On February 14th, Arizona will celebrate its 108th birthday as a state. Followed only by Hawaii and Alaska, Arizona was one of the last states to be admitted statehood into the United States. Despite the youth of our beautiful state, Arizona can boast as home for many colorful individuals, past and present. To name just a few—
- Geronimo—Actually called Goyathlay in the Chiricahua language, one source claims he was named ‘one who yawns’ by Mexican soldiers; another says his parents named him that due to his sleepy disposition in infancy. Whatever Geronimo’s start, life circumstances changed his demeanor. Well-known as the Apache leader who fought to keep tribal lands from encroachment by Mexico and the United States, Geronimo was skilled at avoiding capture. It reportedly required 1/4th of the U.S. army to pursue him on his final escape. He was wounded many times yet always recovered—accounts of his bravery making him a newspaper sensation. Geronimo’s last 20 years were spent as a prisoner of war, although he did leave the reservation to attend major events, participating in Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show and Teddy Roosevelt’s inaugural parade. Geronimo died in Fort Sill, Oklahoma and is buried in the Beef Creek Apache Cemetery.
- Linda Ronstadt—Winner of 10 Grammy awards and numerous others, Ronstadt’s distinctive voice and folk-rock style rocketed her to fame in the 1960s and 1970s. She has serious Arizona roots, born into a pioneer Tucson family in 1946, and raised on their 10-acre ranch. At age 14, Ronstadt joined her siblings to form a singing trio, playing in local small venues. But, the itch to expand her music prompted Linda to move to Los Angeles when she was 18. Within four years, her career was launched through the making of three albums. Although Ronstadt owned a home in Tucson for many years, word has it that, now retired, she makes her residency in San Francisco.
- Cesar Chavez—Founder of the first successful U.S. farm workers’ union, Chavez was born in Yuma, Arizona in 1927. He relocated to California in early adulthood, where Chavez began efforts to help farm workers through labor strikes and by raising public awareness for the workers’ plight. During his life time, Cesar was a controversial figure, however he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994. He popularized the slogan, “Si, Se puede” roughly translated, “Yes, it can be done.” Some say this was the source for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign chant, “Yes, we can.” He passed away in San Luis, Arizona in 1993. Schools and other public institutions bearing his name continue to honor Chavez’s memory.
- Ettore ‘Ted’ DeGrazia—Is anyone not familiar with the whimsical children’s faces of the DeGrazia style? Ted was born to Italian immigrants in Morenci, Arizona in 1909. As a young boy, DeGrazia created ‘The Head of Christ’ out of retrieved Arizona desert clay. This small, early piece is now on permanent display at the Gallery in the Sun in Tucson, Arizona. His family moved back to Italy due to the Morenci mine closure, where Ted’s artistic tendencies were further fueled by the ornate cathedrals. After the family moved back to Arizona in 1925, Ted pursued his interest in the arts and worked hard to receive his Masters degree at the University of Arizona while continuing to create art. Although DeGrazia’s colorful children on a white background have reached epic popularity portions, he actually produced a significant variety of pieces reflecting different themes. His work, along with DeGrazia’s grave, can be viewed at the Gallery in the Sun.
As our statehood’s anniversary approaches, the remarkable people mentioned above and a host of others come to mind. Arizonans come from many cultures with diversified views, strengths, talents, and tastes that are as vibrant as the land we live in. I hope you make a point to enjoy and learn more about our state and get to know your neighbors. The Sedona Community Center is a great place to start! You can learn about the activities and meal program we offer at sccsedona.org or at 2615 Melody Lane.