WILLCOX Favorite Son and Daughter Award
Favorite Son 2013 - Connie and Dennis Dunham
Two favorite sons and a favorite daughter were honored Thursday evening at the annual Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame Dinner at the Willcox Community Center.
The Arizona Range News sponsors the out-of-town award and Willcox High School Alumni sponsor the in-town award.
Steve Reno, advertising representative with the Range News, made the presentation that night to both the in-town favorite son and daughter award to Dennis and Connie Dunham, as well as the out-of-town award to Gilbert Davidson.
The Dunhams are known in Willcox for their volunteer activity.
“Tonight we’re honoring a favorite son or daughter in town who has lived a significant portion of their life in Willcox, beginning with middle school,” he said.
“There are some significant words tied into this favorite son/daughter’s life here in Willcox. Community, Ford, cafeteria, veterans, health, parade, the draft, honor, grass and trees and a one-ton slab,” said Reno, adding, “Not necessarily in that order.”
Connie “started making her mark in high school as a cheerleader;” while Dennis made his mark as the son of the cafeteria lady, he told the audience.
“They loved the way Willcox was back in the mid-sixties,” said Reno, adding, “Now that they’re retired and or grandparents, they want to bring back some of that rural, small town flavor and pride.”
“They can’t bring back a new car dealer, like the Ford lot Dad (Norman Calvert) used to run, but they can follow in his footsteps and bring back some pride in our veterans like Dad did when he helped start a Disabled American Veterans chapter here in Willcox,” he said.
Reno said that Dad would be very proud of how Connie “has recently continued that tradition,” according to her sister, Carol Case.
“They even created a parade to help commemorate Veteran’s Day,” he told the audience.
“They are now also looking to bring a healthy and clean outlook to Willcox; making Willcox look cleaner by clearing up debris from fire damaged buildings to greening up parks and making them more friendly to locals and visitors,” Reno said.
“And in an unusual twist for this Favorite Son/Daughter category, they is really they,” he told the audience. “We’re honoring a married couple who spearheaded a drive to create a Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial right here in town to honor those who were not only called, but forced to serve through the draft,” Reno said.
“They didn’t shirk their duty, but six didn’t come back and were killed or missing in action; including good friends of both of our honorees,” he said.
Reno explained that an all-class reunion “re-emphasized that hollow feeling of missing men like Billy Dickerson or Armando Ramirez, as well as Buddy Lopez, Vincent Baker, Joe Robert Laurence and Alva Ray Terrell.”
He went onto say that the Dunhams “enlisted good friends from that reunion and created, on a one-ton slab of granite, a Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial.”
“They not only found a great downtown Willcox location for it, they have also nurtured that location and helped keep Railroad Park green and clean, including preparations for an upcoming additional Korean War Veteran’s memorial at the park, as well as another Veteran’s Day Parade on Railroad Avenue next month,” Reno said.
“She’s a go-getter, who, when she believes in something, will get it done, said her friends,” said Reno, adding,”He’s a talented Mr Fix-it who has been her rock and pillar of support for all these challenging tasks.”
“Together, Connie & Dennis Dunham, have started to bring back some pride to this old town of Willcox, and we are proud to call you a Favorite Daughter and Son here in 2013,” said Reno, finally revealing the names of the honorees.
In closing, Reno thanked Gladys Olsen, Jonnie Belle Bethel, Carol Case, Ronnie Calvert, and Janet O’Daniel “who were instrumental in drawing attention to the Dunham’s selfless contributions to our community.”
When it came their turn to speak, Dennis told the audience, “We didn’t do this by ourselves. The community helped a lot. What we did was not about us, it was about those six names on the memorial.”
Connie went onto say, “We couldn’t have done it without the community being the way it is. We love you all.”