appointed as
Judge Casey's successor.
The 26th annual Old Time Fiddler's Contest at Ajo
Country Club filled the first weekend in February for many
people. Those who had time also attended the Ajo Community Players'
vaudeville show, the Piecemakers' quilt show, or a lecture at the
Work continued at the Ten Mile Wash bridge. South of
Why, on State Route 85, roadwork included building interpretive
pullouts for visitors to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. On
Solana, a sidewalk was put in. Work on the sidewalk was completed in
April; work on the road through the monument continued until September.
The Desert Senita Adult Care Home building was
brought to Ajo and installed in its location near Desert Senita
Community Health Center.
Table Top Telephone Company amended its contracts
with customers in an effort to combat virus & worms and other
security problems striking customers and service providers alike.
Aerial views of Ajo taken to help assess flooding
causes and evaluate possible solutions were made available online by
Elsa Peterson, Ashley Maya, Kayla Leon, Amy
Alvillar, and Roxanne Gradillas were winners in the Youth Recognition
Program of Roland G. Moody Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3578 and
Ladies Auxiliary. Ashley Maya also placed first at the district level
and fifth at the department level receiving additional awards in Tucson
Architects Stephen Thompson and Lynette
Pollari of Thompson Pollari Studio presented design concept
illustrations for the restoration of the Curley School complex.
The Ajo High School boys' basketball team ended its
season with a 13 win and 13 loss record overall; their conference play
showed 6 wins and 2 losses.
The Ajo High School girls' basketball team ended its
season with a 15 win and 7 loss record overall; their conference plays
showed 9 wins and 4 losses.
Bess Switzer Jones celebrated her 100th birthday at
the Mi Casa Nursing Home in Mesa. She taught first and second grades in
Local school superintendent Bob Dooley, school bus
driver Ramon Yanez, and Lukeville businessman Al Gay were interviewed
by CNN when the bussing of students to Ajo schools from Lukeville
attracted national interest. The students are US citizens who live in
Mexico but claim a Lukeville address.
The Sonoran Shindig drew several hundred visitors to
the area and helped celebrate the desert and Ajo's 150th birthday. The
event included entertainment by Ted Ramirez, Michael Ronstadt, and the
Santa Cruz River Band with poster, photograph and howling contests,
raffles, folklorico dancing, and lots more.
Nancy Richeson and Pat Taylor were honored as their
chapter sweethearts by members of Beta Sigma Phi.
Death left its sting on February 17 when 15-year-old
Richard Valadez was fatally stabbed by his cousin Thomas Bates, 26.
Bates was arrested and taken to a jail in Tucson while students were
offered support by counselors from the school and other area agencies.
Valadez was a eighth grade student in the Ajo public school.
A two-way stretch of Puerto Blanco Drive at Organ
Pipe Cactus National Monument was reopened to visitor traffic. The
newly renovated scenic drive has pullouts, restrooms, and a picnic
area. Later attractions will include interpretive signs.
Ten new members were inducted into the National
Honor Society at Ajo High School: Shawn Spitzer, Marcos Acosta, Amy
Nancy Magdaleno, Denise Mariscales, Lisa Longoria, Elinor Campion,
Brandon Grissom, Cody Ethel, Nathaneal Waggoner, and Monica Griffith.
The Tucson Symphony performed in Ajo and played
"Happy Birthday" to the community with the audience joining in.
Novo Mundo, playing Brazilian music and Latin jazz, also helped
celebrate Ajo's 150th birthday, with a performance at Dicus Auditorium.
Winter visitors contributed to the community in many
ways through the seasons, including trash pick-up, participation in
fundraisers, serving on boards of organizations and businesses, working
with students in the school, and supporting Ajo businesses.
Art continued to be discussed throughout the
community and at the school. The Ajo School Arts Partnership brought
artists into the schools and advocates for the art curriculum to the
school board. An art teacher was hired and began working with students
in all grades at the beginning of the 2004-2005 school year.
The Ajo public school received a grant from the
state for school improvement. Superintendent Bob Dooley said this
year's $70,000 will be used for summer school, tutoring, technology
improvements, and staff development.
The Ajo-Gibson Volunteer Fire Department held a
meeting to provide information about the proposed fire district, which
has not yet been formed.
The new fire truck arrived with bells and whistles
in a parade that included fire trucks from neighboring areas and other
emergency vehicles. County and state elected officials were present for
the dedication ceremony. The truck went on its first call three days
Workshops and planning sessions were among the
activities that kicked off the Community Pollinator Garden project
being sponsored by the International Sonoran Desert Alliance. Three
community gardens are being developed and residents are encouraged to
plant native plants in their yards to provide food, shelter, and
perches for pollinators of various types. The community garden at
Cabeza Prieta introduced fish in October and has a handicapped
accessible viewing site. Work continues on gardens at Desert Senita
Adult Care Home and at Curley School.
A hearing was held by the Arizona Corporation
Commission to get input from Ajo residents about how they feel about
the request submitted by Ajo Improvement Company for increased rates
for water and sewer.
Many areas of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument,
Bureau of Land Management areas south of the Scenic Loop Road, and
Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge closed for the second year for
the fawning season of the endangered Sonoran pronghorn. The roads were
closed from March 15 to July 15.
US Border Patrol submitted a proposal to Organ Pipe
Cactus National Monument for increased access to wilderness areas to
reduce incidents of smuggling and illegal entry of undocumented aliens.
Organ Pipe's new superintendent Kathy Billings began dealing with the
problem as soon as she arrived.
Pima Youth Partnership honored those who helped
create healthy and safe environments for children, youth, and families
in Ajo. Agents of Change acknowledged were Kayla Leon, Diane
Schumacher, Stephanie Carrera, and Jeanne Leon.
Rev. Thomas Stack is the new pastor at Ajo Calvary
Baptist Church. His tenure was brief.
A tour of homes in Ajo's Historic District included
nine homes. Representatives from the Smithsonian Institute visited the
district in April.
The Arizona Border Control Initiative, or ABC
Initiative, was to bring another 2000 US Border Patrol agents to the
Tucson Sector. A number of them would be stationed in Ajo.
Fatima McCasland was named CEO of Desert Senita
Community Health Center. She replaced Ed Sicurello who moved back to
Kathy Billlings, the new superintendent at Organ
Pipe Cactus National Monument, was welcomed at a ceremony in the Plaza.
Monica Griffith, Ruben Norris, and Angelica Alvarez
were the first graduates of the Junior Tour Guide training sponsored by
Ajo Transportation in conjunction with the Ajo Unified School District.
The Desert Music Club held its annual dinner with
entertainment provided by talented members.
Easter was celebrated at an ecumenical sunrise
service in the Plaza, sponsored by the Ajo Pastors Association. Local
churches also held services. Egg hunts and visits by the Easter Bunny
kept children hopping.
The Ajo Players presented Greater Tuna to acclaim at
the Ajo County Club.
Pima Animal Control Center instituted a new fee
Cinco de Mayo had a little bit of everything in the
Plaza as those attending watched dancers, ate a variety of foods,
enjoyed music, received information, and visited with friends and
All six bond election proposals passed county-wide;
Ajo voters had rejected all of them.
The US Border Patrol donated 317 pounds of canned
goods for the Ajo Food Bank. The canned goods had been among seized
goods and are donated on a regular basis.
An accident near Charlie Bell Well nearly costs
ranger Rob Peloquin his life.
The Ajo Schools Arts Partnership received a grant to
hire Native American artists to work with students in the Ajo public
Ylesia Jones and Kevin Horton were queen and king at
the Ajo High School's 2004 prom.
The annual spring concert was one of many
end-of-the-year events for students in the Ajo public school. Students
also attended a recognition assembly, participated in a field day and
took the usual battery of tests. Seniors participated in the honors
banquet sponsored by the Ajo Rotary Club,
Commencement activities took place in Dicus
Auditorium. The Class of 2004 was led by Megan Elizabeth Candelaria as
valedictorian, Elsa Peterson as salutatorian, and Lisa Lee Longoria as
honorary salutatorian. Kevin Horton, Debbie Lidwina Siers, Amy Nancy
Magdaleno, Mené Martinez, Xochitl Eliana Hernandez, Yvette
Montijo, Desirae Leilani Bates, Nicolette David, and Melissa Contreras
Monobe all were graduated with honors. Also graduating were Matthew
Joseph Anghill, Gleason Antone, Chana Renee Clemnets, Amanda F.
Denniing, Samuel Diarte, Ylesia Denys Jones, Nicole Kuebler, Iris
Malvido, Raquel Arlene Moreno, Daniel F. Odom, Samanth Lynn Rojo,
Clinton John Treadway, and Eddie R. Williams. Many of the 26 seniors
attended the all-night Grad Night celebration that followed, sponsored
by PYP, PTO, and Ajo public schools.
Workers from the US Postal Service picked up 1741
pounds of food from donors on their routes during their annual
collection. The food was donated to the Ajo Food Bank.
The Why Post Office was closed.
Table Top Telephone announced plans to upgrade the
infrastructure to improve service without increasing rates. Additions
of fiber optic cable and modernized equipment over the next five years
will expand availability of broadband connections and provide more
The baseball team ended its season with a 2 win, 12
loss record. The softball team had 4 wins and 9 losses. The golf team
won 4 and lost 20. They played that many meets.
In the state meet, the Red Raider track & field
team won honors. Jon Clements took top honors for Ajo as the 1600-meter
state champion. He also placed fourth in the 400-meter dash and, along
with Joseph Alvillar, Charles Bauer, and Jesse Chavez, took second in
the 4x400 meter relay. Lily Vega hurdled her way to two second-place
medals in the 100-meter and 300-meter hurdles. Denise Mariscales
grabbed second in the shot put and Nicolette David came in third in the
Veterans and community members honored those who
served and died for their country at Memorial Day observances.
Olsens Marketplace had a month-long grand opening
with prizes galore.
Migrant deaths continued to climb. Some groups tried
to provide water and health-related services to those suffering from
heat exhaustion and exposure while Border Patrol and other law
enforcement groups continued their efforts to apprehend illegal border
crossers. Border Patrol agents continued to be added to the Tucson
Sector, which includes Ajo.
A new doctor, Carol Johnson D.O., and an x-ray
technician, Patrick Brawley, began work at Desert Senita Community
Jim Wilcox began work as the new Curley School
Flag Day was again celebrated with observances at
the Elks Lodge.
Members of the US Border Patrol Explorer Post #85
represented Ajo at the 23rd annual explorer Olympics at the UofA.
An EMT class was offered by Ajo Ambulance and
produced more emergency workers to serve the area.
Desert Sharks swim team, Hook-a-Kid on Golf, and
opportunities for young people to earn money and learn job skills made
summer productive for many area kids. A host of kids worked on the Pima
County summer youth road crew, the Youth Conservation Corps, and Tucson
Youth Development programs.
Several staff members from Ajo Unified School
District retired at the end of this school year including Coozie
McBiles, Ken Farmer, John Byrnes, Rose Cameron, and Ed Sanquist.
Candidates began gearing up for the fall elections.
The Ajo Community Band, Ajo High School Drama Club,
Ajo High School Band, and Ajo Community Choir joined together to
perform patriotic songs and reader's theater in celebration of
The nation's independence was celebrated over a
weekend. It began on Saturday, July 3, with a parade, festival and
events throughout the day. The fireworks concluded the celebration on
Sunday evening, July 4.
The Bureau of Land Management submitted a proposal
to close the Cameron Cattle Grazing Allotment in cooperation with other
agencies to emphasize management of the area for endangered Sonoran
US Border Patrol tried repatriation of undocumented
aliens into the interior of Mexico to reduce the number of deaths in
the desert and reduce the number of migrants that return immediately
after being deported.
Ray Romero of Phelps Dodge Ajo talked to the Ajo
Garden Club about options being explored such as agriculture and
A Border Patrol agent stationed in Ajo was shot at
by suspected drug smugglers; he was not injured and the shooter was
A tanker truck loaded with gasoline overturned and
burned near Lukeville. Firefighters from Ajo, Why, and the Tohono
O'odham Nation battled the blaze for hours. State Route 85 was shut
down until the inferno was controlled.
Desert Senita Adult Care Home opened its doors with
an open house. The 10-bed home is operated under the auspices of Desert
Senita Community Health Center. The home provides supervisory and
personal care services.
School opened with a new vocational education
program, new middle school format, and many new teachers and other
Four teams of kids were assisted by several older
community members during the Challenge Golf League at the Ajo Country
Club. The intergenerational program was partially funded by the Pima
Council on Aging.
Several speakers at the Ajo District Chamber of
Commerce summer meetings talked about the possibility of changing the
designation of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to Sonoran Desert
National Park. Controversy raged as opinions on what the change could
bring differed. The possibility of toll road, which the National Park
Service said was not in its plans, served as a focal point for the
battle. Western Pima County Community Council became involved, writing
a letter encouraging continued free use of the highway for everyone.
A ceremony was held at the Port of Entry in
Lukeville in honor of the first produce truck to enter from Mexico. An
agricultural agent is now stationed in Lukeville so produce can be
inspected there and drivers don't have to travel to Nogales or San Luis
on the way to Phoenix.
Stanford 9 test results showed some improvement for
Ajo students though they still largely lag behind national averages.
A hearing was held in Ajo to gather information from
residents about the possibility of amending the Pima County
Comprehensive Plan designation of the seven-acre Curley School site
from Medium Intensity Urban to Community Activity Center. The staff
recommended the change to the Planning & Zoning Commission who in
turn recommended the change to the Board of Supervisors who approved
Ajo's public elementary school received an adequate
yearly performance rating but the high school did not. According to
Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS).
The International Day of Peace was celebrated in Ajo
with a parade including five cloth doves each with a 15-foot wingspan
and bells at Curley School ringing.
Voters took part in the primary election, deciding
who will be on the ballot in November's general election.
Discussion continued about whether Organ Pipe Cactus
National Monument should become Organ Pipe Cactus National Park with
concern continuing about whether State Route 85 could become a toll
US Border Patrol's use of motorized vehicles in the
wilderness areas of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was the topic
of discussion and letters. US Border Patrol and National Park Service
continue to work on an agreement that will adequately allow both
agencies to work toward their missions.
Pastor Lou Harding was wlecomed as the new minister
at Ajo Calvary Baptist Church.
The VFW observed POW/MIA Day with program.
Lt. David B. Allen, commander of the Ajo Station of
the Pima County Sheriff's Department, died suddenly of a heart attack.
He was 50.
The Ajo School Parent Teacher Organization held a
forum for school board candidates in anticipation of the November
general election. Candidates Rose Cameron, Kord Klinefelter, John
Byrnes and Virginia Garcia were running for the two seats open on the
Tohono O'odham Community College was approved for
five-year accreditation, the maximum possible for an initial
accreditation, since the college has met the 24 general institutional
requirements and criteria required.
The Ajo Red Raiders celebrated Homecoming with the
traditional parade, game, and dance. Jon Clements and Lily Vega were
crowned king and queen, attended by Joseph Alvillar and Mandy Pickle as
runners-up and by Shawn Spitzer, Vanessa Reid, Brian Bissell, and Ana
Diarte. The sophomores took first place for their float, followed by
the juniors, the seniors and the freshmen. The Salt River Eagles
defeated the Raiders in the football game.
The Ajo High School football team finished its
season with a 0 win, 8 loss record. The volleyball team ended its
season with a 9 win, 5 loss record.
Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and Organ
Pipe Cactus National Monument were both on lists of endangered areas.
Their use and abuse by illegal immigrants, smugglers, and US Border
Patrol agents pursuing them, were given as the reason.
It finally rained after a very dry summer.
Richard Quigley, DO, and physician assistant Mary
Mehl began working at Desert Senita Community Health Center. With
medical director Carol Johnson, DO, and physician assistant Kathryn
Gradin, the provider staff at DSCHC is complete.
Lt. Ronald E. Benson is serving as temporary
commander of the Ajo station of the Pima County Sheriff's Department
until the position, left vacant by the untimely death of Lt. David
Allen, can be filled.
Red Ribbon Week, a nationally recognized drug
awareness campaign, was celebrated at the Ajo public school. The week
was filled with drug awareness activities.
More than 200 of Ajo's goblins, gremlins, ghosts,
and other characters took part in the annual Children's Halloween
Costume Parade sponsored by Xi Gamma Pi chapter of Beta Sigma Phi
sorority. The parade was videotaped and shown on Ajo's cable channel at
a later date.
Birds on Bikes, Ajo's annual turkey run, saw 34
turkeys weighing more than 400 pounds donated to the Ajo Food Bank so
that 50 needy families could have Thanksgiving dinner.
Local candidates elected were Justice of the Peace
Maria Alvillar, school board members John Byrnes and Rose Cameron, and
Ajo Lukeville Health Service District board members Marty Branson, Kate
Garmise, and Andy Leap.
A Scrabble Club was started by Gayle Weyers.
Activities and events in celebration of Ajo's 150th
Birthday lasted for more than a week. Sherry O'Hare won the logo
contest held by the Ajo District Chamber of Commerce. The logo was used
to make a banner and light pole signs announcing the 150th birthday. It
will be used to announce coming events. The logo was imprinted on
t-shirts and buttons that were sold during the celebration. The logo
has also been adopted for CofC stationery. Activities sponsored by many
local organizations and groups included lectures, fundraisers,
exhibits, open houses, and the sale of commemorative items. The Ajo
Community Players presented a special vaudeville show, a saguaro was
planted in front of the Curley School, a tri-cultural dinner sponsored
by ISDA was served, the Ajo Lions Club held its annual turkey shoot,
and Desert Senita Community Health Center had a cakewalk and fair. A
dance at The Hut, a 10K run/2 mile walk, a performance by stilt
walkers, a barbecue dinner and dance, and a tour of historic homes were
also held to acknowledge the 150 years the town has been here. A
birthday issue of the Ajo Copper News, which included articles and
photos of historic interest, quickly sold out.
Thanksgiving was celebrated in homes in Ajo and
across the nation.
Proposals were requested by Valley Metro for the
Fixed Route Rural Intercity Express Bus Service from Ajo by way of Gila
Bend to Desert Sky Mall in Phoenix.
Sgt. Bill Clements was promoted to lieutenant and
assigned to the Ajo District as commander. Detective Gary Chatham was
promoted to sergeant.
Ajo's Masons continued to encourage kids to succeed
in school with their Bikes for Books and essay contest.
Dionicio Ramirez-Lopez was sentenced to 15.5 years
in prison for his part in the 2002 killing of park ranger Kris Eggle.
He was sentenced for aiding & abetting transportation of a stolen
vehicle, aiding & abetting assault with a dangerous weapon, and
firing a weapon during a violent crime. Jennifer Lim,
DDS, began work at Desert Senita Dental Center.
The pronghorn news was good, for a change. The
annual census counted 39 animals, up from the 18 found last year.
The annual Christmas Concerts and programs at the
school, Christian Academy, and by the community choir and band were
among many celebrations of the season. The Food Bank and others donated
food, toys, gifts, and help to seniors, the needy, and the sick. The
annual candlelight service, midnight mass, and La Posada celebrated the
holiday. Santa visited PCPR tots, the Food Bank, and other places
before wishing everyone Merry Christmas from the Curley School tower
and talking with kids in the Plaza on Christmas Eve.
Ending the year and their careers, Sgt. Bill Ned
retired from Pima County Sheriff's Department, George Gradillas retired
as a Pima County probation officer, Lyle Williams retired from a career
with US Fish & Wildlife Service, and Jim Cherry retired after a
career with US Customs. They all looked forward to busy retirement in
Happy New Year!
In the 2004 issues of the Ajo Copper News, we
printed birth announcements, welcoming to our world: