Friday, October 25, 2013

The Loss of a Mentor

Today I attended the funeral of probably  my most favorite teacher of all time, Mr. Steve Paun.   I have been blessed to have had many good teachers in my educational career.   I can remember the teachers who really made an impact on my life......Sister Beatrice Ann, Sister Georgina Marie, Sister Ann Patrice from Loretto, Mr. Turner, Mrs. Herner, Mr. Rehurek, and Mr. Paun from DHS.   Sadly, I can't remember a teacher in my undergraduate studies who really meant a lot to me.  When I was working on my Master's Degree at ASU, I had Dr. Kay Hunnicutt, who will always be one of my  favorites.  I know there were others and I can't remember ever having a teacher who I truly didn't like, and that is amazing!

But Mr. Paun was special.   As I look back on his influence on my life, I believe that he was not only a wonderful teacher, but he was truly a mentor to me.  I didn't take a class from him until my senior year and it was speech.  However, he was the teacher adviser for three clubs that I was president of during my sophomore, junior and senior years of high school and he was my first mentor.  I didn't realize it at the time, but he truly influenced who I am today.   It is one thing to have a favorite teacher, but another thing to understand the influence that person had.   He always encouraged my leadership skills and supported me in so many ways.  My respect and admiration for him continues to this day.   He was truly one of the kindest, most empathetic human beings that I have ever known.

I didn't really keep in touch with him through the years, but would sometimes see him when we spent time in Douglas during the summers.   He got out of teaching after he got married to his beautiful (inside and outside) wife, Victoria.   He went to work selling insurance so that he could provide more for his family.  I remember thinking how sad that was to lose such an incredible teacher,  but understood his wanting to have more to support his family.

Several years ago, I found out that Mr. Paun had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's.  I remember how sad I was to hear that this vibrant, fun loving, intelligent family man could be struck by this horrible disease.  I knew that he had to be in a care facility because of this.  Today his son said that he was diagnosed at 57 and he died this month at 71.

Since I have been back in Douglas, I have gotten to know his son, Richard.  Richard teaches art at DHS and his wonderful wife is a kindergarten teacher.  Richard is so much like his father. He is an amazing human and teacher.   I have also had the opportunity to see his wife, Victoria.  Unfortunately, she has Parkinson's and her health is not good.   And she is truly one of the good people in the world.

His son talked about his love of family and of the stories he told to his kids as they were growing up.  He talked about his great sense of humor and his kindness.   He talked about his love of poetry and different poets.  I, too, love poetry and never connected that my love of poetry and poets probably came from Mr. Paun's class.

Today one of the priests talked about doubting his faith.  He said that sometimes he did when things happened to people like Mr. Paun and the Alzheimer's that came on so young.  I, too, wonder about that.  I know that there is a reason for everything, but I also wonder why people like Mr. Paun who are so good are taken so young. 

A few weeks before Mr. Paun died, I received a card from Richard thanking me for some things that had happened.  His last sentence said that he knew his dad would be very proud of me.  I think he would, but I hope that he knows that he contributed greatly to who I am today.

Thank you, Mr. Paun, for being such a strong influence in my life and thank you for being my mentor.  You were such a strong and positive influence  and I never was able to say thank you to you.  I hope that I have been able to do that a little bit through your wonderful son, Richard.  The world needs more people like Steve Paun and I feel blessed to have had him in my life!!!!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Very Meaningful Quote

Just a short post tonight.   A friend sent me this quote from Maya Angelo.  It speaks to so much of what I deal with in my present position.  It is profound!!

"When people tell you who they are, Maya Angelou famously advised, believe them. Just as importantly, however, when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them. You are the only custodian of your own integrity, and the assumptions made by those that misunderstand who you are and what you stand for reveal a great deal about them and absolutely nothing about you."

This speaks volumes to me right now!!!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Those we love are never really gone as long as their stories are told........................

I have referred to this quote from my favorite author and my favorite book often.   This is a children's book, but I find the message is for all ages.  The book is The Last Dance by Carmen Agra Deedy.   It is the speaks to the love of families and the cycle of life.  In the story, the grandfather tell his grandchildren that every human being has the right to three  things in life:

To Dance.  The great thing in life is not so much to dance well,
but whether one is willing to dance at all.

To Sing,   Even if you sing off-key.  The crow has as much right to 
a voice as the nightingale.

To Tell Stories.   Those we love are never really gone as long
as their stories are told.

My mom was born on October 8, 1917 and she died on October 6, 2002.  It has been eleven years which doesn't seem possible.   There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about her, especially now that I am back in Douglas.   The other day I was at the ATM early in the morning and a man asked me if I was Margaret's daughter.  I told him I was and he told me he served on the City Council with her and how much he thought of her.   I was very touched by that.

We try to get together as a family and go to dinner during October so we can tell stories to keep her memory alive.  Cameron was only three when she died and I truly believe that he remembers her even more because we get together.  

The last few Octobers things have gotten in the way and we haven't done as well as in the past.  But this year, we were able to get together with Judy, Ken, Teresa, Kayla, Kerri, Chris, Cameron,  and Patrick.  Patrick was here from California and it was so good to have him be a part of this.  

My mom was absolutely crazy about Cameron.  He could do no wrong.  And if you knew my mom, she was always strict with me and with my kids.  But for Cameron, there were no rules...........  Just before she died, we went to eat dinner at Carrabas for Kerri's and Cameron's birthday.  My mom was in a wheelchair at the end of the table.  Cameron did something he shouldn't have and Kerri started to "discipline" him.  My mom said she better not discipline him and she took her fork and tried to poke Kerri's hand.  It was really funny and hard to recreate in words.  So we went back to the scene of the "stabbing" for dinner this year.

I know that she would be very proud that I am here in Douglas with Teresa.  And I know she would be very proud of the job that I am doing.  A job of a superintendent is one of the most difficult jobs around with all of the politics--both local, state and at the national level.  I wish that we could talk as I know she would give me good advice.   But I also know that she would very much approve of the way I have handled things and risen above the negative people who are out there.  

She was one of a kind and many ways and I am proud to be her daughter!!   Her stories will live on in all of our lives.............

Sunday, September 29, 2013

It's Been a Long Time

Since I started my blog in 2008, I don't believe I have ever had a month when I didn't have at least one post--usually many more.  However, it has been almost four months since I have written anything.  Facebook keeps us posted on daily happenings and it seems that it has been my way of communicating lately--although I don't do a lot on it.

I have missed posting on this blog.  I think I may have a case of "writer's block" as much has happened, I just haven't written about it.

The summer went quickly.   Things at work are always busy and it doesn't seem that there is much down time.  Even when I get away for a few days, I still have to deal with issues that occur.  And you never know from one moment to the next what could happen.   As a teacher and then as a principal, I thought I knew about how a district works.  But it is certainly different at this level.   So much is expected and politics can sometimes be very difficult.   However, despite all of that, things are going well.   The budget is still tough because the legislature still doesn't understand the importance of education in Arizona.   Our scores are slowly starting to show gains.   We have a plan in place that I believe will really make a difference.   I have a leadership team that is top notch and we work together so well.  Our principals and teachers doing an amazing job under some very difficult circumstances.  There is definitely not a level playing field in Arizona.

There has been time for some fun, though.  I was able to get away with my "principal" friends for a few days in San Diego and then on to Las Vegas with two of my very dear friends to see Bill Maher.  

I then attended three days of training for the incredible Family Leadership Institute with several of our parents.  This program is amazing and I feel so blessed that we are participating in it here in Douglas.   Please look at the video that is posted right above this.   The FLI part is about 9 minutes into it.  These wonderful parents did this video for a Governing Board Meeting. 

Labor Day weekend we all attended the wedding of my cousin Ted's son, Kevin, and his beautiful bride, Roxanne.   It was a great weekend.  The wedding was awesome and getting to visit with all of the cousins is always so good.

Teresa stayed in California and was able to visit with all of the Northern California cousins for a few weeks.  Lena, one of our cousins, came back with her and stayed here for two weeks.  She left on Friday.  It was so nice to come home to dinner and a drink all ready when I got here!!!  

Last Sunday we drove up to the cabin for a few hours as Lena hadn't been there in years.  It is absolutely gorgeous up there.  There has been so much rain and the countryside is so green.  As always, this is where I love to spend time.  I will be going up next weekend with friends and I look forward to a few days with a cell phone!!!

I am hoping writing this little bit will help me get my enthusiasm for writing back!!!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

An Amazing Few Weeks!

The last two months of the school year are always incredibly busy.   This year was no exception.  Because I have been so busy, I haven't taken the time to write about all of the events that have occurred.     So today I will do a summary of the exciting events that have occurred.

The week of April 22, two 4th grade classes from the school where Kerri teaches 4th grade, came down on their southeast Arizona field trip.  They spent the night at the  Ray Borane Middle School gym which is just a block from the house.  The past two years, the three 4th grade classes have had  pen pals with classes at Joe Carlson here in Douglas.  So I had them all for dinner so that they could meet their pen pals.   It was so cool as the Douglas kids lined up in the front yard waiting for the bus.  As soon as they saw it, they started cheering, jumping and waving.    The 4th grade teachers and Cyndy, the principal, came to help each night!   I really appreciated their help.  I made beans and salsa and we also had hot dogs.  The pugs thought that all of the kids were there to see them!

The next week I had two Gilbert El 5th grade classes on Monday and Tuesday and Kerri's class on Thursday.  Dottie's class and Angi's class made the decision to come down here a little late to have pen pals.  But we will make sure they have them next year if they come down here. I could hardly wait to see the kids as they were in 2nd grade when I left.  And it was so nice to visit with the parents that I knew.

On Saturday (27th), we had our Family Leadership Institute graduation at DHS.   Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch was there, along with Cynthia Rocha.   Consuelo started this program and Cynthia is the CEO.  I truly believe that this is going to be something that will make a difference in our entire community.   The ceremony was so touching as parents shared their vision boards.  And Consuelo was inspirational as usual.  I am always amazed at how she connects with people.  She is truly the epitome of what "servant leadership" means.  She came by the house to see Teresa before they left.  She is truly "My Hero" and so many ways.  I feel blessed to know both she and Cynthia!

On the Monday that Dottie's class came, we had our Diamond Scholar Night where we honored 4th through 12th graders for their academics, citizenship, and attendance.  We had two sessions--one at 5:30 for elementary and middle schools and at 7:00 for DHS.   Rosella Melgoza, an academic coach, did an incredible job decorating.  The auditorium looks absolutely amazing!!  Daniel Hernandez, the aide who helped to save Representative Gabby Giffords' life that Saturday in 2010, was the keynote speaker.   Daniel is a phenomenal young man who I believe will be go on to many bigger and better things.   He recently wrote a book and has been on television doing a lot of interviews.  His speech to the students was right on target and he was able to give the same message to both groups, but a different levels.  Daniel talked about giving back to the community and the importance of kindness.

He stayed after the high school ceremony and had his picture taken with many of the students who were honored.  I invited him to the house to meet the 5th graders and he came.  He talked to them and told them about visiting the White House and about the State of the Union that he went to.  He then stayed around and had his picture taken with many of the kids.  What an incredible young man he is!!

On Wednesday of last week, two authors came to Douglas to present at DHS.  They are Adam Rex and Mac Barnett.  Although they write for younger children, the high school kids were really into what they were telling them about how they were published.   Adam is both an author and an illustrator.  He and Mac met when he illustrated one of Mac's books.  Mac is hilarious, so the high school kids really enjoyed that.  I went to lunch with them and they are really nice and very down to earth.

All in all, it has been an amazing few weeks.  The positives of this job truly out weigh the negatives and the negative people always trying to pull you down.   I truly feel that I am making a difference here in Douglas and it comes from my heart! 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Tribute to Educators, Support Staff and Volunteers

Each year Cochise County has an awards dinner celebrating teachers around Cochise County. Douglas Unified always has three teachers up for awards because we are one of the biggest districts in the county.   We have an elementary teacher, a middle school teacher, and a high school teacher submitted as nominees.    My first year as superintendent, I felt that we should honor the teachers who were nominated from each school at a reception.  In addition, I thought it would be nice to honor an administrator.  So we had a very nice evening honoring these wonderful people.  

Last year, we added a support staff employee and parent volunteer from each school for our Douglas ceremony.  It was a very nice reception held at the Douglas Visitor's Center.  One of our academic coaches, Ken Cormier, did all of the work for the reception and everything was great.

What I didn't think about was all of the support staff who are at the District level.  So this year, we added an employee from food services, district, maintenance, transportation, etc.  Ken and his crew really out did themselves.  Ken had a catered dinner at the Knights of Columbus Hall last Thursday to honor all of these wonderful people who do so much for the students in our District.  

What an incredible evening it was!!!  I was so proud to be a part of this ceremony for so many reasons.   There are so many dedicated employees here in Douglas who truly want what is best for our kids.  And they do this without the compensation that they deserve.

Our Governing Board President, Mike Ortega, gave out the awards. Two of our Board Members helped us in congratulating the honorees.  They were Patty Lopez and Natalio Sabal. 

Ken had local merchants donate gift certificates.  They ranged from $25 Walmart cards to a free oil change.   He is an amazing person and he gets his entire family to help with this event.  What a great human being he is!!  I am  privileged to work with him.

This quote is a familiar one, but I think a powerful one.  It sums up our evening last week.  So many people in attendance that night embody what this quote states.

One hundred years from now,
It won't matter what car I drove,
What kind of house I lived in,
How much I had in my bank account,
Nor what my clothes looked like,
But, the world may be a little better
Because I was important in the life of a child. 


Monday, April 1, 2013

A Tradition of Love and Family Friendship

I have done a number of posts about the importance of family and traditions that are so meaningful.  In January I did an entry on the passing of our wonderful family "friend" who was a wonderful friend who was truly part of our family --Dennis Reidy.  The Reidy and Scott families go way back to the early days when our families were first in Douglas.  They all lived on the 800 block of 14th street in the early days where Teresa and I still live.

Our families were in each others weddings and were godparents to each others children through the years.   I   don't ever remember the Reidy's not being a part of our family.

My mom was the Godmother to Adena Reidy, Jerry's daughter.  Jerry's good friend, Art Atonna, served as the Godfather.   I know that there were others who were Godparents over the years.  When Kerri was born, I asked Jerry to be Kerri's Godfather along with Judy as her Godmother. 


Recently, Adena and her husband, Rich,  asked Kerri and Eric Atonna (Art's son) to be the Godparents of Maddux, their son.  

So this past weekend, Teresa and I went to Tucson for the baptism.  It was so good to get together with Jerry, Marilyn, Janet, and all of the family for such a happy occasion.   We all stayed at the same hotel and had dinner Friday night together and talked, laughed, and reminisced.    

Saturday afternoon was the Baptism at St. Odelia's Church.  After that, we went to the house to celebrate.  There were a lot of little kids there and it always warms my heart to see how Cameron interacts with little kids.  He loves them and is so good around them.   The kids had a wonderful time, as did the adults.

Needless to say, this was an important event for all of us.  I was proud of Kerri.   I know it meant a lot to everyone to see this  tradition continuing.  

Susan Lieberman says that "family traditions counter alienation and confusion.  They help us define who we are.  They provide something steady, reliable, and safe in a confusing world."  And yes, the world is confusing in so many ways.  Even though all of our elders except Teresa are gone, it is so meaningful that our children see the importance of these family connections!  When our generation is gone, I know that our families will still be important and continued.  I am grateful for that in many ways, but most importantly for Cameron!   The Scott Family will live on as strong and as caring as it is today, I have no doubt!

Dena holding Kerri in Douglas.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Chicago, March 2013

Over the course of the time that I have been here in Douglas as superintendent, I have attended several conferences.  The majority of the ones I have attended have to do with school law, Governing Board protocols, and mandates.   

My job description is all-encompassing.  However, first and foremost, it is as the instructional leader of the district.  A typical day in my life is very busy with many diverse issues, most of which aren't curriculum related.  However, teaching and learning is what we are all about.

I had the opportunity to attend the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development international conference in Chicago last week.   I am not sure how many people were in attendance, but I am thinking it was in the thousands.     So many respected voices in education today were there doing workshops, keynote speeches, etc.  I attended an all day session on academic coaching, which was excellent.  

On Saturday my hero, Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch, was one of the invited speakers.  We had talked earlier and I was able to get to her session a little early so we could visit.  Consuelo spoke to a packed room with probably  1000 people in attendance.  I have heard her speak so many times now, but I can honestly say that I could listen to her every day.  Her message is so powerful!!  In the middle of her talk, she asked me to come up and introduced me to the audience.  She asked me to speak of what we are doing in Douglas with our Family program that is part of her company--The Family Leadership Institute.   I was touched and honored to be able to do this.    I truly believe that this program is powerful and I believe that it will make a long term difference in our community over the years.  I feel privileged to be a part of it and to call Consuelo my friend.  She is AMAZING!    

The keynote speaker on Sunday was Maya Angelo.  The room she presented in was HUGE and you could hardly see her.   They placed television screens all around so that she could be seen.  Her message was inspiring and very supportive of educators.

On Monday, another invited guest speaker was Tim Shriver.  I was so excited to get to see and listen to him speak about The Special Olympics that his mother, Eunice Shriver, started.  He also spoke about teaching values and compassion to our children, not just reading, writing and math.  I was disappointed that not many people attended that session.   Tim was great and so personable.  They had a presentation from a group of high school students and Tim was up dancing with them.   He is a genuine person who truly   believes in what the Kennedy family has always stressed--the importance of giving back.   I wish more educators could have heard his message.  

It was a great conference and I am glad I went.  It reinforced to me that we are doing a lot of things right and it rejuvenated me in many ways.  

Chicago was cold and I am not a cold weather person.   It was nice to get away for a few days, even though I was "learning" most of the time I was there!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Carmen Agra Deedy--Storyteller and Author Extraordinaire

"Storytellers are the most powerful people on earth.  They might not be the best paid, but they are the most powerful.  Storytellers have the power to move the human heart--and there is no greater power on earth." --Laurie H. Hutzler

I love to read and always have.  My grandmother instilled this love of reading in me.  I remember sitting in her chair with her while she read books to me.  I was very young and she always took the time to read whatever book I brought for her to read to me.  My Aunt Teresa also contributed to my love of reading as she had me enrolled in several book clubs as I was growing up.   Books would be delivered in the mail on a monthly basis.   Although my mom was not a reader, she also contributed by never questioning anything that I ever read. If I was reading, whatever the book was fine with her.

After becoming a teacher, I saw first hand the power of children's literature.  There are so many picture books and children's books that are amazing and very powerful in many ways

Several years ago, I found a book that to me is the most beautiful book I have ever read.  It is called "The Last Dance" written by Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrated by Debrah Santini.   

This book is about the cycle of life, the importance of family, and the limitless power of love.  

I was so excited to meet Carmen several years ago when I went to the International Reading Association Conference.   She gave me her card and phone number and I had hoped to have her come to Gilbert El sometime.  That never happened, but she visited Douglas Unified School District on February 6.   

Carmen is a warm, funny, sincere human being.  She told three different stories to our fifth graders and then to parents and families after school was over.  I was fortunate to hear two of her stories.  The children were totally into the stories she told.   There was so much laughter and joy that day.

I had the great fortune to go to lunch with Carmen.   And she is a warm, funny, sincere human being.   I love all of her books, but I shared with her what "The Last Dance" has meant to me.   Through the years, I have given this book to friends after they have lost a loved one, particularly a parent.   In the book, the grandfather tells his grandchildren that every human being has the right to three things in life:

TO DANCE.  The great thing in life is   not so much to dance well,
but whether one is willing to dance at all.

TO SING,  Even if you   sing off-key.  The crow has as much right
to a voice as the nightingale.

TO TELL STORIES.  Those we love are 
 never  really gone as long as their stories are told.

Every October, we try to get together as a family and tell stories about my mom.  She died Oct. 6 and her birthday was Oct. 8.   Although Cameron was only four when she died, I believe that the times that we have told her stories makes him think that he remembers her more.  "Those we love are never really gone as long as their stories are told."

Through the years, I have been honored to deliver eulogies for special friends and relatives.  I have used this quote often.  And this is so true.

Last week, I got an email from our cousin, Allyson, who teaches in Atlanta.  Carmen is from Georgia and she was at Allyson's school.   She told Allyson that she loved coming to Douglas and is looking forward to coming back!  What a small world it is!!

Meeting Carmen and seeing what a wonderful person she is means so much to me.  I feel honored and privileged to have been able to share her with our kids and families!!

"After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world."--Philip Pullman

I couldn't agree more!!   

Sunday, February 3, 2013

'S'now Joke!

During the last 2 1/2 years that I have been back in Douglas, there have been two weather "crisis."   In all of the years I was in Gilbert, the worst thing we ever had were heat advisory days.    

I had forgotten how cold it gets down here in the winter.  My office is 3 1/2 blocks from the house and I wear a heavy coat and gloves most mornings.  In addition, there are many days that it takes me ten or so minutes to get the ice off of the car windshield so that I can see to drive!

Two years ago this month, we had the coldest temperatures on record down here.  It was 0 degrees and was below freezing for two days.   That was my first really big decision as superintendent when we cancelled school for those two days.  

A couple of times this school year, snow has been in the forecast, but didn't happen.  On Monday, the weather forecast was for some possible light snow showers, but it didn't appear to be really going to happen.

I woke up about 4:00 a.m. and looked outside and there was snow!  At about 4:30, I got a call from our Transportation Director.  All of the highways coming into Douglas were closed.  That meant that he couldn't send any buses outside of Douglas and we have a lot of kids who live in outlying areas.  In addition, we have 30 or so teachers who don't live in Douglas, so they wouldn't be able to get to school.   There was no way we could find 30 subs!  So I made the decision to call a snow day!!

We called all of our principals who started calling their staffs.  I called all three of the Tucson television stations to ask them to announce it, as well as our local radio station.  We had it posted on our website and sent out messages to parents.  We have enough academic minutes required by the state, so we don't have to make up the day.  

My puggies didn't know what to do when I let them out.  They have never seen snow before.  It was really funny watching them trying to figure out what to do.  Of course, Lucy, didn't like it at all.  She would rather stay in where it is comfortable no matter whether it is winter or summer!

I had to drive up to Tucson yesterday.  Although it is winter,  the desert between here and Tucson is absolutely gorgeous.  It was a clear day and you could see snow on the tops of the several of the mountain ranges around us.  I wish I could capture that beauty with photography.  Maybe someday I will learn how to do that.  For some  people, it is natural.  I don't have much artistic ability so I am thinking I will need to take some classes.  Maybe that will be a goal when I finally retire down the road!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Dennis J. Reidy (1945-2013)

Saying   good-bye to someone who has   been such a big part of my life has never been easy.  I think it is one of the hardest things as I get "older" and it has happened more often.    However,  this past weekend   was especially difficult.  Our family had to say good-bye to someone who has meant so much to so many of us--Dennis Reidy.   Although we are not blood relatives, Dennis was my "cousin."   I valued his advice, respected his work ethic, am thankful for the many times were were able to stay at their house  when my mom was in the hospital in Tucson, and more than anything, the opportunity to hear stories and laugh.   

Last summer at the family reunion, Dennis did not look very good.  He was on oxygen, which I know was very difficult for him to have to accept.   But in the true Dennis fashion, he just made a joke of it and went on.  I know he didn't feel that well, but you would have never known it.

When we got the call a week ago Saturday   that Dennis had passed the night before, it was very difficult news.  Although I can say I wasn't    terribly surprised,  it still was unexpected.   Dennis lived every moment of his life to the fullest and not many people can say that.  It was a difficult week, and Teresa had such a hard time.

Janet asked me to speak at the funeral about Dennis' roots and Douglas.   I was so honored to be able to do this.  She told me to keep it short.  For those of you who know me professionally, you know I am not one for long speeches, etc.  However, trying to  condense so much about Dennis into something short, was hard.  I asked various people if they had any stories from growing up in Douglas.  I got quite a bit of information and was able to put it into a tribute to this wonderful human being.

I would like to share it on this blog with those of you who didn't get to hear it last Saturday.  Dennis meant so much to so many people, and that was evident in the   huge number of people who attended the viewing, the funeral, the burial and the reception.

Here is what I said:

I am Sheila Rogers, member of the Scott Family of Douglas, Arizona.    When Janet asked me to speak about Dennis’ early years in Douglas, to say I was honored would be an understatement.   The Reidy and Scott Families go way back.  I asked our Aunt Teresa, who is 90,  when the families met.  She wasn’t sure, but  she  told me that she doesn’t ever remember a time when our families weren’t friends.  My grandparents moved to Douglas in 1912 and to the current house we live  in on 14th Street in 1918.   The Reidy family, and their cousins, the Joyces , all lived in the 800  block on 14th for many years.   The Reidys, Joyces, and Scotts were godparents to each other, in each others weddings, and were truly an extended family.    Our families share strong Irish Catholic roots.

And as I look back on my childhood, I don’t ever remember not having the Reidys as part of our family.    Although there are no  blood ties, that never stopped us from being family.

Dennis was born in Douglas on August 29, 1945 to Edna and Corny Reidy.    He was the second child of the family with Cornella being the oldest and Jerry following two years later.  

Corny Reidy died suddenly of a heart attack on June 13, 1951 at the age of 43, leaving behind Edna and three young children.   Edna devoted her life to her three children.   She could have gone to work as she was a registered nurse, but she felt that her children needed a mother at home.   By this time,  all of the extended Reidy family had moved to California.  But the Scott family was still in Douglas.   Throughout the years of our childhood, we were together often.  Edna died unexpectedly in 1971.   That was devastating to Dennis.   Had both of his parents lived to see the adult that he became would have made them very proud.   However, I am sure that they did know.

Dennis attended Loretto Catholic School from first through eighth grades.   We have been blessed because  our principal at Loretto, Sister Ann Patrice,  is still in our lives.   We have kept in touch through the years and I emailed her over the weekend to tell her about Dennis.   She responded to me that she found out about his death on Saturday.   She told me that Dennis and Janet had sent her a floral arrangement this past Christmas and that she had talked to Dennis on the 26th.   I had asked her if she could share anything about Dennis with me.   She told me that  she remembered talking to Dennis at Loretto’s 75th anniversary celebration several years back.   He told her that his education at Loretto had the biggest impact on his life.  He prefaced it with telling her “this is the only serious thing  I am going to say to you today.”  Those of us who knew Dennis, can hear him saying this.  She also said that she felt that what he told her illustrated both his faithfulness and his sense of humor.  She further said that he was always a conscientious student and entered into school activities with energy and enthusiasm.    She said his smile often held a twinkle of possible  mischief in it, but evidently he didn’t act on that mischief that she could remember.  I know for a fact  that Dennis saved acting on the mischief until a few years after he left Loretto.

Loretto often had fundraisers.  At Christmas time, we always sold Christmas cards.   Dennis would go out to sell the cards to various people that he knew.    Dennis had a gift of gab at even a young age.  Every year he would go to see Mr. Levy, who owned a local department store.  Mr. Levy reminded Dennis each year that he didn’t buy Christmas cards because he was Jewish.  However, every year Dennis convinced him to support Loretto and so Mr. Levy bought Christmas cards.

Dennis attended Douglas High School after Loretto where he was involved in  many school activities—most notably the yearbook. 

Because of their financial situation, Dennis had many jobs while growing up in Douglas.  Jerry told me  about the first jobs that they had.  They would do odd jobs for people in the neighborhood. One of those jobs was mowing lawns.   Neither Dennis or Jerry were big enough to push the lawn mower, so each of them took a side of the mower handle and pushed together.  I can just picture this!

About the same time, Dennis and Jerry started working for Mr. Stevenson, who had the local franchise for a TV guide type magazine.  In order to sell more magazines, Edna decided to take the boys over to Agua Prieta in Mexico.  They would find the homes that had a television antenna on the roof and then knock on the door.  When the   homeowner opened the door, Dennis would ask “quieres comprar TV guide?”  They sold the magazines for 15 cents and got to keep 4 cents.   Jerry told me that what they were most excited about this job was that actually had a REAL boss.  When he and Dennis were reminiscing many years later, Dennis couldn’t believe that they were excited about having a boss!

Dennis also worked as a paperboy, as a carry  out boy at the Phelps Dodge Grocery store, worked at the Arizona Drug Store, and at the City of Douglas Water Department.   Dennis knew the value of hard work from a very   young age.  And he always appreciated the friendships that he made with the men he worked with doing manual labor.  Dennis had a real heart for the common, working person that he never forgot as he became so successful in the business world.

Edna expected all of her children to go to college. Dennis received the Logie Scholarship at Douglas High School  which was only for the University of Arizona.   He always leaned towards the U of A, but that scholarship confirmed it.   And that is how Dennis became a “wildcat.”    As a graduate of ASU and a Sun Devil, I can honestly say that is probably the only thing that I ever disagreed with Dennis on!!  We had a lot of fun over the years with the rivalry.    And I am very glad that Dennis did become a wildcat, because if he hadn’t, he would have never met and married his wonderful wife, Janet.  She is our family, too,  and we love her dearly.  She was the best thing that ever happened to Dennis.  Thank you, Janet, for making Dennis so happy !!  And thank you for sharing him with us these many years!  I am sure there were many times that you were ready to go, but Dennis had one more story to share!

Dennis loved Douglas.  When I moved back to Douglas 2 ½ years ago, he was one of my biggest supporters.   Dennis believed in giving back to the community that helped make him the person he was.  Each year, Dennis would send a letter to his clients suggesting that they give their Arizona Tax Credit donation to one of two schools.  The one in Douglas is Faras Elementary in Pirtleville, which is a very poor area of Douglas.   Many people with no  connection to Douglas contributed. Those of us who graduated from Douglas High School have a saying—“once a bulldog, always a bulldog!”  Dennis  did more than say it, he lived it through his support of our schools and his love for his roots in Douglas.

I have spoken of Dennis’ formative years in Douglas.    I have talked about what a conscientious student he was.  And I know you will hear about Dennis as an adult in the next little bit.  Dennis’ sense of humor was second to none.  I loved to get together and talk and listen to his very funny stories of growing up in Douglas.   Our cousin, Ted,  wrote that Dennis was our family’s “Seanachie” (Shawn a key).  A Seanachie  is an Irish storyteller.  They were the oral historians during the great suppression.  Dennis’ stories weren’t bound by dates or events like most histories.  They were about people and characters.  And although they made us laugh, we weren’t laughing at them as much as with them.  They were vignettes of the human condition---the divine comedy.

What I believe I am most grateful for is the many years of friendship that we had.  Dennis was an incredible influence on my life and on the lives of so many others.    In our family, our children considered Dennis an uncle.   I remember him inviting my daughter and some of the other cousins to “Camp Dennis.”   At Camp Dennis, they listened to stories about having fun and of Dennis’ escapades through the years. They learned to not take themselves too seriously and to enjoy each moment in life, and to live life to the fullest.  But they also learned the value of hard work and  the importance of family.   

I will always feel blessed to have had Dennis and all of the Reidys in my life.   I love Irish Proverbs and Blessings and I am going to conclude this with one that I feel is most fitting for his great sense of humor that we will dearly miss.   It simply says,  “May you get to heaven a half hour before the devil knows you’re dead.”  I have no doubt that Dennis made it to heaven in record time!

To quote my favorite author, “those we love are never really gone as long as their stories are told.”  Dennis stories will live on with the many people whose lives he touched.

Thank you, Dennis, for enriching our lives with your presence, your stories, and most importantly,  your friendship!  You will be sorely missed!