May 13, 2017
By Les Conklin
Driving up Dale Lane to Jane Rau’s house, scenes from yesteryear came to mind. It must have been a1984 that I first turned onto this street. It was a rough dirt road back then. The night was pitch-black and there was nobody around. I remember feeling a sense of adventure, with a wisp of danger.
I was new to the area, having moved to Arizona from a town near Boston in 1983. Our home is only a couple of miles from Jane’s house but our neighborhood’s street, just off two-lane, dippy Scottsdale Road, was paved; the only neighborhood off Scottsdale Road from Bell Road to Carefree Highway with such an amenity.
When I arrived at Jane’s house, Jane’s late husband, Leonard, was outside giving parking directions to arriving residents. There were already at least 15 cars parked. “What is this?” I wondered.
Of course, “THIS” was “THE PLACE,” Jane’s home, where concerned residents had come to discuss the possible annexation of the area, then under the jurisdiction of Maricopa County into either Scottsdale or Phoenix. I soon learned that there were many such meetings at Jane’s, if you lived in the then remote Desert Foothills near Scottsdale Road and Pima Road.
That was a long time ago and on this evening of May 10, 2017, I was picking Jane up to take her with me to Scottsdale’s History Hall of Fame Dinner. Both our neighborhoods had been annexed into Scottsdale in the 80s and in the subsequent years, at different times and for different reasons, we had both been inducted into Scottsdale’s “Hall.” She for co-founding the McDowell Sonoran Land Trust (today’s McDowell Sonoran Conservancy) and me for work with Scottsdale’s Scenic Drive. Back in 1984, before two decades of rapid development in north Scottsdale.
This year’s event, the 24th annual, was being held at the Scottsdale Resort and Conference Center at McCormick Ranch. Not far from the townhouse our family had rented in 1981 when we came to Scottsdale for one school year to open the western office of a small software company that I had co-founded.
Jane and I arrived just in time for the reception that was held outside on the lawn. It was a beautiful evening with 400 guests in attendance; including quite a few of the 115 people who have been inducted since the event began 20 years ago. A great chance to catch up with friends and acquaintances.
The event is hosted by the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce and they do a fantastic job. During dinner, five-minute videos are shown that highlight the life and civic contributions of the year’s honorees. This year’s inductees were:
- Marjorie Thomas – Scottsdale’s first resident artist.
- Christine J. Kovach – McDowell Sonoran Preserve advocate and leader.
- Suzee Smith-Everhard – Pioneered many programs to benefit the cable industry and the community.
- Robert A. Frost – Former City of Scottsdale executive who played a key role in the expansion of the parks system, operation of Center of Arts, and more.
- Wendy Springborn – Served as top volunteer and leader of many community organizations, including the “Save our McDowells” campaign, Scottsdale Visioning Corps., Scottsdale Foundation for the Handicapped and many others.
- Scottsdale Active 20/30 Club – For decades this nonprofit has raised significant funds for youth programs.
- DMB – Based in Scottsdale, DMB created the DC Ranch/Silverleaf community and is currently developing One Scottsdale. It’s partnership with Scottsdale residents was instrumental in the preservation of land that is now part of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
“Hugs are Important”
The trip home flew by. I had not really talkined to Jane in over a year, probably closer to two, and there was a lot of catching up to do.
Jane is now in her 90s but still doing housework and riding her bicycle four miles every day. She is still active in her church. Since she is no longer able to drive, she cannot visit as many sick and elderly people as she used to. But the good news is that now people come and see her.
Jane updated me on the success of the conservancy’s steward program and we talked about how enjoyable it was for people to walk the Jane Rau Trail at the preserve’s Brown Ranch Trailhead. She also EMPHASIZED to me how important it is to give people a hug. “It’s really important., she said.
When we arrived at her home, I leaned over and hugged Jane good bye. Hugs are important.
Scottsdale has changed a great deal since 1984. Like all of us, Jane is older now, but she is still the ball of light, enthusiasm, energy, and open-friendliness that was waiting to greet me at the end of that dark, isolated road so long ago. Who knew?