Dick Eggerding has said it 100 times and will keep saying it until there is no breath left to push out the words: The arts are the soul of a community. Without them, the 70-year-old Eggerding argues, communities have no life. They are as hollow and empty as a decaying saguaro.
It is this passion for the arts - nurtured by a music-loving mother during a Depression-era childhood - which friends and associates say drives Eggerding to push for an increased arts presence in Oro Valley.
Carmen Feriend, executive director of the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council, said Eggerding has been a "visionary for the arts" in the town, compelled by his love for both.
"He believes everybody should be involved in the arts at every age and every economic bracket - there's something for everyone in the arts and something everyone can do," Feriend said. "He wants Oro Valley to be the best it That is why he has been selected by the Northwest EXPLORER as one of its Citizens of the Decade. The award recognizes two Northwest residents, who, in the view of the paper, have done the most in the last 10 years to improve the lives of others.
Currently president of GOVAC - among numerous other community involvements - Eggerding moved to Oro Valley in 1988 with his wife, Marjorie.
"My mother-in-law had lived in Scottsdale for years and we'd visited her and were familiar with Arizona," Eggerding recalled. "On one visit, we drove down to Tucson. We took one look at those mountains and fell in love with Oro Valley. It is a very spiritual place."
It may have been spiritual and it may have been beautiful, but one thing missing, in Eggerding's view, was a support system for growing the arts.
"The arts cover every aspect of your life. When you get dressed in the morning, you put on a designer shirt. You get in a designer car and go to work in an architecturally designed building," Eggerding said. "I believe people need to realize what a part of their life art is. There's just no getting around it."
To help Oro Valley residents realize what they were missing, Eggerding decided he needed to "get arts into the public's mind's eye." He spent a few years getting to know the town's major players and became involved in the Tucson/Pima Arts Council, Rural Arts Committee and the Music Grants Committee. He attended Town Council meetings, was elected to his 500-member homeowners association and wrote numerous guest editorials for local newspapers promoting the arts.
All this led to the formation in 1994 of the Oro Valley Arts Advisory Board, with Eggerding as chairman. The board's first major accomplishment was setting up annual Arts, Music and Jazz festivals, but the board, under Eggerding's guidance, also was instrumental in starting the Summer Youth Art Projects and establishing the Oro Valley code that requires 1 percent of new construction costs to be donated for public art. Three years after its inception, the Oro Valley Arts Advisory Board led to the birth of GOVAC, something Eggerding co-founded with fellow arts-lover Bob Weede.
"We had come to the conclusion that the best way to make the arts work in Oro Valley was to form a (non-profit) organization so we could raise funds," Eggerding said. "Bob and I have a common love for classical music and the arts, so we joined our efforts together. GOVAC is the culmination of three years of hard work."
Weede gives Eggerding credit for convincing town officials to buy into the GOVAC idea.
"Dick Eggerding is a person who, when he has a vision, is capable of staying with that vision and causing other people to join him and perform a lot of the tasks. I'm a peddler, I'm a salesman; he's more than that, he's a good motivator," said Weede. "And that's how organizations grow, by having someone like him in them who recognize it takes a lot of people to do anything of value.
"I think he recognizes that a community has to have certain components to it and more buildings and houses and bridges are not the only things that count," Weede continued. "He recognizes, as a number of us do, that a world without the arts is a world devoid of any beauty."
Eggerding said he knows not everyone agrees with his enthusiasm for the arts and some critics have said his involvement in everything from the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce to the General Plan Steering Committee to the Naranja Town Park Site Task Force is just a means to an end.
"Some have said I do this to get into politics," Eggerding said. "I have told people I don't use the arts for politics, I use politics for the arts. I have no desire whatsoever to ever run for office. There are always people who don't like you in life, people who will say negative things. But if you carry anger in your head, you're that person's prisoner, and I don't do that."
Dick Eggerding was born Feb. 25, 1933 in St. Louis, Mo., to Ted and Clara Eggerding. He had only one sibling, his brother Ted, who was eight years his senior. Eggerding's father died when he was two, and he lovingly refers to his mother as "the original single parent."
"My father died of an enlarged heart - today he could have been saved, but in the mid-'30s, the technology just wasn't there," Eggerding said. "He knew he was not going to live long. He had started a Chevrolet auto dealership, so he set aside money, paid off the house and that is how we got by after he died. We weren't wealthy, but we weren't poor.
"I had two father figures, really - my grandfather on my father's side and my father's brother," Eggerding recalled. "My grandfather was a tremendous influence on me. I'd talk to him by the hour after school about philosophy and things. He inculcated in me the whole concept that you have to give back, you cannot just take."
Clara, who died in 1994, raised her sons "in a very loving environment," Eggerding said, and his love of the arts - particularly opera - came from her.
"The three of us, my brother, my mother and I, would be singing all the time," he said, explaining that Ted is a baritone, he is a tenor and his mother was a soprano. "She built my love of classical music."
Eggerding's passion for music led him to the other woman in his life, Marjorie, whom he met during high school opera productions.
"She has these great big eyes and I just melted down to nothing when I first saw her," he recalled. "I never dated anyone other than her."
Patricia Blazewich, who has known both Dick and Marjorie Eggerding since high school, said Eggerding's recollection isn't quite correct.
"We dated a couple of times before he and Marge got together. In fact, he was voted most popular boy at Roosevelt High School and I was voted most popular girl," Blazewich said. "But we were just too much like sister and brother. He and I are very gregarious and Marge is quieter. But intellectually, they mesh beautifully; I was kind of the dumb bunny, but fun. We used to get together in a big group; we never smoked or drank - maybe the guys had a beer. We'd just giggle and flirt. We'd meet at the park, and climb trees and play ball and do wholesome things. We were so damn good during high school. A lot of the girls in the group ended up marrying a lot of boys in the group and we've all kept in touch over these 56 years."
Following high school, Eggerding attended St. Louis' Washington University on a voice scholarship, married Marjorie and served two years in military counter-intelligence during the end of the Korean War. His second year in the service was at the Itazuke Air Force Base near Fukuoka, Japan.
While there, Eggerding was upset to discover "hundreds of children, who were GI-born, running the street, abandoned by their mothers."
"These children were completely ostracized because they were of mixed blood," Eggerding remembered. "Some of us (soldiers) found an older Japanese couple that was Christian who owned some property in the mountains and I convinced them to run an orphanage and told them we would pay for it."
"I'd stand at the end of the pay-line every month and collect money. The soldiers didn't dare turn me down because I had the backing of the commanding officer," he continued. "And all these men, instead of running into town chasing women and booze, would give me some money, and money went a long way in those days. In six months, we paid off the dwelling and were buying a small parcel of land where they could grow their own vegetables."
Eggerding returned to the states in 1956 and tried for about five years to make a living singing professionally around the Midwest and as a soloist with the St. Louis Municipal Opera. He gave it up when he and his wife began having children.
"With singing you just never know where your next dollar is coming from and you can't do that with a family to support," he said.
The Eggerding's have two sons, Tom, 39 and Eric, 45. Tom lives with his wife Julie and their two children, Madison and Josie, in Seattle and Eric, who is unmarried, lives in Cincinnati.
Eggerding went from singing to selling when he began working for Safeco Insurance Co. in 1959, representing the company to independent insurance agents, convincing them to sell Safeco.
After six years with the company, he was promoted to branch manager in Kansas City, Mo., and a few years later, hired by American Commercial Insurance Agency in Charlotte, N.C. as president and chairman. In 1974, Eggerding became a senior vice president for Great American Insurance Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio, and president of its subsidiary, Liberty Life Insurance Co.
During the next 13 years, Eggerding got back in touch with his love for the arts by becoming a member of the Board of Trustees of the Cincinnati Art Museum and serving in various roles with the Cincinnati Symphony and Opera while using his speaking talent to address conventions of insurance salespeople.
"It was exhilarating. I had the speaking ability because of the show biz background, so I loved doing it," he recalled.
Eggerding's ability as a motivational speaker still serves him well and those who've worked closely with him over the past decade say it is one reason he was successful in moving arts to the forefront of Oro Valley resident's minds when he retired here.
"Art's in the eyes of the beholder in many cases," said Oro Valley Town Councilmember Dick Johnson. "Dick Eggerding has a rare leadership quality in being able to get people to work together and come to consensus, even about art. He's a very empathetic listener and he has the ability to formulate recommendations that are non-threatening.
"And besides that, he's just got a positive attitude. You know, you get up in the morning, you thank God you're vertical and you say, 'How can I make this a better day for people?' That's what drives Dick," Johnson said. "He loves Oro Valley, he has a passion for it, believes totally in this community and, as such, he wants to make a difference in what this community becomes."
Mayor Paul Loomis agreed.
""He's been a real asset to the community. He's participated very actively without hesitation, either without being asked or upon being asked," Loomis said. "Dick's enthusiastic support has helped us to become a community of excellence and I think it is because he has a desire to give back, a desire to serve."
And give back he does. Eggerding has served on the Oro Valley 2002-2003 General Plan Steering Committee, the Capital Improvement Plans Advisory Committee, the Cultural Assessment Committee, the Joint Use and Community/School Partnership Committee, the Parks Planning Advisory Committee and the Land Conservation Committee, among numerous other service activities.
Brian Murphy, who worked with Eggerding and the town council to form the Oro Valley Foundation, said Eggerding is one of the "most genuine, hard-working men of integrity I've ever known in my life."
"I'm a father of three and when a citizen brings the symphony and opera into the schools and builds a love of these things in kids, it makes Oro Valley a better place for me as a parent," Murphy said, referring to GOVAC's Music in the Schools program that Eggerding spearheaded. "I'm sure some people would rather have militia keeping the border crossers away, but I'd rather have the symphony and opera in my schools."
"I'm so gung ho about art education as a life-building experience for children," Eggerding said. "I don't care where they go to school or what they become, they need to be exposed to the arts. We've been fighting this war of saving arts education for decades and I'll always fight it."
Eggerding said his multiple community involvements are due to two things: he likes to stay busy and, "I can't say no. It is one of my faults."
His wife of 48 years concurred.
"If he's going to do something, he goes for it 200 percent," Marjorie Eggerding said. "Once his foot is in the door, he's there all the way with all his passion, time and heart. I'm proud of him because the arts in Oro Valley have evolved into something so well done, so high class. It didn't seem like much at first to me, but it just gets bigger and bigger and better and better. It actually brings tears to my eyes to have events where people can come together as families to enjoy the arts - at every event they plan, no matter what age you are, they make sure there is something for everyone. It's quite a beautiful thing and it really fits Oro Valley."
Eggerding had to slow down a bit in 1999 when he stepped down as president of GOVAC due to high blood pressure and a diagnosis of Type-2 diabetes. He was able to get both conditions under control with diet and exercise, he said, adding that he walks about four miles each day. He got back up to speed with his community involvements within a few months of his diagnoses, and was re-elected to the GOVAC presidency in 2002.
Although the arts have greatly expanded in Oro Valley since Eggerding retired to this area, he still sees much that remains to be done.
"I've lost eight friends since July and after the period of grief that is natural, it gives you a sense of urgency about what you want to do, what you have left to accomplish," he said. "I have a reputation for being impatient and because of that urgency - although I think passion is a better word for what I do - I have concerns. I don't think we've begun to scratch the surface in building the cultural base of Oro Valley. We've done some nice things, but there are so many pieces missing. We don't have a children's theater, we don't have the ballet, we don't have sufficient prose production, we don't have adequate venues for these things. I would like to see some galleries for the visual arts.
"We got it into the General Plan to encourage an arts district, and there is talk of making the northern section of the Narajana Town Site on Tangerine an arts district, which would be terrific," he continued. "I'm not saying we want to be another Scottsdale, but Oro Valley could surely step forward and be much more attune to a cultural base than it is right now."
GOVAC co-founder Weede said Oro Valley would be at a great loss were it not for Eggerding's passion.
"Do some people think this arts focus isn't a good idea? Do some people wonder why he does it? Probably so. But the only way to be sure that there's never any question about your motives and the things that you do is to do nothing," Weede said. "It so happens that Eggerding is somebody who chose not to do nothing and I think that's been very important (for Oro Valley) because an awful lot of us choose to do nothing."
To help support the arts in Oro Valley, contact the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council at 797-3959.
CITIZEN OF THE DECADE: THE MATRIARCH OF MARANA
By Renee Schafer Horton
In a modest home on Marana's Grier Road resides a whirlwind of public service, volunteerism and outreach. Back from a recent humanitarian jaunt to Johannesburg, South Africa, to deliver money to a home serving AIDS orphans, Ora Mae Harn shows none of the jet lag mere mortals would incur from such a trip. There is too much to do to be tired, the 70-year-old Harn says, adding that she's "blessed by God with good health and lots of energy."
A cursory glance at the activities Harn has engaged in since first moving to the Marana area in 1961 shows she'd need abundant energy. She's the assistant executive director of the Marana Health Center, the executive director of the Marana Community Food Bank and on the board of directors for the Marana Arts Council, the Marana Rotary and the Marana Foundation for Educational Excellence, just for starters.
There is hardly an organization in Marana that lacks Harn's fingerprints. She spearheaded the expansion of the Marana Health Center to include a food and clothing bank, energy assistance, aid to the elderly and disabled and school-based clinics. She served on the Marana Town Council for 16 years, during which time the town annexed two prime chunks of Pima County to bring in much-needed tax monies to expand city services. She helped form the first volunteer fire department and almost single-handedly fought for 13 years with the Pima County Board of Supervisors to provide bank protection against flooding of the Santa Cruz River.
It's enough to make an observer vicariously fatigued, but what might make a lesser woman take to her bed energizes Harn, mother of three, grandmother of six and great-grandmother of seven.
Her various accomplishments are why Harn has been selected by the Northwest EXPLORER as one of its Citizens of the Decade. The award recognizes two Northwest residents, who, in the view of the paper, have done the most in the last 10 years to improve the lives of others.
"It isn't hard to do things you like to do. To me it's been more like a hobby than work - and I've probably made about the same money as I would get for a hobby," Harn said, referring to the fact that most of her work has been of a volunteer nature.
Sandy Groseclose, who's worked with Harn on any number of projects since the late 1980s, confirmed that Harn is "a person who does nothing but give and give and doesn't think anything about it."
"She does what she does because she feels it is the right thing to do and she never looks for anything in return," said Groseclose. "At Christmas time she would have her house full of strangers, because she would have found out about a family (through the Marana Food Bank) that wasn't going to have a sit-down meal and even with her busy schedule, she would make a full-course meal for all these people. Her home was always open, as well as her heart. She's been a rock for so many in Marana."
Anna Anderson, the outreach and enrollment coordinator for the Marana Health Center agreed.
"Ora's been like my second mom, I even call her mom," Anderson said. "When I first started working here she was so easy to talk to and always there with a shoulder and help. She takes anybody into her house - family, friends, strangers - and helps anybody. There have been times patients here didn't have rides to the hospital and Ora would take them and stay with them until their family could get there. She's a wonderful woman."
Ora Mae was born Nov. 8, 1939 to Eli and Violet King. She spent her childhood in Monongahela with her parents and four siblings.
"I was a bit of a tomboy, I'd rather play with the boys than with the girls. My best memory was when my dad threw a big watermelon party in our backyard and invited our whole neighborhood to come over," Harn said. "That doesn't sound like much in today's economy, but that was maybe eight years after the Great Depression and there wasn't a lot of food, and watermelon was something that came from a different area. We had a wonderful block party in our backyard."
Harn met her future husband, Jerry, during her last year in high school and it was pretty much love at first sight, she said.
"We graduated in May and were married in September," Harn said with a chuckle. "You didn't fool around back in those days."
The newlyweds spent a decade in their home state, but moved to Arizona in 1961 after being told by their doctor that one of their three children, daughter Nancy Jean, needed a warmer, drier climate to accommodate her asthma.
"We never regretted it," Harn said. "Arizona is my home."
They settled in Silverbell and Jerry Harn got a job with the American Smelting and Refining Co., working there for more than 25 years. He passed away in 2001 after suffering for years with diabetes and pulmonary lung disease.
While her husband was working at the smelting company, Harn started her long career of service in Marana. She began as a cafeteria worker and school bus driver for the Marana Unified School District, getting to know parents, students and "just about every employee" in MUSD. During that time, she also began volunteering at the Marana Health Center, a simple wooden building serving migrant farm workers and indigent patients.
"I did whatever needed to be done there," said Harn, explaining that she had no formal medical training. "I remember in the beginning there was hardly no staff and I learned to take blood pressures and I'd go out into the fields with a blood pressure cuff and take the pressures of the farm workers and encourage them to come see the doctors at the clinic."
In 1973, the Harn family moved to Marana to the Grier Road home Harn still lives in. By that time she was on the board of directors for the health center and spending more time volunteering there. She retired from her MUSD jobs in 1974 to care for her aging parents, who lived in a small home behind the Harn's, and to begin spearheading the expansion of the health center. By 1979, when she was hired to serve as the center's Director of Comm-unity Services, she had developed Marana's first food and clothing bank, as well as established a program of case management for the elderly and physically disabled and an energy assistance program.
"The food bank came out of the federal government commodities program," Harn said. "The government had excess flour and cheese and such and they would send it out to us and we'd package it up and pass it out to the people who came into the health center. Then one day Punch Woods (founder of the Tucson Community Food Bank) came out to visit (the health center) and told me, 'We really need to have a food pantry or a food bank in Marana.'
"So he helped me get a little ol' trailer and we hauled it up on the health center property and we had a food bank," she continued. "It was pretty insignificant, but we fixed it up inside and … had a couple of refrigerators and we would just hand out what food we got."
The food bank now serves about 1,150 people monthly.
The ramshackle building that once housed the health center and the trailer that sheltered the food and clothing banks are long gone; Harn worked tirelessly to find funding to get the center and its expanded programs fully staffed and operational five days a week instead of the few hours a week it was open when she first started volunteering there. A new state of the art health facility was built three years ago and the center now has a 38-member staff.
"I just see needs and find ways to fill those needs," Harn said. "These are not things I did because somebody forced me. I enjoyed it. Everybody gets tired some times, but I never get tired enough that I don't finish what I started."
The tenacity of this straight talking, non-nonsense woman was never more evident than in her 13-year-fight with the Pima County Board of Supervisors to get flood bank protection on the banks of the Santa Cruz River.
In 1983, the Santa Cruz poured over its banks and flooded scores of homes in Marana. Three people in Marana lost their lives and Harn recalled her personal experience with the flood in a 1997 interview with the Northwest EXPLORER.
"The four of us just held on to each other …afraid if one of us slipped, we would lose them," Harn said at the time. Her daughter, son-in-law and grandson linked arms with Harn as they struggled through the cold, waist-deep water to get to higher ground.
Harn said that her experience "was certainly incentive," for her to push for riverbank protection, but what really moved her were the stories of people she helped through the health center.
"I was working in case management for the elderly and physically disabled when the flood came," she explained. "I had a client down in Rillito and Rillito was really flooded. She had a shack of a house and had no family, but she had these animals she loved. She carried these little animals out through the flood - she had to go under the water to get through the barbed-wire fence to get the animals to high ground. She got very sick because the water was so contaminated … After that, every time it rained she would call me and ask, 'Is it gonna flood now?' She was just one of the many people … who were so devastated and it made me want flood protection.
"But when I would go to Pima County (supervisors) to ask for it, they would tell me, 'You just want flood protection out there so the developers will buy the land.' The more they told me that, the more determined I was that they were going to come out here and give us (river) bank protection so people like my clients could sleep through the night without worrying every time it rained they would be flooded out," she said.
During her fight with Pima County for flood protection, Harn began her political career. She was elected to serve on the town council in 1985.
"I didn't intentionally go into politics," Harn explained. "Some people came to me and asked me to run and I told them I was too busy to campaign and they said, 'That's OK, we'll run you.' And they ran me for 16 years."
During those years, Harn served one term as vice mayor and two as mayor. Pima County Supervisor Chuck Huckelberry came to a Town Council meeting once when she was mayor to explain why Marana could not have a levee built for flood protection. Harn showed her usual gumption when she told him, "The Indians have a saying for what you do, Mr. Huckelberry - you speak with forked tongue."
"I was so irritated with him, I can't tell you," she recalled. "Pima County is supposed to take care of us all when it comes to disasters. We received millions of dollars in federal aid. But they (the supervisors) used that money for everything else but bank protection. They have never been able to produce those records where the money went to - I could never get an accounting of that money. I went to them numerous, numerous times wanting to know where the money was and why we couldn't (build a levee) and there was an excuse all the time."
Finally, after 13 years of dogged determination, Harn participated in the signing and groundbreaking of the Santa Cruz River Bank Protection program that resulted in a 7.5- mile soil-cement levee along the banks of the Santa Cruz.
"It was one of those great things in life, like meeting a goal; it was long overdue and it felt wonderful when they finally gave it to us," she said.
As mayor and council member, Harn helped the city most, she said, by "getting us some money."
Shortly into her first term as mayor she discovered that a number of businesses in towns weren't paying taxes and the pumping station for the CAP that ran through Marana owed back taxes of nearly $500,000. Collecting on those - as well as annexing the property-rich area at Ina and Thornydale roads - helped the city establish appropriate public services such as an adequate police force, she said.
While Harn was able to gather money for the city through taxes, her moneymaking efforts for her charitable causes are the stuff of legend in Marana.
"You won't see me at the legislature asking for tax dollars, but I go to corporations all the time and say, 'You guys owe something back, so hand it over,'" Harn said.
Marv Athey, CEO and General Manager of Trico Electric Cooperative, can attest to Harn's persistence.
"It is hard to say no to Ora Mae. She does good things and has positive reasons for what she does. When she comes to you with something, it is a sound idea … it is hard to say no because what she comes with is valuable," Athey said. "She's a builder, she doesn't tear down. And from a personal note, I've just always been impressed with her because I can't think of anyone who is more dedicated to this community. Ora Harn loves Marana."
Beverly Collier keeps track of what goes on in Marana as part of her job as U.S. Congressional District 8 Aide to Rep. Jim Kolbe, and said Harn is unique in her ability to get things done.
"She has ideas that don't stop," Collier said. "And most people have ideas that don't stop, but Ora is a person who will make those ideas happen."
Harn said her Christian faith is the driving force behind wanting to make Marana a better place. She's a member of Faith Community Church on Orange Grove Road, just east of Shannon Road, and jokes that she's tried to get Marana to annex that part of town "so I can say I go to church in Marana."
"My faith is my life," Harn said, "It is what I am. I have a great concern for people less fortunate than myself. It is part of our Christian belief to give to the poor, to care for the needy. I think we are expected to be concerned about our fellow man, so I just have a natural kind of draw to that kind of thing."
Harn's faith has been her stronghold in every difficulty she's faced, she said, and she clings wholeheartedly to the motto, "This too shall pass."
"People who don't realize that this too shall pass can get stuck. You cannot hold onto anger, bitterness, and resentment and still be creative - it ruins your energy. So you have to look at things and say, 'This too will pass.' "
While Harn has no great regrets of her 16 years on the Marana Town Council, she said there are some things she wished she'd done differently.
"We passed some (home) development plans that were almost a gross misjustice," Harn said. "We didn't make the developments put in play areas for the children, the houses are too close together and too small. We just didn't put enough pressure on the developers - we didn't really have enough experience. We do so much better now, we have a staff that can research and help us with decisions. At the beginning we basically worked with no staff. There was me, the town clerk and an assistant to the town clerk. I worked my first six months as mayor without a town manager."
Harn's many involvements, both charitable and political, sometimes led to what she termed "neglect" of her husband and that is one reason she decided to retire from political life in 2001.
"My hearing was getting bad, and that was one reason, but my husband's health was getting worse and he didn't get all the loving care he needed while I was running in and out of the house (while) on the council. There were times he got kind of neglected and … I thought I really needed to give him more of my time."
When she stepped out of political life, there was some thought she might retire from her many community involvements as well, but few in Marana believe that will ever happen.
"She won't slow down," said Marana Health Center's Anderson. "She has so much energy and a passion for life and if she didn't have that drive, I don't think she would exist. I think she lives for helping people and she does it very well."