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NEWS: 752 dogs + 36 birds = 1 record nightmare

A rural neighborhood in Avra Valley is not even trying to keep up with the Joneses, because the Joneses had more than 700 dogs.

Authorities said 752 dogs and 36 birds were seized this week at a property in the 12200 block of West Manville Road.

Authorities were tipped off by a case of kennel cough.

The canine count increased even as the dogs were being taken to the Humane Society of Southern Arizona; a few gave birth en route.

“We have about two-dozen moms with puppies, ” society spokeswoman Jenny Rose said.

The influx of pups created the need for the Humane Society to summon rescue organizations across the nation and ready some dogs for adoption as early as the weekend.

“This is the largest seizure that’s happened in Pima County that I’m aware of, ” sheriff’s Sgt. Terry Parish said.

Neighbors said the triple-wide mobile home was the residence of Billy and Wanda Jones for about the past 10 years. Some residents figured the couple kept about 50 dogs; others thought about 150. No one in their wildest estimate guessed more than 700.

Most of the animals were in crates in the home. Some were found in a barn on the property. All were in squalid surroundings, Rose said.

“The conditions were pretty brutal,” Rose said. “There were lots of animals and feces everywhere.”

Some dogs were missing their paws, Rose said, most likely the result of getting caught in fencing or attacked by other dogs. Three dogs were found dead, one from being attacked. The other two were puppies.

One arrived in such bad shape it had to be euthanized, Rose said.

Still, she said, most are “in remarkably good condition.”

The society has all the animals at its Companions for Life Center, 3465 E. Kleindale Road, around the corner from the Humane Society shelter, until the animals can be examined and deemed healthy for adoption.

The shelter, which can house 150 to 200 animals, was full before these dogs and birds came in

A rescue group from Phoenix took 80 of the dogs Wednesday night, and a rescue group from San Diego is coming Friday to take more, Rose said. The rest will go out to other rescue organizations or new homes in the metro area, she said.

The couple willingly signed over the animals to the Humane Society, Parish said, and hope to get 12 of the parrots returned once the birds are examined.

Small dogs, Chihuahuas especially, have become the latest fashion accessory because of pop icons such as Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Madonna, and movies such as “Legally Blond” and its sequel.

People will pay thousands of dollars for teacups and some toy breeds.

Parish said the couple did not ask for the return of any dogs, which Rose said include Chihuahuas, Chinese cresteds, Yorkshire and other terriers, Lhasa apsos and a smattering of other small breeds.

Parish said the owners were elderly and meant well but “got in over their heads.” The charges, if any, would be animal abuse by neglect, he said.

Sheriff’s Sgt. James Ogden said the Pima County Attorney’s Office will receive the outcome of the investigation and decide if charges are warranted.

Neighbors said Wanda Jones bred the dogs and sold them by meeting people on a nearby corner because she was afraid to bring strangers to the house. The dogs were listed on a number of puppy-mill sites, such as and puppiesforsaleusa.

“She wouldn’t even invite me over when she first moved in,” said Rita Backes, 57, who lives with her husband, their 3-year-old foster child and four dogs on an adjacent 5-acre lot.

Backes said the Joneses are nice people but increasingly kept to themselves over the years.

She knew Wanda Jones loved the animals and fed them Iams brand food because an Iams truck would deliver once a month.

“Maybe she just was a compassionate person and didn’t know how to channel it,” Backes said. “Maybe she had an obsession. Well, obviously she had an obsession.”

Neighbors Doug and Mary Schroder, both 50, weren’t as laid-back.

Mary Schroder said she repeatedly called the Pima Animal Care Center for the past several years to no avail.

“They could have taken care of this 400 dogs ago,” she said.

She said the dogs were constantly barking or fighting, and frequently got loose.

When the breeze blew just right, it made for an awful odor, she said.

“The stench was worse than a slaughterhouse,” she said. “No, it was worse than crossing the Santa Cruz River with the wind blowing in from the (sewage) plant.”

The Schroders tried mediation with the Joneses, bringing Our Family Community Mediation into the mix to help with the barking.

“It would be quieter for a few days, then start all over again,” she said.

Within the last year, the situation got markedly worse, she said.

At times, Schroder said, she would have to pick up 60 to 70 bags of dog waste after Jones walked her pooches on the easement in front of the Schroders’ house.

The Joneses declined comment, with their property guarded Wednesday by a sheriff’s representative.

Officials of the county animal center were not available for comment Wednesday night.

The mobile home packed with pets was first brought to authorities’ attention after a dog purchased by someone from Payson came down with kennel cough, Rose said.

The dog owner’s vet told the owner to alert authorities once the vet heard where the dog came from.

“Two people, especially elderly people trying to care for these animals, is just not possible,” Parish said. “They knew they were in over their heads. They said as much to me.”

The Joneses are not the only ones relieved.

“It’s so nice, so nice,” Mary Schroder said of the quiet that descended on the area Wednesday night.

“People live out here to get away and do their own thing,” her husband said. “But it’s not right when it starts interfering with other people’s quality of life.

“I’m just glad it’s over. I’m hoping it’s over. It’s nice to watch the sun go down, to live without the barking all day and all night.”

This article originally appeared in the March 13, 2008, issue of the Tucson Citizen.

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FEATURE: New feat with her feet: Tucsonan, born minus arms, earns pilot’s license

Tucsonan Jessica Cox was born without arms, but that has only stopped her from doing one thing: using the word “can’t.”

Her latest flight into the seemingly impossible is becoming the first pilot licensed to fly using only her feet.

With one foot manning the controls and the other delicately guiding the steering column, Cox, 25, soared to achieve a Sport Pilot certificate. Her certificate qualifies her to fly a light-sport aircraft to altitudes of 10,000 feet.

“She’s a good pilot. She’s rock solid,” said Parrish Traweek, 42, the flying instructor at San Manuel’s Ray Blair Airport.

He runs PC Aircraft Maintenance and Flight Services and has trained many pilots, some of whom didn’t come close to Cox’s abilities.

“When she came up here driving a car,” Traweek recalled, “I knew she’d have no problem flying a plane.”

Finding a plane that was compatible with her abilities was a task within itself. She found it in the Ercoupe, a plane manufactured in the mid-1940s. Locating one took her to Florida and California, although she finally find one less than 70 miles away in San Manuel.

Flight lessons usually run more than $100 per hour, but Cox was able to get her 40-plus hours of training through an Able Flight Scholarship.

“Once you’re with Jessica for about 20 minutes, you don’t even notice she doesn’t have arms,” Traweek said from the one of the airport’s hangars.

Cox, unwrapping a piece of chewing gum with her toes nearby, was clad in a yellow T-shirt sporting a stick figure with truncated arms beneath the phrase: “Look Ma, No Hands.”

“Jessica’s showing people there are no limits,” he said. “Jessica’s incredible. She really is.”

Most who meet her, especially on her motivational speaking circuit, agree. She’s spoken at hundreds of gigs, from Wisconsin to Phoenix, where she shares her upbeat philosophy and incredible story.

Doctors never learned why she was born without arms, but she figured out early on that she didn’t want to use prosthetic devices.

“Instead of investing so much time in being normal,” she said, “I realized it was more important to celebrate my difference.”

She gave up the prosthetic arms for good when she turned 14 and her family moved to Tucson from its hometown of Sierra Vista.

“They handicapped me,” she said of the prosethetic arms, which she keeps shoved in the back of her closet.

“When we moved to Tucson, I had a fresh slate,” she said. That slate is now covered with achievements from a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Arizona to two black belts in tae kwon do. She’s also seeking a publisher for her life story.

She keeps even more active with swimming and walking. “It’s critical to maintain strength and flexibility in my legs for any kind of activity,” she said.

Her feet have become so agile, she said. that a recent X-ray showed her toe joints looked more like fingers. “The toes were curled in more like a hand would be,” she said. “I had to ask the doctor, ‘Does everyone’s feet look like that?’ ”

Cox credits much of her success to her supportive family: mom Inez Cox, 58; dad William Cox, 68; brother Jason Cox, 28; and sister Jackie Cox, 23.

She is grateful for her ability to motivate others, and not only when she’s speaking on stage.

“I realized when I go to the grocery store to get a gallon of milk and wheel the cart up to the cashier, I really don’t have to say anything,” she said.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 2, 2008, issue of the Tucson Citizen.

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NEWS: Narcotic cops say Tucson’s gone to pot

You may be living next to a stash house and not know it.

With a record 1.2 million pounds of marijuana confiscated in Arizona from Oct. 1, 2006, to Sept. 30 – nearly half of it in Pima County – Tucson has developed a thriving business as a distribution hub.

The area is a way station where marijuana is stashed until it is moved to its ultimate destination, often on the East Coast.

“It’s just a major, major stash house area,” Counter Narcotics Alliance Sgt. Helen Hritz said of the Tucson area. “There can be 11,000 pounds in one house.”

The alliance is made up of local and federal law enforcement agencies.

Smuggling has also become more constant, with no major spike in activity during harvest season and no lulls in between, Hritz said. The only difference harvest season makes is that the buds are fresher.

“There’s no break in the action anymore,” she said. “It’s no longer seasonal. It’s very much flowing year-round.”

One of the Sheriff Department’s recent seizures, on Oct. 22, included 11,000 pounds discovered in a home in the 1000 block of East Orange Grove Road.

One of the largest single busts in the history of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department was 32,000 pounds – that’s 16 tons – found in a house in the 11000 block of East Speedway Boulevard in 1984.

Stash houses are not confined to downtrodden neighborhoods. They can be found throughout the city and county, Tucson police Sgt. Mark Robinson said. He said they are almost always rental homes.

He said those running stash houses tend to be transient types because if they don’t own the house, it is not seized by authorities.

“They have nothing to lose,” Robinson said, “except their load.”

Even if the drug does not stick around the house for long, its temporary presence can make for some perilous living.

Robinson said stash houses can be dangerous for neighborhoods because they become the target for home invasions by drug dealers or other criminals.

“They very often invade the wrong house,” Robinson said. “Innocent people often become the victims.”

He said the extreme level of violence of the invasions, coupled with high-powered weapons, can lead to hazardous conditions.

“They often have assault rifles,” Robinson said. “The only thing that can stop that ammunition is a brick. It can go through wood frame, windows, doors.”

Other drug smuggling activity can lead to high-speed chases when suspects flee the police, another situation that puts innocents at risk.

The Tucson area is especially suitedfor stash houses because of its network of roadways, Hritz said. In addition to a maze of backroads, two major interstates help smugglers.

Interstate 19 makes a beeline from Mexico directly to Tucson. Midvale Park, an area just west of I-19 and north of Valencia Road, was riddled with stash houses, home invasions and drug-induced violence until residents formed a watch group and took back their neighborhood last year, Robinson said.

Interstate 10 stretches from the Pacific Ocean to Jacksonville, Fla., and connects with a series of northbound routes along the way.

Arizona is a major drug-smuggling corridor for many of the same reasons it is the nation’s busiest corridor for illegal immigration. Wide-open areas, rugged terrain and decoy loads give smugglers the openings they need to get drugs through the desert.

Even much of Florida’s marijuana smuggling, which had its heyday in the late 1970s and early 1980s, has moved to southern Arizona.

“We had well-established routes, not necessarily for drugs, but for human smuggling,” said Counter Narcotics Alliance Sgt. Ramon Delatorre. “It wasn’t like they had to make a new route. Now there is smuggling of undocumented aliens and narcotics at the same time.”

Of the illegal drugs shuttled through the desert, marijuana is king.

“It’s the largest type of narcotic we see and seize,” Hritz said. “In the desert areas they blaze their own trails, carry the bundles for miles and miles.”

The desert is also a place brimming with Mexican drug cartels.

Now allied with Colombian cartels, Mexican smuggling rings rake in enough cash to purchase superior weaponry, bribe police or hire well-trained Mexican army deserters.

Mexican cartels earned an estimated $8 billion to $23 billion from U.S. drug sales in 2005 and run street distribution gangs in “almost every region of the United States,” the Government Accountability Office reported.

“The only thing that holds the cartels back is their imagination,” said Ramona Sanchez, Drug Enforcement Administration spokeswoman.

Drug smugglers in Arizona have been found carrying assault rifles or shoulder-fired rocket launchers.

When the National Guard built steel vehicle barriers on the Tohono O’odham Nation, smugglers built a ramp to drive over them.

Also, numerous tunnels have been dug under border fences to get drugs to the U.S. side.

In addition to the wide range of smuggling operations and the year-round availability of pot, the increase in pot seizures can also be attributed to an increase in law-enforcement manpower, said Border Patrol Agent Sean King.

He said the Border Patrol confiscated 305,390 pounds of marijuana in fiscal year 2002 in southern Arizona, when 1,800 agents guarded the border.

In the first 11 months of fiscal 2007, the Border Patrol, now expanded to 2,900 agents in southern Arizona, seized 754,298 pounds

A recent series of busts over a four-day period netted Border Patrol agents more than 9,000 pounds of marijuana.

The largest haul in that series included nearly 3,000 pounds found in two stolen vehicles abandoned after an off-road pursuit on the Tohono O’odham Nation on Nov. 12.

“There’s a lot more area we can cover,” King said. “In the past, we could cover the major smuggling routes. Now we can cover all the major routes and a lot of other routes.”

In cities, one of the best ways to protect a neighborhood is to take part in a neighborhood watch, Robinson said.

“You should know your neighbors,” he said. “You never know who’s living next door.”



Marijuana seizures are up, but how much? Finding figures that give the big picture is tricky. Federal and state agencies have different fiscal years, and many agencies make seizures. A sampling:

High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, which covers the border and Colorado River counties:
2007*: 1.2 million pounds

2006: 885,573 pounds

2005: 891,280 pounds

Pima County totals:

2007: 534,035 pounds

Counter Narcotics Alliance: Pima County totals:
2007*: 160,948 pounds

2006: 138,076 pounds

2005: 95,687 pounds

2004: 123,589 pounds

U.S. Border Patrol, Tucson sector totals:
2007*: 754,298 pounds

2006: 616,534 pounds

2005: 488,760 pounds

2004: 446,757 pounds

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, statewide totals:
2007: 72,526 pounds

2006: 47,709 pounds

2005: 54,710 pounds

2004: 61,503 pounds


Arizona Republic reporter Sean Holstege contributed to this article. *HIDTA collects information from federal, state and local agencies. All numbers are for federal fiscal years from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. Past data for Pima County was not immediately available. *Through first 11 months of county’s fiscal year, which ended June 30 *Through first 11 months of the federal fiscal year.


Award winner: This article won third place for public safety reporting from the Arizona Press Club.

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 21, 2007, issue of the Tucson Citizen newspaper.

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NEWS: Complaints against local gyms triple since 2005

Lynn Hudson was enjoying her morning treadmill workouts last February at the Northwest Side Gold’s Gym – until she was kicked out of the club for not paying a bill she had paid months earlier.

The gym had the wrong Lynn Hudson.

Eric Grigel joined Arizona Swim & Fitness in July, only to find his credit card was being billed twice each month, once by the gym and once by the gym’s billing company.

His card continued to be billed after the club went out of business late last year.

Both Tucsonans got the runaround when they tried to solve their problems.

Neither complaint was resolved to their satisfaction.

Complaints about the more than 70 area health clubs have more than tripled, from 10 in 2005 to 35 in 2008, according to the Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona.

Thirty percent of the complaints were resolved in 2005; 73 percent in 2006; 62 percent in 2007; and 54 percent in 2008.

“I would venture to guess that the health kick continues to grow in popularity and also that perhaps it wasn’t until 2005 and 2006 that health clubs started demanding contracts,” said Kim States, acting president of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona.

As evidenced by the plights of Hudson and Grigel, billing problems and customer service top the kinds of complaints involving health clubs.

Sanitary issues are another concern. The Pima County Health Department makes annual, unannounced visits to facilities that have pools and spas. The department closed down at least two pools and three spas in 2008 and found a few other violations.

“Relatively speaking, Pima County health clubs are in pretty good shape,” department spokeswoman Patti Woodcock said. “But keep in mind what one person thinks is pretty good shape compared to another’s is sometimes very different.”

Tucson Racquet & Fitness Club, 4001 N. Country Club Road, has not received a single complaint from any of its 3,500 members over the past three years.

“We make people feel welcome,” General Manager Bill Selby said of the family-owned club.

He said employees are willing to go beyond normal duties, and recently even changed a tire for a member who came in with a flat.

Joining a health club can cost hundreds of dollars a year. Dues vary greatly among the clubs, depending on the amenities, length of the contract and current specials.
Dealing with complaints

Area clubs with the most complaints from Dec. 2, 2005, through Dec. 2, 2008, are L.A. Fitness, with 36; Metro Fitness Inc., the parent company of Gold’s Gym, with 25; and Arizona Swim & Fitness, with 19.

Complaints against another popular club, Bally Total Fitness, are filed with the Better Business Bureau in California, where Bally has its headquarters. No breakdown was available for the gym’s two Tucson locations.

L.A. Fitness, with three locations in Tucson, had the longest list of complaints, but it also boasted a 100 percent resolution rate. In February, the health department shut down the L.A. Fitness pool at 4240 N. First Ave. for murky water. The club rectified the situation the following day. The corporate office did not return calls for comment.

Gold’s Gym resolved 56 percent of its complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau, but its most notable statistic may be the dramatic drop in them. Complaints against the 12,400-member gym plunged from 16 in 2007 to three in 2008.

“The construction was horrendous for everyone,” said Kelly Palmiero, co-owner and director of operations for Gold’s three locations. The East Side club, 5851 E. Speedway Blvd., and the Northwest club, 7315 N. Oracle Road, were each under construction for more than a year.

Palmiero said renovations, which included a $750,000 remodeling of the Northwest club to include features such as two movie theater workout rooms, brought grumbling.

“No matter what you do, there is dust and debris,” she said.

The health department closed the Northwest Gold’s Gym’s pool and three spas briefly in October, the former for insufficient chemical levels and the latter for exceeding temperatures of 104 degrees.

The downtown location, 110 S. Church Ave., voluntarily closed its pool in May to fix the chlorine levels, which were back up to par within three days. The health department found rust in the vents, cracks and crevices, and brown residue along the walls in the men’s locker room, all of which have since been addressed.

The health department likewise found mold, damaged ceiling tiles and rust in the men’s locker room and dirty mats in the abs room at the East Side gym in March. Those violations were also remedied.

Hudson, 56, was most upset with the way she was treated at the Northwest club. She said she was kicked out in the middle of her workout over a case of mistaken identity.

“I never received an apology,” said Hudson, who had been a Gold’s Gym member for 10 years.

The gym eventually admitted its mistake, she said, but refused to refund the 10 months left on her contract when she wanted to cancel.

“They said they couldn’t do that,” Hudson said. “They were bound by contract.

“My husband and I have been running a business for 17 years,” she said of their family practice where she’s a nurse and he’s a physician. “I don’t think you’re bound by contract. You’re bound by your reputation how you treat your clients.”

Gold’s Gym co-owner Palmiero said she is not allowed to discuss members’ accounts, but said the gym has never kicked anyone out without a reason.

Grigel, 28, said he was treated shabbily when he tried to resolve the double-billing problem at Arizona Swim & Fitness, 1290 W. Prince Road.

Complaints against the company jumped from five in 2007 to 12 in 2008, with only 5 percent resolved. Many could not be pursued when it went out of business.

Grigel joined the gym to swim, but the pool closed for construction soon after he signed up, and he wanted out. The double billing just added to the frustration.

“I tried to cancel three separate times,” he said. Each time he went to the club, he was told the manager was unavailable.

“One time they told me, ‘He’s not talking to any customers. He’s sick of talking to people about it. You need to handle it with the billing company,’ ” Grigel said.

Grigel said he signed a one-year contract that he was told could be canceled at any time with no penalty. When he tried to cancel it, he was told he was in a two-year contract that came with penalties.

“I’m still being billed,” he said. “It’s still in the process of being resolved.”

The location is still operating as a health club, but under the new name of Pro Fitness & Health. According to the woman who answered the phone, it’s been operating under new ownership for the past three months.

The new owner did not return a call for comment.

The hundreds of Bally-owned clubs across the country amassed 2,880 complaints over the past three years, at least 73 percent of which were resolved.

Bally closed 19 of its locations following its Dec. 8 bankruptcy filing, including three in Phoenix. The two Tucson locations are slated to remain open, said company spokesman Larry Larsen.

Tucson Racquet & Fitness Club, with no complaints, has a personal touch not found in many larger chains, said Sally Viramontes, personnel and advertising manager, who has been with the club 30 years.

“It’s family here,” she said. “We treat each other with respect. It’s not the commercial atmosphere. It’s not just going through the mill.”

General manager Selby, whose mother established the club in 1967, agreed.

“For many families this is their second home,” he said. “We make them feel like that. They come in for breakfast. The parents play tennis and the kids swim in the pool. They reconvene for lunch. It’s almost like a vacation every weekend for a lot of families.”

Total complaints: 10

Percent resolved: 30

Companies with five or more:

6 – Naturally Women Fitness Centers, one resolved (17 percent)

Total complaints: 30

Percent resolved: 73

Companies with five or more:

12 – L.A. Fitness, all resolved

6 – Metro Fitness (Gold’s Gym), five resolved (83 percent)

Total complaints: 43

Percent resolved: 62

Companies with five or more:

17 – Gold’s Gym, seven resolved (41 percent)

14 – L.A. Fitness, all resolved

5 – Arizona Swim & Fitness, one resolved (20 percent)

Total complaints: 35

Percent resolved: 54

Companies with five or more:

12 – Arizona Swim & Fitness, none resolved

8 – L.A. Fitness, all resolved

Source: Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona


• Shop around. Visit at least two health clubs to compare rates and facilities.

• Do your research. Many clubs offer a free workout or two. Ask other members what they like and don’t like about the club.

• Look for hours, child care programs, group exercise offerings and fitness equipment to meet your needs.

• Request a reliability report on the company from the Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona. Visit

• Avoid paying in advance for long-term contracts. Paying monthly, although it may cost more, protects the consumer over the long term.

• Avoid long-term contracts. Members could end up responsible for the full length of the contract even if they stop using the gym.

• Know membership details. Ask about cancellation rights and any possible penalties.

• Read the entire contract. Don’t feel pressured into signing something you did not read. Keep a signed copy for your records.

Source: Gannett News Archive

Arizona law regulates contracts used by for-profit health spas, clubs and gyms. Medical rehabs and Y.M.C.A.s are exempt. Clubs must:

• Disclose the total cost of the contract

• Provide a contract of no more than three years from date signed

• Contain a notice that the customer may cancel the contract in writing, for any reason, within three operating days (days the club is open) from the date signed

• Issue a full refund within 30 days of a cancellation made in a timely manner

• Not require a down payment of more than 20 percent unless the club has been in operation for at least two years

MRSA, a contagious staph infection once limited to hospitals and nursing homes, is becoming more widespread in the community, said Patti Woodcock, Pima County Health Department spokeswoman.

None of the area health clubs has been cited for it, but Woodcock warned people to take precautions, like wearing flip-flops or other footwear at all times and not sharing towels.

“It’s really important that gyms regularly clean and sanitize the equipment, keep the equipment in good shape so as not to cause cuts or scrapes and that gym staff educate their customers on the importance of personal hygiene,” she said.
This article originally appeared in the Jan. 14, 2009, issue of the Tucson Citizen.

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FEATURE: They left their mark on Tucson

More than 1, 000 people died in Tucson in 2007, according to police statistics.

Ages ranged from newborn to 100, occupations ranged from banker to Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, and contributions to society ranged from public art to cancer support groups.

With too many people to mention, the Tucson Citizen chose one person from each month’s deaths to profile and honor.

JAN. 25
Adelita Camacho-Bedoy

Adelita Camacho-Bedoy was only 4, but she already had decided on a career goal.

“She always said she wanted to be a rock star or celebrity,” said her grandmother, Rosa Camacho-Bedoy. “She was the type of child that loved being the center of attention.”

From her friends to her teachers to her family, especially her big brother, Carlos, Adelita had the power to touch many hearts in a short time.

Her grandmother said everyone loved the feisty little girl who liked to dress up, speak up and dazzle.

“We called her our princess,” Camacho-Bedoy said. Others agreed on the child’s superstar status. She was even chosen as the centerpiece for the children’s altar for this year’s Procession of the Little Angels, a miniature version of the adults’ All Souls’ Procession in November.

An image of her dressed as a “corpse fairy,” in the manner of Tim Burton’s animated movie “Corpse Bride,” for her Halloween costume in 2006 was the main image at the procession.

Three months after she dressed as the corpse fairy, Adelita was dead. Her baby sitter accidentally ran her over while backing out of a driveway.

FEB. 10
Michael Herman

When Michael Herman, 62, was diagnosed with tongue cancer in 2002, he didn’t raise his arms in surrender.

Instead, he founded the Southern Arizona Head and Neck Cancer Support Group to give other cancer patients a place to turn.

Then he co-founded the Laura Ray/Mike Herman Southern Arizona Head and Neck Cancer Foundation to help raise public awareness.

Helping others was natural for Herman, who spent his career in the hospitality industry. Until his retirement in 2006, he served as banquet captain at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort and was once named employee of the year.

But if anyone had talked to Herman about it, he wouldn’t have boasted.

“He was an extremely modest person,” said Mindy Herman, who met Michael 34 years ago and was married to him for 24 years. “He cared more about helping other people than helping himself.”

The Chicago native also was big on family, friends and food.

The couple’s annual Christmas party included some 60 guests, and they also had a bash for last year’s Super Bowl, which featured his favorite team, the Chicago Bears.

Even when his tongue cancer progressed to the point where he could no longer eat, he made sure no one went hungry.

“He didn’t care that he couldn’t eat what he made you,” Mindy Herman said. “He got such joy out of cooking for people, watching people eat.”

Herman also received joy and strength from running the support group.

“He was such an inspiration to me, and very inspirational to all these people,” Mindy said of the 70-member group. “I am far better person from having been with him.”

Victoria Vancza Folsom

Victoria Vancza Folsom started her life on a New Jersey dairy farm, struggling to learn English.

The daughter of Romanian immigrants died 89 years later speaking seven languages. A graduate of New York University with a law degree, she was regarded as an expert in international treaties and law and a pioneer for women in the legal profession.

Oh, yes, she also played a mean round of golf.

“It wasn’t just enough to learn to play well,” said her stepdaughter Georgia Vancza. “She had to be an expert. She had that drive to be excellent at whatever she did.”

Vancza Folsom held local and state golf championship titles for several years. She expected others to be as serious as she was at excelling.

As serious as she was, the striking beauty had a wry sense of humor and could charm just about anyone, her stepdaughter said.

Victoria met her husband-to-be, Victor Vanzca, at the law firm where they worked. A law library at the National Law Center for Inter-American Free Trade in Tucson is named for them.

Patricia A. Bubb

Being a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader in the 1970s may have been the most public claim to fame for Patricia Bubb, 52, but her family said that wasn’t her only one.

“You name it, she could do it,” said Bubb’s mom, Nancy Renaud. “She could do a little bit of everything.”

The eldest of four children, Bubb was born in Melrose, Texas, and lived in Ohio, Dallas and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, after her marriage to Alan Bubb in 1993. Then they moved to Tucson.

She was a community activist, loved nature and was skilled in drawing, writing and cooking.

Bubb founded Tucson’s Duffy Estates Neighborhood Association and made some major changes, such as adding speed bumps, to make the neighborhood safer.

Although she had no children, Bubb had plenty of affection for her two nieces and other youngsters, her husband, Alan, said.

“She would never let a birthday or holiday go by without getting presents for our friends’ young children,” Bubb said. “She’d see to it they got something under the tree from her. That’s where her heart was during the holidays.”

The 52-year-old Bubb died in April of a heart attack. While it is slowly recovering, her family still lives with the shock. Her dog, Pepper, seems to be lost without her.

“For a long time he would look at the door, waiting for her to walk in,” Alan said. “But the dog’s getting better, and so am I.”

Anthony Lombardo

At age 90, Anthony Lombardo was still going strong, laughing with his large, loving family, sharing his World War II adventures at local elementary schools and even mowing his own lawn.

One would expect nothing less from an Army veteran who received the Purple Heart and four Bronze Stars during World War II.

“He never knew what he got them for,” said his wife of 58 years, Lucille Lombardo, commenting on his modesty. “He was a real sweetheart.”

She said the tank driver, commander and gunner probably would have had a military career if he hadn’t been injured in one of the many battles and four invasions in which he participated.

A shell hit the side of his tank north of Rome shortly after its liberation June 4, 1944.

“His whole left side was full of shrapnel,” she said. But in Lombardo fashion, Anthony kept going.

The couple met through family. Anthony’s mother was on the same ship out of Italy as Lucille’s grandmother, and their marriage thrived despite the 13-year age difference.

“A lot of people said the marriage would never last because I was so young,” Lucille Lombardo said. “We would have been married 59 years on Sept. 1.”

The two Connecticut natives moved to Tucson in 1958 after falling in love with the city during a visit.

They trekked west in an old car, with a trailer full of goods they didn’t sell back East.

“We camped out all the way over,” Lucille Lombardo said. “We didn’t have a lot of money for hotels.”

Once in Tucson, Lombardo worked at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and later spoke at area schools about WWII.

“He had a really good personality,” his wife added. “Everybody loved him.”

Frank Allen Sr.

Frank Allen Sr., 62, was doing one of the things he did best – helping when needed – when he died in a car crash June 2.

Allen was called to an early morning emergency at his GW Plastics job when another vehicle slammed into his car.

Allen died in a hospital. The other driver was later found to be drunk, and the Pima County Attorney’s Office is reviewing the case.

“My father’s death was needless,” daughter Sherry Allen said.

Nephew Raymond Allen said Allen was more than just an uncle to him. He was a wonderful friend, he said, a free spirit with an easy-going nature who will be missed.

His daughter pointed out her father’s big heart and love of children. Every year he donated $2,000 to the Tucson Fire Department’s Toys for Tots to buy bicycles for kids.

He gave to a number of charities, pitched in to buy Thanksgiving meals for needy families and took schoolkids to the store once a year to buy shoes.

“He was a great man,” his daughter said. “He loved everyone. My father was not a saint, but he worked hard at the end of his life to be like one.”

Deborah Anne Sprecker

The generous, determined and go-getting Debbie Sprecker, 63, kept working after she retired from the U.S. Air Force, even though she had nothing more to prove.

Her 30 years in the military took her to Germany, Turkey and other places. She became a chief master sergeant in the 1980s.

“That rank makes up only 1 percent of the enlisted rank, and for a female to make it back then, that was really quite an accomplishment,” said her brother Tim Sprecker, three years her junior.

Chief Master Sgt. Sprecker also was an avid bowler, holding the title of U.S. Air Force women’s bowling champion.

In 2003, Sprecker ended up as residents’ advocate, as well as a resident herself, in Mountain View Retirement Village, where she earned the 2007 Volunteer of the Year Award.

“Management was very grateful,” her brother said.

Sprecker was loyal to her family and traveled to support her niece during horse competitions.

Although Sprecker was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 27, the disease progressed slowly and she kept going.

When MS took away her bowling, she turned to golf. When it took away her golf, she remained a fan. When it made it hard for her to travel for her niece, she bought a motor home for easier mobility.

“That just shows you the kind of person she was,” her brother said.

AUG. 4
Angela Knoche and Timothy Hahn

Hikers Angela Knoche and Timothy Hahn were swept to their deaths Aug. 4 when a flash flood ravaged Seven Falls in the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area.

Knoche, 19, and Hahn, 25, both had jobs that dealt with saving the lives of others.

Knoche, an avid swimmer, worked as a civilian lifeguard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and had been a member of the Palo Verde High Magnet School swim team until she graduated last year.

Hahn was an Air Force staff sergeant assigned to the 563rd Maintenance Squadron, part of the 563rd Rescue Group, a combat rescue unit.

Knoche’s brother Jeffrey said Hahn tried to save his sister by reaching out to grab her hand while she was flailing in the Bear Canyon flood but ended up getting carried away with her instead.

In addition to dedicating their lives to helping others, both were well-loved.

Knoche was described as a jovial woman with a luminous smile.

“She (was) energetic and always very positive about things,” her brother said. She loved music and taught herself to play guitar and mandolin.

Knoche would have been a sophomore at Pima Community College this fall and was majoring in public relations after switching from sports medicine.

Hahn enlisted in the Air Force in October 2001, and transferred to D-M in April 2004. He left behind a wife and 4-year-old daughter.

Wing commander Col. Kent Laughbaum said both were respected members of the Davis-Monthan team. “More than (our) co-workers, they were our friends, and both will be deeply missed.”

SEPT. 25
Paul Edwards

Paul Edwards, 53, may have died, but his legacy of public art lives on in Tucson.

You can find “Sand Trout,” which he created with Chris Tanz, along Tanque Verde Road near the Rose Hill Wash. “Sun Circle” was developed with Tanz and artist Susan Holman on the Rillito River Park pathway just east of North La Cholla Boulevard, and “Many Color Mountain” by the three artists was installed at Ajo Way and Mission Road.

“Sand Trout” is adorned with children’s handprints.

“He had a lot of fun with kids,” said his first wife, JoAnn Sheperd, who was married to him for 14 years. She said kids were invited to put handprints in the “Sand Trout” sculpture, and they tried to get their baby daughter to do the same.

“She balled up her fist,” Sheperd said, “so her fist print is in there.”

Tanz appreciated working with Edwards on public art because he embraced a variety of ideas and materials.

“He was open to getting out in the field, with his sleeves rolled up,” she said. During their creation of “Sun Circle,” they went to the site with six huge refrigerator boxes with holes cut out to see how a sunset would filter through.

Edwards, who knew he wanted to be an architect by age 8, was an avid hiker who would take off for a week with just his backpack.

“He was a very talented man,” Sheperd said. “He could rewire a house, build a house, do plumbing, draw, design.”

Edwards’ second wife, architect Joyce Kelly, said the key to his success was his method.

“He came up with a concept first, then worked out all the details,” Kelly said. “That set him apart from the other architects.”

OCT. 8
Frank “Pancho” Laos Gonzales

Frank Gonzales, 67, charmed just about everyone he met. He also whipped up a pretty mean burrito.

In the restaurant business for 41 years, Gonzales ran several restaurants bearing the “Pancho” name.

He steered to automobile sales in 1994, revving up business at Royal Buick, 4333 E. Speedway Blvd., until his retirement in 2007.

Even more than for his cuisine and his sales, Gonzales was known for his big heart.

He was a life member of the Tucson Conquistadores by 1988, after joining in 1971. Conquistador Bill MacMorran said Gonzales engaged members in friendly, yet “ferocious” pancake duels on the mornings before the last round of golf at the PGA tournament the group hosted for decades.

Cooking was always in his bones, and Gonzales said he missed the business but not the hassle of restaurant regulations.

He was quoted in a Tucson Citizen article saying he no longer had to worry “about who burned the beans or why the refrigerator didn’t work. ”

Gonzales had said he was happy selling cars. With his ready wit and easygoing nature, Gonzales seemed like a man who would be happy doing just about anything.

NOV. 28
Ken Herman

Financial maven Ken Herman, 83, worked his way from bank messenger to senior executive vice president and the nickname of the “$60 million man” for his ability to make prudent and safe deals. His rise to financial fame, however, did not come without hard work and a couple of close brushes with death.

The first was on Christmas Eve in 1953. Herman was branch manager of Southern Arizona Bank when two robbers bound him with adhesive tape and held him at gunpoint.

“He remained calm and survived with his usual aplomb,” said friend Chuck Pettis. Herman even stayed to finish his work for the day.

His second brush with death was on the way to a fishing trip with three others in March 1969. Their small plane crashed in subzero weather, killing the pilot and trapping Herman, who had a broken back and femur, beneath a seat for four hours while the other two went for help.

“His intelligence, integrity and honesty earned him a respected reputation in the national banking world,” Pettis said. Herman also was on a number of community boards.

Herman’s father was William Henry Herman, manager of Tucson’s first radio station in 1930, and his grandfather was Frank Schmidt, the developer of Colossal Cave.

DEC. 20
Ralph Valdez Castillo

Ralph Valdez Castillo, 19, was on the brink of starting his career when his life was cut short Dec. 20.

Valdez Castillo was riding his motorcycle west on Drexel Road when he collided with a sedan that was making a left turn onto Columbus Boulevard. No citations were issued.

Friends said Valdez Castillo had just joined the military and was home on leave when he was killed.

“This is a tragedy,” said high school teacher Stacy Haines. “Ralph had so much promise.”

Haines taught the teen journalism at Desert View High School, 4101 E. Valencia Road, where Valdez Castillo graduated last spring.

Haines said Valdez Castillo was an excellent athlete who won all-southern Arizona volleyball honors last year.

Valdez Castillo was noted in many news articles about high school volleyball,

Nicknamed “Titi” by his large, extended family, those close to Valdez Castillo said he was a good kid who loved life and laughter and will never be forgotten.


This article originally appeared in the Dec. 28, 2007, issue of the Tucson Citizen newspaper as the annual obituary feature honoring those who died throughout the past year.