WILLCOX Favorite Son and Daughter Award
Favorite Daughter 2016 - Cristina Whelan
Photo: Carol Broeder/Arizona Range News
Cristina Whelan with family members, from left: Aden Helder, Alma Whelan, (Cristina Whelan), Mary Ann Gonzales, and Rowen Searle
WILLCOX -- Both a favorite son and a favorite daughter were honored Thursday evening at the 34th annual Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame Dinner at the Willcox Community Center.
The Arizona Range News and Willcox High School Alumni each sponsor an award.
Steve Reno, advertising representative with the Range News, made the presentation that night to both Cristina Whelan and Jeff Willey.
In beginning his presentation, Reno described Whelan as “the first born of a wonderful couple who adhered to the traditions of Mexican culture.”
“As a child growing up in Willcox, she was raised in a close extended family,” said Reno, adding, “These strong family bonds empowered her to grow up to be a strong, independent woman.”
Whelan received “a solid education in Willcox schools from first grade through high school,” he told the audience.
Her first appearance in the Rex Allen Days Parade was in high school marching and concert bands.
“She went on to continue making appearances in the parade by riding her beautiful well trained horse while dressed in traditional Mexican riding costume,” Reno said.
After completing her college education first at Cochise College, then the University of Arizona, Whelan returned to Willcox, “where she found a great job and the love of her life, whom she married in August of 1976,” he said.
“The happy couple produced two beautiful daughters, Alma and Tirza,” Reno said. “The family suffered a tragedy when their beloved Chuck, her husband, became ill and passed on.”
Whelan was hired at the City of Willcox by Jonnie Belle Bethel, who knew her as a great professional, who would make an excellent city clerk for more than 30 years,” Reno told the audience.
Friends and co-workers said Whelan “took it upon herself to continue and further her knowledge of the history of this wonderful city, passing that knowledge onto others while at the City.”
“She spent much of her time serving on numerous boards during her career at the City, such as Rex Allen Days, and assisting in programs such as Meals on Wheels,” he said.
“She believes that hard work and dedication, even in a sometimes thankless job, will bring a better outcome, not only for the City and community, but for her own family as well,” said Reno, adding that Whelan “performed difficult duties, such as enforcing local and state regulations, with tact and grace.”
Whelan “truly wants to make this city better and did so above and beyond her position as city clerk, without ever asking for any recognition,” he told the audience.
“She has always been around to lend a helping hand to co-workers and friends and remains good friends, even now as she lives temporarily in Tucson to help relatives, but visits Willcox several times a month,” Reno said. “Through her life, she remained strong and dedicated to family, friends and community. Her devotion to the basic principles that made this country strong guide her as she continues her journey.”
Calling Whelan to the stage, Reno said, “Daughter of Eduardo and Virginia Garcia, relative to the extended Soto and Garcia families, Cristina Whelan Garcia, you are our Favorite Daughter for 2016. “
Whelan was nominated by both Sherry Lynn Van Allen-Teeters and Rachel Garza, he said as she approached the stage, accompanied by Van Allen-Teeters.
Information for Whelan’s story was compiled by Bethel and Honey Wear.
In accepting the honor, Whelan said she felt about her city clerk post, “I am here to protect the City, the city manager, and the city council, some of whom are here.”
“I tried to keep them out of trouble,” Whelan said, drawing laughter from the audience. “I thank you very, very much. It is much appreciated.”