By Mila Besich Lira
The Manny Ruiz Gym at the Superior Junior Senior High School was filled to capacity on Saturday evening as the community celebrated the induction of the SHS Hall of Fame Class of 2013. There were members of the audience from as far away as Alaska attending this annual event.
This year’s class of inductees included educators, nurses, a military colonel and the 1972 State Championship Baseball team. Each speech was unique, all thanking the SHS Hall of Fame Board of Directors for the nomination. Each individual story of success noted that their success in life attributed to all that they learned in Superior and the impact that the community had on their lives.
Belia Castro-Cruz was a member of the Class of 1950. She was actively involved with school activities and went on to work as an accountant, school teacher, administrator and principal. She was instrumental in the organizing of the California Association for Bi-Lingual Education (CABE). Castro-Cruz credited her mother’s encouragement for much of her success, her mother would tell them as children that “Nothing is Impossible.” Those words continue to inspire her today.
Kathleen Chafey, PH.D, RN, FAAN was a member of the SHS Class of 1958. Chafey has been instrumental in developing and designing health and education programs for Native Americans. Her program Caring for Our Own has been recognized as an exemplar by HRSA and the Indian Health Services. She has received numerous honors and awards during her storied career. She has published more than 20 articles in nursing and public health journals. Chafey attributes her long career by stating it all started here in Superior. “Living in Superior was a great place for a kid to grow up,” she said. She talked about how the diversity of the community during her childhood helped to prepare her for the world that she would work in.
Judith J. Houtchens was a faculty member at SHS from 1971-1995. Houtchens taught business classes at Superior High School for 25 years serving as department chair for 15 of those years. One of her accomplishments during her tenure was helping the district to acquire an $80,000 grant to implement the Business Management Technology model program, offering a coherent sequence of classes. The program allowed SHS students to go into entry level positions or higher following high school graduation. “I loved every minute of working in Superior,” she said. “I am humbled to be elected.” Houtchens explained to the audience that she originally moved to Arizona to further her education at Arizona State University. They delayed her admission to the University so she began looking for work and was hired in Superior where she worked for 25 years. Many of her former students were in attendance at the banquet to celebrate her induction.
Virgina L. Mitchell, was a faculty member at SHS from 1974-1984. During those years she taught Geography. Mitchell was an active member of the community, she and her husband John co-owned the Mitchell’s retail store for 40 years. She worked alongside many other community members to incorporate the town of Superior. She served on the Superior Town Council as an organizing member and then as a councilmember for 13 years. She also served on the Superior Library Board; during her 15 years of service she was instrumental in fundraising to build the library building, hire a librarian and purchase books. During her speech Mitchell talked about the changes that Superior has faced over the years; she talked about the importance of accepting change. She referenced Barry Goldwater in her speech and how he addressed change. “When you want change, you must have imagination, you must plan and you have to expect that you will run into opposition,” she said.
Fred Navarro graduated with the SHS Class of 1953. He was the winning pitcher when the Panthers won the East Central Conference and led the Superior baseball team with a batting average of .440. He was also the Honorable Mention All Conference Football. He is a University of Arizona Alumni and received his Master’s degree from San Diego State University. He has been recognized by LULAC as the 1997 Orange County Outstanding Hispanic Educator of the Year. He credited his mother’s insistence that he and his siblings attend college as his key to success.
Arthur Provencio graduated with the SHS class of 1951. Provencio traveled the world as a member of the US Air Force, where he retired as a colonel. His wife, Helen Jacott, died when the youngest of their four children was six years old. He raised the children on his own while traversing the world with the Air Force. He served in Vietnam, Thailand, Antarctica, Spain, North Africa, South America, New Zealand and Puerto Rico. Provencio earned many military honors including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal with five oak leaf clusters, the Air Force Commendation Award Medal and many other awards. In spite of all his honors, Colonel Provencio is most proud that each of his children have graduated from college. He considers himself a very lucky man and enjoyed serving in the military so much, “I would’ve done it for free,” he said.
Joseph Charles Santa Cruz, Ed.D is a graduate of the SHS Class of 1969. He received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Arizona State University. He began teaching English at Arizona State University in their Upward Bound program, then moved to Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe where he also taught English. Santa Cruz was hired by Gilbert High School where he worked as a teacher, assistant principal and principal. He was also the Gilbert School District Director of English as a Second Language, and served as the District’s Public Information Officer. He recognized his family for his success, and thanked them for their sacrifices.
Bertha Sepulveda, class of 1964, proudly wore her class sweater, something many can’t easily do. She was inducted into the Hall of Fame for her long career in nursing. She was employed for the Maricopa County Health Services for 28 years. She retired as the Vice-President of Business Development for Integrated Health Systems. After retirement she started a health care consultation company to teach nurses how to skillfully communicate with Hispanic patients. In 2012 Bertha was awarded Profiles of Success by the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, Valle del Sol Phoenix Chapter by awarding a scholarship in her name. She was named Hispanic Nurse of the year 2009 by the National Association of Hispanic Nurses. She explained that her parents had always encouraged her and her siblings to go to college. Her father would stress to their family that they could go to school, but they could not quit, he would say “suck it up, you are not quitting.” Her sister was a nurse as well, which encouraged her to pursue nursing.
Albert Valenzuela graduated with the SHS Class of 1953. Valenzuela made the junior varsity football team as an eighth grader. As a high school athlete he earned Honorable Mention All-State in 10th grade. His senior year he was named First Team All-State Class B. He earned several other high school athletic awards. Following high school he was awarded a full football scholarship to the University of Arizona but decided to attend Arizona State University. He played two semesters for ASU then transferred to Palo Verde Junior College in California for one semester. He was a Little League coach in Superior and Mesa. He and his wife coordinate trips for the Safari Superiorities with outings in the outlying deserts around Superior in the Fall and Spring seasons.
Joe Vasquez a graduate of the SHS Class of 1956 was recognized posthumously. He earned many athletic awards in both high school and college. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from New Mexico Western University and earned an Administrative Degree from the University of New Mexico. He served the Navajo Nation throughout his career as an educator and administrator. He was the Director for the Navajo Southern Region in Gallup, New Mexico; he also served as a major lobbyist and advocate in Washington D.C. for the funding of project money for the Navajo Nation and education system. His brother accepted the award for him. “Joe Vasquez’ induction into the SHS Hall of Fame will be a tribute to Mrs. Angelita Vasquez and her older children who persevered and dedicated their lives to all the Vasquez children.”
In addition to the individual inductees, the 1972 State Baseball Championship team was inducted into the Hall of Fame. The team had a season record of 15 wins and 6 losses. Members of the team were Jesus Apodaca, Richard Assyd – Manager, Laurence Arroyos, Louie Barreras, Dan Besich, Ernie Carcamo, Eldefonso Duarte, Louie Duarte, Eugene Florez, Frank Florez, Mike Flanagan, Frank Gil, Guillermo Gomez, Alex Padilla, Billy Preciado-Manager, Mark Rabago, George Santa Cruz, Billy Ybarra, Frank Ybarra, Leo Ybarra, and coach Joe Diaz.
The Superior High School Culinary Arts students prepared and served the banquet. Corporate sponsors for the annual banquet are: Cobre Valley Clinic, Resolution Copper Mining, JCCR Electric LLC, Rita Wentzel Consulting Services, Rose’s Roses Flowers Gifts and Printing, Red Bear Outfitters, Save Money Market, United Superiorites, Los Hermanos, and Oak Realty.