WILLCOX Favorite Son and Daughter Award
The Arizona Range News is honored to have this opportunity to recognize a favorite son or daughter who was raised in Willcox and has taken their home grown talent outside of our borders to help make the world a better place.
This award is in honor of the late Rex Allen, Senior and in his spirit, tonight's honoree made Willcox their home at a young age and attained some success by venturing on to the big city. Making this announcement is so much fun, because, even at this point, the award recipient does not know they are about to receive this honor. They are learning about this the same way you are. By listening as I reveal something about them, bit by bit, this-is-your- life style.
Our favorite out-of-town son or daughter made their name in their own home first, supporting a family.
They were raised in unusual but loving family surroundings of their own. Surroundings that eventually landed them in Willcox, where they would discover a high school sweetheart. A sweetheart that was a member of a prominent local family somewhere just south of our town.
Rural families back then had limited resources, even for their kids. That's why, when these high school sweethearts dated, they could usually count on a younger sister or brother coming along on the date.....sometimes because the younger sibling had nothing to do and the high schooler, after all was taking the car, so they could take little brother, too....and besides the parent figured a little brother or sister is just the kind of impediment to guarantee no hanky panky.
Although I have news for the parents.. ..one of those young chaperones revealed to me that there was more than one time he saw these sweethearts kissing but didn't tell on them, because that younger brother figured his time was coming too.
There wasn't many places to go for a date back in the day of our honoree's youth. In Willcox, you could eat at the A&W, or the truck stop, or you could go to the movie.. .sometimes even to a movie in the big city of Safford.
It isn't hard to see where our honoree developed some of the skills that would later make them a success outside of Willcox. They were a popular athlete at Willcox High and dated a brainy valedictorian who was also class president.
It's always nice during Rex Allen Days weekend, by the way, to see some of those brainy and popular high school alums come back and mingle with their chums for class reunions.
This favorite son or daughter we're honoring tonight would become a successful parent first, before they went on to business success. Raising kids who really appreciated your cooking and your help in separating them during their constant bickering was a big step in making a difference to those around you. Supporting your spouse while they went on to business success was another nice way to make a difference, no matter how much it was recognized or not.
You got some of that support back when you furthered your education at the University while being the stay-at-home parent. Yet, it was family that still had an influence on your educational choice, choosing child development and family relations for your major.
I don't know how handy that actually was for the business you actually ended up running, although relating to people would be very important.
By now, you probably suspect this introduction and induction is about you. You, who one of your daughters says has over-the-top marketing skills. You with the name that sounds like a man, but, in a nomination letter, it was immediately pointed out that you are a lady.
You, who through many struggles and trials and tribulations has grown to become a very successful business lady.
Your struggles may have started when your parents began their family life in a box-car, raising you there on a cot and with a small kitchen as some of the few amenities while dad worked the railroad for many years.
Maybe it's what inspires you to now give charitably to the under- priveleged with your money and time and earn the humanitarian label that makes many so inspired by you.
That railroad life brought you close to us, living in a little way station east of here called Russo.
It brought you to Willcox High to star in Softball and show off your baton twirling skills and meet a boy named John, who would be the love of your life.
You didn't stray far when you moved to Tucson and gave John two daughters while he attended The University of Arizona and earned an engineering degree.
Your daughters loved the way you would have delicious baked cookies waiting each day after school. They reveled in the memory of visiting their 14 cousins for Easter Egg hunts back on the Willcox farm of dad's parents.. ..and loved the family tradition of Christmases at the home in Tucson, with the cousins visiting the city and getting assigned a part in the annual family play written and directed by your eldest daughter.
Not that you were above the fun yourself, encouraging John when he dressed as a slightly out of character Santa Clause who could only find a black beard for his costume.. .a sight that showed even the adults were having a little fun at the Christmas gatherings, too. And, You were the Wind beneath his Wings as John created a successful firm that built many a road and infrastructure for Tucson, even serving as his secretary when cancer struck him and he needed you even more by his side.
His unfortunate passing could have made you feel cheated, but destiny had another calling for you. You moved on to grow as a woman and community advocate, creating a scholarship at the U of A for engineering students.
When Dooley and Jones decided to buy you and your husband's name off of the business, you began your own pursuit in the engineering community, banking on and backing the standard of work that John had produced.
That led to a business and partnership that netted 14 years of success and employment of nearly 100 people in Tucson, earmarked by projects like StarPass.
It even allowed you to expand your marketing skills to Phoenix and Mesa, the home of your birthplace.
Yes, you would sell your interest in the Collins-Pina Engineering firm and end up a multi-millionaire, but retirement is not yet in the cards. Even at 68, you're back in the business of marketing an engineering firm from a California-based company and winning them contracts in Phoenix.
But it's nice you remember your roots and not only brag about your raising in Willcox, you even made sure you are here for the 50th annual high school reunion for that class of 1956.
So it is with great pride that your 2 daughters, Kristi Anderson and Pam Collura and their seven granddaughters and three great granddaughters, joined finally by a one year old great grandson, plus your parents TJ and Lily Harrison, and friends and family like Floyd and Laura Anne Bethel and Toby and Kathy and Mae Collins are happy to see you, Jerry Harrison Collins, awarded the special honor of Willcox' Favorite Daughter, 2006.
We can guess that John Collins is watching from above with special pleasure at seeing his Jerry accomplish so much as, perhaps, the first power woman in a family filled with many more potential power women.