In last week’s column, several interesting and famous Arizonans were showcased as a tribute to our state’s upcoming anniversary in February. This week, we will look at two more Arizonans that, while very different, also embody the exceptional diversity that makes our land great.
Lori Ann Piestewa—This strong and amazing Arizonan was the first Native American woman to die while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces and the first woman to die on the front lines of the Iraq war in 2003. Piestewa was from the Hopi tribe and raised in Tuba City, Arizona. She was in the same U.S. Army post as, and roommate to, Jessica Lynch— who later made headlines as a surviving POW after being caught in the maelstrom that took Piestewa’s life. The two U.S. Army privates bonded during their military service despite, as Lynch observed, Piestewa had a “tough exterior” and “we had nothing in common.” When the water tank vehicle Jessica was driving busted a transfer case, Lynch and Piestewa were brought back together on the battle field. Seeing her friend stranded, Piestewa stopped her Humvee to give Lynch a lift. After days of driving in the desert, on March 23rd a critical navigational error took the convoy of 20 vehicles into the city of Nasiriyah, Iraq. Overtaken by Iraqi fighters and with malfunctioning firearms, the Humvee’s six occupants were doomed when it was hit by a grenade. Piestewa died of injuries a few hours later. To honor Piestewa’s bravery and memory, a mountain in Phoenix bears her name along with an education fund for Hopi children and an annual motorcycle ride for fallen soldiers. Perhaps the event that captures Lori’s spirit the most is the annual Lori Piestewa National Native American Games. Held in the Phoenix Valley, this multi-sport event brings thousands of Native Americans together as a tribute to her competitive nature and athleticism. (More info at www.history.com)
Alice Cooper—Born in Detroit Michigan, Vincent Damon Furnier moved with his family to Phoenix, AZ as a teen and has been a favorite son ever since. His interest in performing started in 1964—at age 16. At that time, young Vincent convinced four of his cross-country teammates to perform at the annual Cortez High School talent show, dressed as a band, presenting a parody of Beatles’ tunes. They won the show, received acclaim for their performance, and decided that maybe this idea of a band was a good one. By 1966, “Don’t Blow Your Mind”, the band’s original composition became a local No.1 hit. If you think long, black hair and dark eye make-up when you hear the name Alice Cooper, you are not alone. However, Alice Cooper was originally the name of the band featuring Furnier and the four other band members. After the band broke up in 1975, Furnier started his own solo career, taking the band’s name on as his own. Cooper’s career as a songwriter, singer, and actor spans over 50 years and some refer to him as the Godfather of Shock Rock. Though hard rock sensationalism seems commonplace now, at that time Alice Cooper’s stage presence with fake blood, reptiles, guillotines, and other grisly props evoked the intended audience shock value. Besides his musical success, Alice Cooper played himself in the movie “Wayne’s World” and the TV hit “That 70’s Show” as well as other films. Although he did close his Phoenix-based restaurant in 2017, he keeps himself busy with a radio show and an active concert schedule. Cooper continues to reside in a posh area of Paradise Valley in the Phoenix Valley.
We may not be celebrities at the Sedona Community Center, but we have a lot of friendly regular lunch guests and activity participants who have their own fascinating life stories—many of which are still in the making. If you haven’t visited your Community Center yet this year, please consider joining us for the noon meal, fitness class, or other event of your choice. Activity calendars and menus can be found at www.sccsedona.org or at 2615 Melody Lane.