THATCHER —This year’s Hispanic Heritage Celebration, sponsored by Eastern Arizona Hispanic Heritage Corporation and held at Eastern Arizona College on Saturday, Sept. 30, features the Gomez family as Hispanic Family of the year.
Juan C. Gomez was born in Clifton on May 3, 1933, and his wife, Emma Aguallo, was born in Morenci, on June 24, 1932.
Juan dropped out of high school as a freshmen to help support his family, following the death of his father. He worked a number of jobs until he started work with Phelps Dodge in 1951. He worked there 32 years — except when he was in the Army during the Korean War years — and retired during the copper strike of 1983.
At 51, he went back to school to learn heating, air conditioning and ventilation repair, and he worked at McDonald-Douglas and Special Device Inc., both in Mesa, until he retired again to Safford in 1998.
Meanwhile Emma worked as a stay-at-home mother, raising sons Tony, Eddie and Bobby, and daughter Yolie, and caring for the home.
Juan and Emma have been members of the Benificio Proprio Club since 1960, he became a collector in 1982 and they are now considered a life members. They are both members of St. Rose of Lima Parish, and Juan has been a member of the American Legion Post 28 of Clifton for the past 70 years, making him one of the oldest Legionnaires in Greenlee County.
Juan and Emma have 19 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-granddaughter.
Eastern Arizona Hispanic Heritage Corporation also honors a Graham County teacher and a Greenlee teacher as the Teachers of the Year.
Graham County’s Teacher of the Year is Thatcher High School literature and college English teacher Callie Ruiz, and the Greenlee County Teacher of the Year is Morenci High School band instructor Roger Rodriguez Munoz. Both teachers graduated from Morenci High School — Munoz in 1973 and Ruiz in 1985.
The keynote speaker is another educator, Michael Moreno, a 30-year educator in the Safford school system, with 24 of those years as principal of Dorothy Stinson School.