Engage - Challenge - Inspire
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Jimmy Dell moved to Coolidge from New Lothrop, Michigan at the age of nine. Shortly after the move, his father died in a workplace accident and Jimmy's mother was left to raise seven children on her own. Jimmy became very involved in athletics and music at Coolidge High School.
Jimmy met Duane Eddy, also a Coolidge High School student, in 1954. The two of them, known as "The Coolidge Kids", began playing local venues. Since they both played guitar, Duane challenged Jimmy to learn to play piano. As a self-taught pianist, Jimmy went on to play piano in his own successful career in show business, as well as for other artists' recordings.
As a junior in high school, Jimmy connected with Lee Hazelwood. Jimmy performed with Duane on Lee Hazelwood’s radio show on KCKY in Coolidge, and Lee would drive them both to Phoenix to perform at Madison Square Garden.
After graduating from Coolidge High School in 1956, Jimmy recorded four songs with Rev Records. As a result of that work, RCA Victor contacted Jimmy and offered a recording contract, but under the name of Jimmy Dell. Jimmy Dell proceeded to record 14 tracks with RCA Victor in late 1957/early 1958, one of which was "Teeny Weeny". This track went on to be a number one hit in many markets. As a result, Jimmy started touring with some of the biggest stars of the time, including Paul Anka, Sam Cooke, La Vern Baker, Jackie Wilson, Frankie Avalon, Everly Brothers, and Crescendos.
After ten years of show business, in 1968, Jimmy began to travel throughout the US as an evangelist in the Church of the Nazarene. He also performs gospel music, as a singer/piano player, in his country and rockabilly style. Jimmy has been ministering and entertaining as an evangelist now for 55 years. Jimmy Dell is married to his wife, Judy Delbridge, for 58 years and they reside in Phoenix, Arizona.
Clare Etoile “Van-Zandt” Johnson was born in Tioga, Texas in 1923. The daughter of a lawyer and six-term State Senator, she set out to make her mark on the world. She attended Hunter College, but when the Nazi’s invaded Poland starting World War II, she joined the armed services. She became the first woman selected by the Alamo unit of the WAVES, where she served in the U.S. Navy as a pharmacist’s mate, first class. There she met her husband-to-be, Chalmers Duthie Johnson. On discharge the couple married and had two children, Linda and Pamela. In 1950, the couple moved to Coolidge and had two more children, Debra and Scotty.
While raising four children, Ms. Johnson worked for her husband, Dr. C. D. Johnson. She was the office manager, bookkeeper, X-Ray technician, and sometimes janitor. The Johnsons worked hard to provide quality healthcare for the citizens of Coolidge. When patients couldn’t afford services, she accepted corn, cucumbers, and watermelon as payment. She volunteered for the Coolidge Episcopalian and Methodist churches and, she became the second woman elected to serve on the Coolidge school board. In 1959, she had the honored distinction of becoming the first woman president of the Coolidge Unified School District School Board. Records indicate she was elected by her male peers on the board, a testament to her outstanding leadership skills.
Articles from the Coolidge Examiner reveal that the year of her presidency, 1959, was a period of robust growth. The school district expanded rapidly. Budgets rose and improvements were made to school buildings, grounds, and curricula. The expansion included the introduction of a High School art department, shop class, two social studies classes, and two laboratory science courses. For the first time student lockers were placed in the halls. A concrete slab was poured northeast of the old high school. This accommodated the construction of new basketball, badminton, volleyball, and tennis courts. A multi-year plan was created that would later put picnic tables and a canopy to provide a shady spot for students to have lunch. Two new entrances, parking, and ticket booths were added to accommodate football fans. The Examiner reported: The addition of a fine new all-electric football scoreboard was added. Twenty-five teachers were added to the staff and educators were granted an across-the-board salary increase.
Unfortunately, Ms. Johnson’s health began to decline in the early 1960’s. After a long struggle, at age 47, she succumbed to lung cancer. Decades later she remains a stellar example for women everywhere. She was a person with ideas and passion. She lived at a time in history when the “woman’s place” was in the home yet had the courage and conviction to step into the board room. She took risks to accomplish what she thought necessary for the greater good. In the end, Coolidge schools and the Coolidge community benefited greatly from her heartfelt boldness. She demonstrated that with grit and determination, outworn ideas, prejudices, and biases can be overcome. She was a pioneer in a pioneering town and set an example for Coolidge women to come. She proved what the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg famously said: “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.”
Governor Mitchell is a 1968 graduate of Coolidge High School. According to his classmates, Governor was well liked by his teachers, coaches, and community members. Not only was he a good student in the classroom, but he also excelled in athletics. Governor played the position of halfback for the Bears and helped lead the team to an undefeated season and 3A State Championship in 1967. That year, he was selected as a first team all-state running back and defensive back for the 3A South All-Star team. Governor still holds three Coolidge High School football records: Most kick-off returns for score in a career (7), Most punt returns for score in a single season (3), and Most punt returns for score in a career (5). He was also a four-year letterman in track and field and was a part of the 1968 3A State Track and Field Championship runner-up team. He ran the 100, 200, and set school records as part of the 4X4 relay and mile relays. That year, their mile relay team was the 3A State Champion.
While Governor had many football scholarship offers, he decided to forgo college and join the work force. Upon graduation, he attended the Iron Workers Apprenticeship Program and became a journeyman iron worker. He worked as a steward on many projects as a foreman and general foreman on others. Some of the notable projects Governor worked on as an iron worker were the Palo Verde Nuclear Plant and Chase Field. In fact, the roof on Chase Field was his final project. Governor completed his career as an Iron Workers Organizer and Business Agent for the Iron Workers Local #75. Governor retired in 2003 and is a lifetime member of Local #75 Iron Workers Union.
Governor grew up loving football and enjoyed playing for the Coolidge Bears. He always believed that the best thing you could do was to be an inspiration to someone else. He used athletics to get through school and appreciated when classmates would tell him that they stayed in school or joined the football or track team because of him. Governor continues to stay involved in his church and serves as the Head Deacon and Sunday School Superintendent.
John L. Siler, also known as “Sir” was born March 24, 1945 at Mercy Hospital in San Diego, CA. After the war, his parents moved back to Kentucky and then found their way west to Arizona when John and his brother Thomas were little. They lived in Coolidge, Marana and Tucson. After John's desire to join the military was halted by a fencing foil accident to his eye, he attended the University of Arizona majoring in theatre and English. After graduation, he traveled with friends, taught for a year in Huntington Beach, and then settled in Coolidge where he taught English and started a drama club and Thespian Troupe from 1972 - 1983. He and his wife then moved to Payson, where he taught English, and his "experimental afternoon drama classes" turned into a full theatre program. John once again led community influence to build a high school auditorium which is still the primary performance venue in Payson. Mr. Siler was integral in the development of the performing arts in Pinal County and is remembered for being a vibrant, passionate teacher who loved teenagers and strived to help them see their potential. He was passionate about student success no matter what program, club or team they were a member of and believed that every student had gifts to develop and share. One of Mr. Siler’s specialties was taking struggling students and giving them an outlet to display their talents and creativity. He provided purpose, pride, and reason using his theater productions as a catalyst for change. With the help of some fellow teachers, a few parents, and many loyal students, Mr. Siler produced quality theater productions for the school and community. He retired in 2002 but continued to assist his wife who became the full-time drama teacher.
Mr. Siler passed away in May 2011. Hundreds of students from Coolidge and Payson attended his Celebration of Life and shared personal stories of how Mr. Siler positively impacted their lives. During his career, Mr. Siler was awarded the Presidential Teaching Award from President Reagan in 1988 and held a Gold Level Honor Troupe Status for International Thespians for Payson Troup 4972 from 1996 – 2004.