On March 8th, 1994, Kim, my Dad, and I landed in sunny Tucson, Arizona! My Dad was navigating, from our Toyota 4X4, and made the call to take the Kolb exit...it was late afternoon and in the mid 80's!!! As we past 22nd and Kolb, I called my Dad and told him to look at the restaurant on the northeast corner...low key, large patio with thatch style coverings over the tables - it looked laid back and relaxing, a great place to burn off the road grime..."That's where we need to eat tonight, Dad"...he immediately agreed...and so, our love affair with Chuy's had begun!
It was a challenge to get a hotel that evening...there was a women's tennis championship going on, a golf tournament and Spring Training...remember Spring Training? Ahhhhh.... We ended up at the Hotel Park Tucson, now a Sheraton, over on Grant and Rosemont...for the first night (they could only give us one night). We enjoyed a meal at Chuy's, and the next day, were able to get a room at the La Quinta on Broadway. We spent the day showing my Dad around and looking at apartments. My Dad was a huge help. We were looking at the apartments on Kolb, just south of Broadway, behind Micheal's. While Kim and I were being sold in the manager's office, my Dad did a little investigating...beat up cars, some on blocks...he spoke to some residents, who told them they were getting ready to move out, their apartments had been broken into several times...and Kim and I were being shown one of the apartments and thinking we liked the place...as we came out of one of the apartments, my Dad made the 'let's leave' sign...we were confused, but as he explained, we were relieved to have him with us!
We ended up at Tanque Verde apartments on Tanque Verde and Dos Hombres...on the second floor. We thought we were in paradise. Two pools, with orioles living in the palm trees, a clubhouse that showed movies and had Sunday breakfast, raquetball (Kim had a mean serve! She could deliver it inches off the ground) and a nice weight room. It was like a resort compared to the apartment we had left in Pa.
And this is where Kim blossomed. She worked on cooking (you know how that turned out!), she planned our wedding, she fell in love with our community...and her shyness, began to melt away, a beautiful, articulate, genuine woman emerged. Those of you who did not know Kim before we moved here, would not believe how few words she spoke and she did not feel comfortable going to certain events or having company over to our place. I can probably count on one hand how many words she would say if we did go out. She always tells the story, about how, at one of my cousins weddings, she ended up drinking a whole decanter of wine by herself, because she was so nervous! Her high heel got caught in the mud next to our apartment's walk way and broke off. I ended up carrying her in, up two flights of stairs, and putting her to bed! Then, I went over to my Dad's, who found it hard to believe, but amusing! Kim always talked to my Dad. There were some family members who thought I might be making a mistake, since Kim was so quiet and I was so...outgoing - well, loud. But they did not know the Kim that I knew - and, like I said, she came here, knowing absolutely no one, and found her way - Tucson found it's way into Kim's heart. She loved the people, their friendliness and genuineness (and I was not surprised, when we had all of those visitors here this past fall, that everyone from back east commented on how friendly people are here).
After we were married, and Kim's cooking expertise was cemented, she got a job, saving animals, as a vet tech. And then, came the community involvement....I think the cancer walk up A Mountain was the first big event Kim felt passionate about being a part of - but, as a vet tech, of course, she worked with various shelters and organizations to help animals...surprising me with a little black lab/border collie mix for my birthday that year, Cajun.
Her passion to help, to put others before herself continued - we often were able to use Toys R Us, where I was store manager, as a vehicle - helping with C.A.R.E. fair at Pueblo High School - a health and safety fair for the community. Working with organizations like the Ronald McDonald House, Casas De Ninos, Las Familias, UMC Children's Center, TMC Children's Center,etc. It is funny, looking back on it from my new perspective - Kim tried to maintain that 'shyness' - she'd always say "I'm a behind the scenes person, Dave is the front man" - but, in the end - it was Kim who was the front woman, wasn't she? As she exceled with PTSA, classroom volunteering, the Head Sprout reading program, Volunteer Coordinator at Rincon Vista, chairing Vail Pride Day volunteer and staff appreciation, working Red Cross blood drives, campaigning for propositions on the ballot to help our schools - you know, while doing this, she had never, ever registered to vote here, or back when we lived in Pa, until this past Novemeber election. She wanted to be sure to cast her vote for Prop 404 and did a mail in ballot - her first ever vote cast in any election.
Yes, Kim was extremely passionate about her family, her friends, her schools, her community - and what a hard working, well spoken, enthusiastic woman she had become in the years since we moved here. I know, those of you who were with us in October, November and December, continued to feel what a courageous, inspirational, angel she was, despite her 'journey' - she, right up until her final breath, wanted to make sure we felt good about ourselves, her warmth filling us up, her words, brightening our way, giving us hope and comfort.
Today, when I realized that we had arrived here 18 years ago, through ice and snow (Tennesse was an icy horror show!) across the country, I called my Dad to remind him..."18 years? Already? That sure was a fun trip". We had fun on Beal Street in Memphis, listening to some great blues bands and eating some good food. And then there was 'Slick Willie's' in Arkansas, where the motto was, 'we can tax your food, but we won't tax your tastebuds!'. Kim got a water glass with some dark, red lipstick on the rim. I asked the waitress to bring her a clean one (she was still 'shy Kim') and the waitress returned with a new glass, that had bright red lipstick on it! At least it was a different shade.
Kim was able to grow into the beautiful lady we knew, through positive thinking and strong faith. She knew where she was going - her life reflected this. I'm thankful for the time we shared, as Kim helped me dive head first into this wonderful community and helped me give back to the city we love.
"Faith in action is service. Faith in action becomes a delight because it gives you the opportunity of putting your love for Christ into action - it is meeting Christ, serving Christ."
When I read this line by Mother Teresa, I could hear Kimmy in the words...and see her in my memories, living it, every day.
PS And tonight, when we went outside to say goodnight to Mama...the bambini's called out "the moon, it looks like the Chesire Cat again! Yay Mama" - so sure that she was grinning down on us, as we looked for the Big Dipper and wished her a good night...