WILLCOX — For decades, Betty Jones was Willcox’s seminal explorer, trailing the Chiricahua Mountains, watching birds, living off the land and mapping trails in the local great outdoors.
The Willcox resident passed away in October 2017, but her brother and sister-in-law managed to get her posthumous book published: “Range Roaming, A Birdwatcher’s 65-plus-year Love Affair with the Chiricahua Mountains.”
Jones had been working on her book for years before she succumbed to cancer. She finished writing her book, but it still needed to be edited and published before she died.
Her brother, Rob Jones, and his wife, Doris, decided to finish the job for Betty. They got help from local residents Jana Riggs and Kathy Collins in editing and working on the book.
“It was her dream,” Doris said Thursday.
“We decided to follow through,” Rob added.
The road to the Chiricahuas
Betty was born in Dayton, Ohio, on June 25, 1938. She moved to Tucson in 1946.
During a Methodist Church camping trip to Willcox when she was 12, she fell in love with the Chiricahuas. She would remain in love with the area for the rest of her life.
She was a graduate of Amphitheater High School and the University of Arizona. Jones became a physical education teacher for Tucson Unified School District. She retired from teaching in 1973 to do what she had wanted to do all her life: explore the Chiricahua Mountains.
Packing her things in a truck and a camper, she lived off the land, hiking, fishing, birding and investigating edible wild foods, Doris said.
“She has explored every nook and cranny. She was quite the explorer,” Doris said.
The making of the book
After a stint in Washington state, where she became a master gardener, she returned to Willcox and moved to live there permanently in 2012. There she continued her love with the area and the Chiricahuas, spending hours studying birds, hiking and cataloging wildflowers and edible local plants.
“Even at that age in her 70s, she was camping in the back of her truck, going up there by herself,” Doris said.
After Betty passed away, Bob and Doris got to work on finishing her book. Finally, it was published in late December 2018.
The book will be available at Wings over Willcox at the Willcox Community Center. It will also be presented at the Tucson Festival of Books.
A down-to-earth, passionate woman, Betty’s legacy is set to endure, Rob and Doris said. During her lifetime, she learned many things, including learning how to speak Spanish fluently and to appreciate the local area.
“To value nature, to conserve, to respect those people that built the land before us, the pioneers,” Rob said. “There’s a myriad things you can do besides hiking. It’s a wonderland.”
To purchase a copy of the book call 520 405-1180 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.