Mountains

Newsmakers of 2012

Larry Everett was named the Livestock Person of the Year at the Southwest Livestock Association annual banquet.

Journal Staff Report

2012 NEWSMAKERS: Here's a look at some of the people, places and things that made headlines in the Cortez Journal in 2012. The 2012 newsmakers run the gamut from good to bad, tragic to successful, and survival. There were many, many fascinating and newsworthy stories from 2012; here are a few.

List compiled by Dale Shrull, Kimberly Benedict, Luke Groskopf and Michael Maresh; photos by Sam Green- Cortez Journal Staff

BATS IN THE HALLWAYS

Bats driving students batty. Back in September, Cortez Middle School had a bat problem and not on the baseball field. There's nothing like the smell of guano in the morning to get students inspired to tackle the day. One student called the situation "nasty and creepy."

The Montezuma-Cortez School District had to spend about $24,000 to hold a bat roundup and send them on their way to search for another habitat. A company called Bat Control happened to be in the area so they darted over to the middle school and took care of the job.

MARY RUBADEAU

The departure of Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 Superintendent Stacy Houser halfway through the 2012 school year left a void in district leadership. The void was filled by former Telluride Superintendent Mary Rubadeau. Already a consultant with the local district, Rubadeau brought vision and plans to the Re-1 administration building, serving her five interim months as a fixture of the district rather than a place holder. During Rubadeau's tenure, the local school board moved the district back to a five-day school week, hired new leadership for Kemper, Mesa and Manaugh elementary schools and the local high school.

Rubadeau was also closely involved in the work of finding a permanent leader for the district, tapping former Telluride principal Alex Carter for the job. Though her time behind the superintendent's desk was short-lived, Rubadeau's influences will be felt in the district for years to come. She remains a consultant for the district.

FARRELL GREENLEE

After seven years in prison, convicted murderer Farrell Greenlee, 43, is getting a second chance to try to convince a jury to acquit him of murder. District Court Judge Jeffrey Wilson on Oct. 22 vacated the 2005 second-degree murder conviction against him due to ineffective assistance of counsel. Greenlee was accused of killing Marcie Stewart-Jacobson by shooting her in the head with a shotgun in December of 2003 and was convicted in 2005. The district attorney's office has appealed Wilson's decision and Greenlee is free on bail pending the appeal.

TRAVEL MANAGEMENT PLAN

Tempers flared and passions were reignited with the release of the U.S. Forest Service's revised Boggy-Glade travel management plan in early December.

Though the plan, the second in as many years for the 245,800 acres of San Juan National Forest north of Dolores, added back 20 miles of usable roads in an attempt at compromise, local forest users refused to be placated by the effort. An informal gathering with Forest Service officials and Montezuma County Commissioner Gerald Koppenhafer on Dec. 5 devolved into angry rhetoric and didn't produce much, if any, productive movement.

"We will go where we please, when we please and restore those roads ourselves," stated one upset gentleman at the meeting.

After a 45-day appeal period and nearly a two-month allowance for appeal resolution, the Boggy-Glade TMP is expected to go into effect next spring.

LORI MOTT

Teachers will tell you they don't do their jobs for any sort of recognition, but that doesn't mean when recognition comes it isn't appreciated. Local educator Lori Mott enjoyed the ultimate honor this summer when she was named Colorado's Career and Technical Education Teacher of the Year.

A teacher and local firefighter for over 12 years, Mott's nomination for the award was based on her dedication to building a Fire Science and Emergency Responder program at Montezuma-Cortez High School, according to Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1's CTE Director Ed Rice. The program, designed to attract more students, offers participants a chance to move toward careers in fire science and emergency response.

Many students who have gone through the program credit Mott with the encouragement and inspiration that set them on the path to their current careers. A higher honor would be hard to find.

LEONARD CAIN

For more than two decades, Leonard Cain had a medical practice in Cortez. He helped countless patients over the years. In November 2010 he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

He handled his impending death with grace, courage and humility - exactly the way his friends and family knew he would. On September 24, at the age of 63, the good doctor from Cortez passed away. He will be missed by many.

KEN SOPER

The story and legacy of Ken Soper has been well chronicled this year. The man who coached Dove Creek football for a half a century was let go. Just two wins away from setting the all-time victory record for wins by a Colorado coach.

The Bulldogs went on to have a fine season with Shane Baughman as the head coach. It's a shame how Soper was treated after so many years of loyal service to the school.

BILL STROUD

Bill Stroud was recognized as the 2012 Citizen of the Year by Cortez Area Chamber of Commerce and the Cortez Journal. Stroud, who came to Cortez in 1949, opened the Cork and Bottle liquor store. He also was a teacher, coach, helped develop the Conquistador Golf Course and was involved in a number of other community projects over the years.

Congratulations on a well-deserved recognition.

Other chamber award winners were: Vern Rucker, the Unsung Hero award: Al Heaton, the Agriculture Business of the Year Award; Rick Plese, the Empire Electric Award for Green Business of the Year for Cliffrose; Osprey Packs for the Excellence in Innovation business of the year award; the Yarbrough Family, Excellence in Service Delivery award.

CORTEZ CULTURAL CENTER

It was a year of highs and lows for the Cortez Cultural Center in 2012. The nonprofit celebrated its 25th anniversary in July.

But as the center made its way through the summer tourism months with its traditional dances, exhibits and other events, there were financial struggles.

Since 1987, the center has been a regional hub for lectures, art exhibits and Native American dances. It also manages the 122-acre Hawkins Preserve south of town.

But the difficult economic times of the past few years and slow economic recovery have taken their toll on the center's balance sheets, with grants growing more competitive and longtime donors cutting back contributions.

In November, the board chose to let go executive director Shawn Collins and operate indefinitely without a director to cut costs. President Shelby Smith said board members are committed to delegating management tasks to keep the community institution open.

The Cortez Cultural Center has been a Cortez staple for 25 years. It would be a major loss to the city and region if it went away.

FIRE EVACUEES

There is, perhaps, no good way to handle the horror of being asked to leave your home while fires burn increasingly closer, but grace under pressure characterized the response of most fire evacuees victimized by the Weber and Roatcap fires in 2012.

The fear, worry and sheer panic that hundreds of residents felt during these fires is difficult for those not impacted to comprehend.

Nearly 200 homes were evacuated in the county during the course of the two fires, 140 during the Weber fire and another 30 in the midst of the Roatcap fire. Evacuees stayed close during the Weber fire, many standing at the top of Mancos Hill watching the flames creep over the hills toward their homes. Little drama existed while fire crews battled the Mancos blaze, as the community drew together to support one another during the week-long evacuation period. Drama, however, was a highlight of the Roatcap evacuation. Cortez Middle School teacher John McHenry was arrested after an altercation with a Montezuma County sheriff's deputy enforcing evacuation orders. The altercation occurred when McHenry was told he would not be allowed onto a blocked road. McHenry has been charged with second-degree assault on a peace officer, a felony, and misdemeanor chargers of obstructing government operations, resisting arrest and obstructing a peace officer.

With all the drama and concern over the two blazes, not one home was destroyed, thanks to the determined work firefighters.

SOUTH BROADWAY

Nothing lights the fuse to frustration quicker than traffic problems.

In 2012, two major projects tormented motorists. The Highway 160 paving project between Cortez and Mancos, then to the east of Mancos, led to lengthy stops.

But it was the South Broadway project that irritated both motorists and business owners for nearly half the year. And it won't be completed until the spring of 2013.

The project included an extensive upgrade at the Seventh Street intersection as well as paving, concrete and curb and gutter work throughout the stretch of South Broadway.

There have periodic closures along with lane reductions or lane shifts for months.

Business owners have been saddled with the greatest frustrations. With the lane closures, alternative access points to the businesses along South Broadway were necessary and many business owners reported a drop in customers.

High Country Auto decided to open a second sales spot on the east part of Cortez to combat the construction and access problems along South Broadway.

Even though the contractor and the Colorado Department of Transportation continued to promise that the project was on schedule to meet its mid-December completion deadline, it was finally announced that the project wouldn't be done before the end of the year.

Citing unforeseen problems encountered by the contractor, CDOT granted Lawson Construction an extension. The remaining work needs to be completed when the temperatures are warmer.

It's been a long six months for the people who use South Broadway to drive, work or shop. The inconvenience isn't quite over and that's not good news.

JONATHAN HAYES

A young man with an adoring family, whose life was violently cut short. A trial or plea agreement will determine the guilt of his alleged attacker.

A murder leaves so many questions. A young man is gone and there's no greater or more tormenting question than "why?"

VONDA ELLIOTT

After safely delivering students to school for 40 years - 40 years! - Vonda Elliott called it a career as a bus driver for the Montezuma-Cortez School District.

Elliott, who drove more than 800,000 miles - 800,000 miles! - during her career, started at the school district at $3 an hour in 1972.

What devotion and dedication for delivering precious cargo for 40 years.

LARRY BRUNSON

A Denver Bronco player named Larry Brunson visited Montezuma-Cortez High School back in May. It was a special homecoming for Brunson and the students since the former NFL player is also a 1967 M-CHS graduate. He was drafted as a wide receiver in the 11th round by the Broncos in 1972. He finished his career with 104 receptions playing for the Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders.

KIRK ARCHIBEQUE

Cortez native and basketball legend, Kirk Archibeque continues to excel in his professional career in the European basketball league.

After leading the Panthers to the state title in 2002, the 6-foot-9 center has become a star overseas.

THE FLUME

Preserving history is always special. Water has always been at the heart of this region's past. That's why the McElmo Creek Flume preservation project is special. The historic flume was listed on the Colorado Preservation Most Endangered Places List in 2011. In 2012, the flume was targeted for possible restoration. It would be nice to see it restored.

MMA TRIO

Mixed Martial Arts is one of the toughest, demanding sports in the world. It's all about punishment. To punish or to be punished. Sometimes both will occur in a fight.

For local favorites, Grant Hobbs, Elsie Zwicker and Isaque Martinez, 2012 was a great example of the highs and extreme lows of the sport.

All three fighters had overpowering, dominating victories in front of cheering home-crowd fans in 2012. But the trio also suffered devastating brutal beatings that left them battered and defeated.

That's just how it goes in the sport of MMA. You win some and you lose some.

BRIAN PUETT

There's nothing like being handed some good news on a platter.

That's what happened to Brian Puett, the executive chef at Mesa Verde National Park this year. He was awarded a Culinary Excellence Award from the International Food, Wine and Travel Writer's Association. He was recognized for his innovative techniques, combination of ingredients, flavor profile, texture and presentation.

NATE FUNMAKER

Nate Funmaker is a western hat maker with a business in Mancos. He's a hat maker, a family man and a business man. And a good guy keeping alive an old western craft.

As he said: "I'm not a cowboy, I'm a craftsman."

GREG KEMP

It's been a tough year for Greg Kemp. At least the last few months have been tough.

Finishing a distant third in the county commissioner race didn't seem to matter much after he received heartbreaking news that his son-in-law was killed in Oregon.

Two people, including Kemp's son-in-law were shot and killed by a gunman in a mall as he worked at a kiosk.

Devastating news for Kemp and his family. A few days later, a gunman shot and killed 26 people including 20 children at a Connecticut school.

REGAN TAFOYA

After the previous race promoter decided to take time off, Regan Tafoya raced to the rescue. As the speedway season at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds appeared to have hit the brakes, Tafoya, 37, stepped forward to take on the role of race promoter.

The Farmington, N.M., native has been racing in Cortez since 1997.

Great to see another checkered flag season at the speedway. A huge thanks to Tafoya for helping make it happen.

MARY ROSE SHAY

For the second-straight year, a Cortez resident froze to death in the park. Mary Rose Shay, 47, died in Parque De Vida in early January.

Her death was a tragic reminder of why the Bridge Emergency Shelter operates in the winter months and is essential in helping save lives for the homeless men and women of the area.

EASTON LaCHAPPELLE

It has been quite a year for Easton LaChappelle, the Mancos High Student. In May, the bright, creative science kid won second place in a national science competition for a robotic hand that he built in his bedroom.

Then he was off to Hollywood to film a segment for the Nickelodeon TV show titled, "Figure It Out," where he got to show off his robotic hand.

Who knows what he's capable of in 2013?

New Mesa Verde

Visitors Center

What a grand new visitors center for Mesa Verde National Park.

With its location just a few hundred yards off Highway 160, the fascinating history of the Puebloan people can be enjoyed easier than ever. The park opened the center in December but a grand opening is planned in May.

Hopefully, the new facility will entice visitors to still make the trip onto the mesa to absorb the amazing cliff dwellings.

THE SAMORA FAMILY

We all have many reasons to give thanks. For the Samora family of Lewis, there's plenty of thanks but there's just as much healing that continues.

Tragedy was avoided. But not completely. A single-vehicle accident sent all three children to the hospital. Brett, 16, is still on the road to recovery. He's paralyzed and went to a Denver rehabilitation facility to help him prepare for a changed life.

The family has remained strong and the community has come to their aid. As the Samora family continues to heal, the community has shown its neighborly spirit and generosity.

REGINA HARVEY

Growing up on the Navajo Nation, Regina Harvey had to grow up fast. Her mother passed away when she was nine and Regina soon dropped out of high school.

She says simply, "I never had time to dream."

At 44 years old, Harvey returned to school in quest of her GED. Going to the Adult Learning Center in Cortez, Harvey achieved her goal and was the speaker at the GED graduation in June.

BOB ARCHIBEQUE

Coaching is in Bob Archibeque's blood. It has to be. He's coached several different sports as an assistant and head coach. In May, the veteran coach was recognized by Montezuma-Cortez High School for 100 combined years of coaching between track, boys and girls basketball, and football. Archibeque completed his 36th season as track coach last year.

A love of sports, a love of kids and a love of coaching. That's quite a career for the 57-year-old Archibeque.

HELEN "JOY" FRAZIER

Tragedy came to the Cortez area on July 20. Helen "Joy" Frazier, 21, was killed in a car accident on Highway 491.

She was remembered fondly by many in the community and there was an outpouring of love and support for her young son, who survived but was seriously injured in the accident.

A tragic day when a devoted and loving young mother was taken. But her memory will live on through her 7-year-old son, Jason Frazier-Farr.

JASON TRUITT

Jason Truitt of Bakersfield, Calif. came to Cortez and left a very bad impression.

The military veteran came to the area to take part in the annual Hunt for Heroes organized by Dolores outfitter Bob Luna.

Truitt weaved a tale of outlandish tales of his military experiences, including saying he was a Navy SEAL. All lies, and he was soon exposed.

Hunt for Heroes brings in veterans from all over the country and gives them the chance to hunt big game in the mountains of Colorado. A great event.

Luna has been helping organize the event for five years. He was very upset about Truitt's ruse.

"It's the lowest thing imaginable that a person can do. The lowest of the low," Luna said at the time.

The organization vowed to improve its application process in the future.

Hopefully, the work of a con artist doesn't damage such a splendid event that honors our military veterans.

CHUCK MELVIN

Chuck Melvin is dedicated to the K-9 Search & Rescue Team in Dolores. That dedication was recognized in 2012 when he was awarded the J. Hunter Holloway Spirit Award.

Melvin has been the team commander of K-9 Search and Rescue since 1990. This year, Melvin retired from being a full time teacher and spends much of his time assisting newer members in search and rescue and in the canine arena.

The award is given to those in Colorado who best embrace the dedication and mission of search and rescue.

DIANE FOX

She's a school resource officer. She's a Re-1 school board member. She's a mother and wife. And Diane Fox is a cancer survivor.

After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Fox received another setback. An infection brought on by the chemotherapy drug nearly killed her. Now healthier, she's returned to her spot on the school board and is working to get better and stronger everyday.

CAPITOL CHRISTMAS TREE

On Nov. 9, a massive uprooted bunch of Christmas spirit rolled into the First National Bank parking lot.

The Capitol Christmas Tree made an appearance in Cortez on this day and hundreds came to witness a unique event.

Driven by former U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, the Capitol Christ­mas Tree truck traveled throughout the country on its route to Washington D.C. Nearly 200 residents braved the wet weather to get a glimpse of the 73-foot tall Engleman Spruce. It wasn't much of a glance since the tree remained covered, but people flocked to the canvas cover to write messages.

The "People's Tree," as it's called was cut down near Meeker in the White River Na­tional Forest and was erected at the Capitol. A tree lighting ceremony was held in early December.

LEGAL MARIJUANA

Just when the city of Cortez and local law enforcement agencies secured a handle on rules for medical marijuana centers, here comes Amendment 64. After Colorado voters agreed to make small amounts of marijuana legal, the government agencies will now need to address how the new amendment will impact the community.

AXEL THE RESCUE DOG

Axel was a good dog, a strong dog, a devoted animal who did his job well.

Axel, a black German shepherd, died in June following an accident when a horse kicked him and shattered his hind leg. Axel was owned by Chuck Melvin, founder of the Dolores K-9 Search and Rescue Team.

Now a silver dog bowl sits empty and alone at the National Search and Rescue Conference in Lake Tahoe. Beside it were empty dinner place settings of search and rescue personnel who had lost their lives in the line of duty. During the annual tradition at the National Search and Rescue Conference, Axel was honored along with others.

The dog bowl was added for the first time this year, in honor of Axel.

A life well spent helping others. Axel personified the term "Man's best friend."

WADE MORTENSON

The veteran basketball coach earned his 500th career win in 2012.

He took over the Montezuma-Cortez boys program in 1990 and led the Panthers to the Class 4A state title in 2002.

He now coaches the Sangre de Cristo Thunderbirds but as the coach of a state title team, he will always be a bit of a legend in Cortez.

TOM BUTLER

After earning another term on the Cortez City Council, Tom Butler ran into a bit of a health scare around Thanksgiving. Well, maybe a little health scare is an understatement.

He was rushed to an Albuquerque hospital to undergo heart surgery. The surgery was a quadruple bypass with one artery being 99 percent clogged, two were 98 percent blocked and the fourth one was 97 percent blocked.

He's now getting better and hopes to be back in council chambers for the Jan. 8 meeting.

VISITOR FROM SAMOA

It was a true clash of cultures when Aliioaiga Feturi Elisaia, ambassador to the U.S. from the Independent State of Samoa, visited the Ute Mountain Ute tribe in April. Though the Pacific island nation and high desert tribe may seem to have nothing in common, the ambassador's tribe was designed to foster collaboration and the establishment of future relationships in a global economy. Elisaia's trip focused on natural resources, environmental adaptability and cultural influences on community.

The trip was not without entertainment. Before leaving the area, Elisaia attended Towaoc's King of the Cage mixed martial arts fights. The conflict, however, stayed in the ring while the rest of the trip was a harmonious meeting of the minds.

JASON WAYMAN

When seeking new leadership for the local high school, Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 officials didn't search far outside the box, choosing instead to select Mesa Elementary Principal Jason Wayman to helm M-CHS.

Wayman, 32, took the reigns at the high school in July, promising consistency in the leadership position as well as changes in the school with the overall goal of increasing student performance and maintaining the school's state accreditation. An M-CHS graduate, Wayman's entire career has been served in the Re-1 district, providing him with knowledge and insight into the local district not available to an outside educator.

CORTEZ AIRPORT

The little Cortez Airport keeps providing travelers a quick trip option to Denver. Federal grants have helped and more upgrades will be coming in 2013.

It's nice to have an airport close by when you want to make that quick trip and don't want to make a long drive. And parking is free.

VICTORIA STANLEY

Montezuma-Cortez High School senior Victoria Stanley is all about community involvement.

During her final year in high school, Stanley raised awareness and funds for cancer programs, was a member of the Student Leadership Council and committed herself to several other events.

She was also the youth chair for the local Relay for Life event committee. A busy and devoted young women full of community pride.

DONNA BOYD

As the Bridge Emergency Shelter director, Donna Boyd is caring and compassionate. Those traits can take their toll in such a demanding job.

She sees firsthand the power that al­cohol and substance abuse has over many of the shelter's clients, but she's not there to judge. She's there to do a job and provide a warm bed for the night during the winter months.

HEART AND SOUL

The character of the Cortez community received a massive shot in the arm with the city's selection for a $100,000 Orton Family Foundation Heart and Soul Community Planning Grant. Cortez was one of just five communities in the nation awarded the grant, aimed at getting residents more involved in shaping the future of their community. The grant seeks to quantify the nebulous aspects of community, defining the characteristics that unite a group of people. To begin to develop vision and goals for the project, input from locals on the best aspects of the community, along with what should be changed and what the community could become will be solicited. The overall goal of the program is to find out what matters most to locals and use that to create stronger communities and stronger local economies.

JUSTIN LINDSAY

Justin Lindsay's life came full circle when he became one of the first full-time firefighters hired by the Cortez Fire Protection District. Lindsay grew up in the firehouse on Ash Street, the son of Kent Lindsay, the protection district's last volunteer fire chief. From memories of washing the engines with the volunteer crew and riding in the big red trucks during community parades to actively fighting fires in Cortez, Lindsay is living the life of his childhood fantasies.

For Lindsay, the best part of taking on this new role is the opportunity to help those in his community he calls his friends and neighbors.

"I've been around it my whole life and, you know, it gets in your blood," Lindsay said. "You know in a very short time if this is something you want to do. It's who I am, I guess. It's my history."

BETTY LOVE

Walking away from a career is never easy. It is especially difficult when that career has been served in one place. Such was the case for local educator Betty Love. Love closed her door at Montezuma-Cortez High School for the last time this past May, emptying her social studies classroom of years worth of stories, history and lesson plans. The hallways and classrooms of the schools in the Re-1 district have been a sort of home for Love, a graduate of the local high school whose own mother taught in the district for 35 years. From her first day teaching at Cortez Middle School to her last lesson taught at M-CHS, Love's dedicated her career to the local district, teaching English and history. Through it all, she maintained her desire to teach the stories of her heart, the stories of the history that formed the present we all know.

"I try to push each of the kids I care about to be great - to reach their potential and to realize they are a whole lot more than a cutesy answer," she said. "I start every year with a John Adams' quote, 'Let us dare to think, speak, read and write.' And I think that is my job, to push them to do that."

GIANT GAS STATION ROBBED - AGAIN

The Cortez Police Department are still looking for a man who robbed the Giant convenience store and gas station at the intersection of Main Street and Mildred Road Nov. 28. The same Giant store was robbed by two men in the early hours of March 31, 2011. Both men were arrested and convicted of the crime.

GORDON SHEPHERD

After more than 30 years in education, much of it served in Southwest Colorado, Montezuma-Cortez High School Principal Gordon Shepherd decided to step away from the game in June, allowing room for new leadership and perspective at the local high school.

Throughout his long career, Shepherd was an influence not only in school leadership, but in the classroom and as a coach. The 57-year-old educator said teaching was in his blood, and as the son of a teacher he never really considered any other career.

"It's the hardest job you'll love and you won't regret it," he said. "You do it because it's the right thing to do, and you feel it because of what it does for kids."

Shane hale

The Cortez Sanitation District and Cortez city government reached an agreement to settle a near-decade-long billing error that deprived the district of more than $1.3 million, City Manager Shane Hale announced in the early part of 2012. Although the sanitation district is responsible for providing sewer services, they were contracting out their billing to the city of Cortez. Both city officials and the auditor have said systems are in place to prevent the error from happening again. Hale is also one of the key players in the Cortez Rotary Club's international reading program, Dolly's Imagination Library.

Imagination Library brochures went to Cortez, Dolores, Mancos and Towaoc libraries in early November. The displayed packets can be picked up by any parent wanting to receive books for their child.

TEEN MAZE RETURNS

From bullying to teen pregnancy to alcohol and drug use, Montezuma County youths got a taste of the darker side of life's decisions when Teen Maze returned to the Montezuma County Fairgrounds. After a year's absence, the event was back in 2012, asking teens to "Think for Yourself."

The main emphasis of this year's maze was anti-bullying, allowing students to learn and discuss what it is like to be a bully, be bullied or be a bystander. The overall goal of the maze, as in year's past was to allow students to learn about the potential outcomes to healthy and risky behaviors, as well as understand the various resources available in the community.

LINDA TOWLE

Linda Towle is the board president of the Cortez Historical Society where she tries to relay the city's history to residents and visitors. She also heads up the tours of homes and buildings on Montezuma Avenue and worked with the city to place 12 of the homes on the City's Register of Historic Structures.

Working in conjunction with the county, which owns the property where the McElmo Flume is located, Towle has been bringing experts to Cortez to assess the flume's condition.

MICHAEL CANZONA

Michael Canzona left his director of operations position with the Montezuma-Cortez School District where he worked for the past four years to return to his roots. Canzona was named the director of Battle Rock Charter School in McElmo Canyon. It's the school where he started his career in education when he was a paraprofessional.

CODE TALKER

Ninety-year-old Sam Sandoval, of Shiprock, N.M., spoke at the Cortez Cultural Center Aug. 14 for National Code Talkers Day. Of the 418 Navajo Code Talkers trained during World War II, Sandoval is one of 40 still alive.

Sandoval attended a United Methodist boarding school near Farmington before moving to Hawthorne, Nev. as a teenager, where he was approached by a U.S. Marine Corps recruiter. The military was seeking Navajo men ages 17-31 fluent in both English and Navajo, so they could relay coded messages the Japanese could not intercept and decipher. Sandoval made the cut and spent more than two years stationed in Okinawa, Japan, and four other posts in the South Pacific.

ORLY LUCERO

Orly Lucero continued to be a prominent community member in 2012. The former mayor was co-chair (with Becky Brunk) of the Cortez 21st Century High School Committee, the grassroots group that rallied support for the 3B bond measure. Because of their efforts, and the ensuing groundswell of votes, Cortez will have a safer and more modern high school for the 2015-2016 academic year (per the tentative timeline).

Lucero, an engineering technician by trade, also won a four-year term to the Cortez Fire Protection District board in May, and volunteers with the Rotary Club of Cortez.

Amid these commitments, Lucero and his wife Carol again found time to wow onlookers with their yard full of elaborate Christmas decorations.

KEVIN McCOMB

After 31 years, the development of a strong agriculture program and statewide recognition, Montezuma-Cortez High School teacher Kevin McComb walked into retirement in May, leaving behind him a legacy that will be long remembered in the halls of the local high school.

An M-CHS graduate himself, McComb relished the opportunity to teach at his alma mater. During his time at M-CHS, McComb challenged his students to learn and grow through the Future Farmers of America program.

Along with state and national competitions, McComb and his students were able to experience agriculture in a variety of places, including New York City, Missouri and across Colorado. At the 2012 FFA state convention, McComb was honored with the "Outstanding Agriculture Teacher Award," capping a career worthy of recognition.

PAULA NEAL

It's not often one finds recognition for simply living one's life, but the Southwestern Cowbelles' Cowbelle of the Year award exists for just such a purpose, to pay honor to lives well lived in the agrarian culture of Southwest Colorado.

Paula Neal's recognition as the 2012 Cowbelle of the Year acknowledged her dedication to the lifestyle in which she was raised.

Born into the beef industry, Neal and her husband raise cattle and are active with 4-H and Future Farmers of America, encouraging youths to continue the grand tradition of agriculture in America. Neal has her finger on the pulse of Montezuma County, with involvement in bereavement dinners, blood drives, the Cowbelle calenders, brand quilts and the county fair. She never stops moving and never gets tired; she simply doesn't have the time.

LARRY EVERETT

Being named Stockman of the Year by the Southwestern Colorado Livestock Association may not change your life, but it will highlight your life in a way that is hard to ignore. Larry Everett's selection as the 2012 Stockman of the Year was apropos for the man whose life is entrenched in the grand tradition of agriculture in Montezuma County.

Growing up working cow camps in the mountains of Southwest Colorado, Everett's life in agriculture started small but his passion impacted the county in a larger way. He introduced Limousin cattle to the area and his passion and involvement helped get the Montezuma County Fairgrounds established.

The face of agriculture in Montezuma County is different because of the contributions of Everett, contributions he just calls life.

ROB HALL

For those who help the residents of Cortez on their worst days, when fires threaten to destroy their homes and medical emergencies turn their lives upside down, the stresses of the job often become overwhelming. The addition of a chaplain at the local fire house is an acknowledgement of the inherent risks of the position and an effort to provide support for those who support the community. Local minister Rob Hall, pastor at the Cortez Church of Christ, will fill the position of spiritual and emotional leader at the firehouse. Hall will attend chaplaincy training in California next month and has completed a citizens fire academy in Cortez.

Hall says the position will allow him to give back to those in the community who spend their lives in service.

"I'm around for the personnel if they need me, because they have stresses that you can't take home and talk to other people about," he said. "And I transfer care to other preachers and pastors in town. But I'm there for that moment."

AWARD-WINNING CORN FARM

The acclaimed 7,700-acre Ute Mountain Farm and Ranch in Towaoc - producer of corn, alfalfa, wheat and sunflowers - won third place nationally, and first place in Colorado, in the "no till/strip till irrigated division" at the National Corn Yield Contest in February. In all, some 8,000 contestants took part in the competition, hosted by the National Corn Growers Association. The award came nine years after UMFF claimed second place in 2003.

The prized Fontanelle hybrid seed planted by farm manager Paul Evans produced 20 more bushels of corn per acre than the other seeds he tested.

No till/strip till farming minimizes soil disturbance and erosion while increasing water and nutrient retention.

KSJD RADIO

What a cool sign and a great new station.

Back in April, the KSJD radio station moved its physical offices to downtown Cortez, but its location on the radio dial remained at 91.5 in Cortez and 96.3 in Mancos.

KSJD moved from broadcasting at Southwest Colorado Community College to the old Historic Basin and Industrial Bank Building at Main and Market streets.

A few months later, the new KSJD sign was installed and the move was complete.

CLARENCE M. LEHI

The 56-year-old Towaoc man is still looking at a lengthy prison term after pleading guilty to a pair of reduced charges.

Clarence M. Lehi was arrested Nov. 5, 2011 in Towaoc in the shooting death of Winslow Big Soldier at Lehi's house on the Ute Mountain Ute reservation.

He will be facing up to a combined 25 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter and assault resulting in serious bodily injury. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 18.

PRO CYCLING

CHALLENGE

Despite the hype - or perhaps because of it - the big bike race won't be back next year.

Lycra-clad riders and their support crews made a fleeting pass through Montezuma County during Stage 1 of the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge in August. The 125-mile first leg stretched between Durango and Telluride and included a climb over Lizard Head Pass. The route, however, bypassed Cortez by a dozen miles. Cyclists turned northwest on Highway 184 in Mancos and then veered northeast onto Highway 145 in Dolores.

Crowd attendance in Durango was well below earlier estimates promulgated by city and tourism officials, prompting some criticism. Durango chose not to submit a bid to host again next year. In fact, race organizers omitted southern Colorado from the 2013 route altogether.

LARRIE RULE

A few weeks ago, law enforcement converged at the home of outgoing Montezuma County commissioner Larrie Rule.

Led by a state auto-theft task force, search warrants were executed.

Virtually no information has been released by the lead agency - the Colorado State Patrol.

It might be nothing, who knows. But soon, sometime in 2013, we should know more about this investigation.

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