WILLCOX Favorite Son and Daughter Award

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Favorite Son Ross Estavillo

Steve Reno, advertising representative with the Arizona Range News, presented the in-town favorite son award to Ross Estavillo.

"When the Arizona Range News presents a Favorite Son or Daughter winner, it's usually a nice lift of the spirits for the honoree and/or their family," said Reno, adding, "Tonight we hope it's an extra boost to the spirits of this year's winner.

He said he was saluting a favorite son "in this open letter from your community."

You have lived and worked here in WIllcox for a long time," said Reno, adding, "And you are not the average citizen, for you have a true passion and dedication to civic duty."

"We can call you coach, compadre, coordinator, pacesetter, community leading light and finally, we want to tell you thank you," he said.

Reno described Estavillo as "a stalwart parent of two boys who became, like many, a little league coach."

"Got good at it too, teaching and coaching 8-12 year olds for 20-years," he said.

"Then you graduated to 5-8 year olds, by becoming a founder of T-Ball for our area."

Reno said Estavillo also "took on the challenge of little girls, because you finally had one of your own, by coaching some softball, too, as well as serving on the league board when you stopped coaching."

He then shared with the audience a "good story from the little league days."

"Kids always want a Dairy Queen reward, and once you had a cocky little group that thought they could horns waggle some Dilly Bars from you after one particular practice," said Reno, adding, "Not a game, mind you, but after practice."

"Sure, (Estavillo) said, just as soon as you boys can catch the family's Irish Setter, Princess, and take away her baseball," he said.

"They never did and thus, Dairy Queen visits were limited to game days."

Reno said that Estavillo's time wasn't limited to kids.

"You spent plenty of time with your church, especially as a charter member of the church's charity organization," said Reno, referring to the Knights of Columbus, Council 8105 in Willcox.

"After a hit and miss beginning, the organization was going strong in the 1980s and 90s," he told the audience.

"The work of which you are most proud is the annual Christmas food box giveaway you helped start in Willcox," said Reno.

"Your group has been distributing food boxes to the needy for about 17 years, adding bicycles to the program about seven years ago."

Reno said that Estavillo "couldn't resist finding another way to help out kids, too… giving food boxes to as many as 30 families, as well as making as many as 20 local children happy by giving them brand new bikes for Christmas."

"And you said, "Well, playing Santa Claus was really fun. There's no describing how incredible that is," said Reno, adding, "And hey, in return, you've been given enough cookies and milk to last forever."

"This kind of volunteerism really stands out in a community our size," he said.

Reno said that Estavillo's dedication has rubbed off on his wife, kids and godsons, "many of who have shared your loyalty to this community with their kind work, too."

"One of your sons told us, "We were always taught to put those less fortunate first; to engage in our community; and to support the causes we?re passionate about,'" he said.

"That passion translated into a terrific small-town fundraiser you spearheaded to help 11-year-old Adriana Nieto, a little softball player diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia," said Reno, adding, "More than $11,000 was raised in one great community blowout."

"You struggled to find some words to express how grateful and proud you were of your community, saying something like, 'This may be a small town with only two stoplights, but the heartbeat of America starts in Willcox.'"

Reno said that at the same time, Estavillo's job kept him plenty busy "contributing to our community and the surrounding area as a roads construction supervisor for 37 and a half years for the Arizona Department of Transportation's Willcox station."

Reno further described Estavillo as a 64-year-old "dedicated family man married for 43 years."

"A Willcox High School graduate and stalwart local leader in the Knights of Columbus and Sacred Heart Catholic Church, you learned how to channel your energy for the greater good of your beloved community," said Reno, adding "you have had to channel that energy these last couple of years into fighting cancer to stay around longer to be with your kids, grandkids, family, friends, and your community."

"We want to say this — thank you, Ross Estavillo, Sr., for being there for all of us, and in case you didn't know it, you're our Favorite Son… signed Willcox, Ariz., 2011," Reno said.

In closing, Reno said, "Our thanks to Bea Reja for her nomination and to Carol Broeder, Danny and Stephanie Estavillo, and the Ward Boys for helping to enlighten us a little further on Ross' contributions to Willcox."

When it came his turn to speak, Estavillo said, "What a surprise and what an honor."

He said that though he had chances to move elsewhere and enhance his career "I chose to stay. This was a terrific place to raise my kids."

"Thank you, Willcox," Estavillo said.