Verde Valley residents are fortunate. When they want to look at the stars, they can. Some like to get a close view, a very close view.

Since most people cannot travel to the stars, Sirius Lookers Sedona Astronomy Club members bring the stars and planets closer through their telescopes. The group started in July 1994 with meetings at West Sedona School, but founder and President Dennis Young said the seeds began a few years earlier.

stars_in_the_sky_2_6-4“Russ Nidey and I connected and started the first astronomy club meetings in Cottonwood. We had close to 25 to 30 people. That was 1986,” Young said. Nidey died in April 2008. He was a professor at Yavapai College in Clarkdale for many years. He also was a physicist and the systems manager for the Space Division at Kitt Peak National Observatory.

Nidey was a great resource for the Sirius Lookers, said Young, who helped found many astronomy groups especially within the Verde Valley and Sedona.

Young recently returned from the Riverside Telescope Makers convention held the second week of May. He went to see the newest items astronomers could get, especially for the club. Not everyone who comes to club meetings or events needs to have their own telescope. Many members have several they set up for people to look through.

The Sirius Lookers meet once a month on the third Wednesday at the Sedona Public Library, and have several events throughout the year. They usually go to the Two Trees Area near the city’s wastewater treatment plant between Sedona and Cottonwood off Forest Road 525 for an observing session.

“It’s a great area and relatively free of lights,” Young said. “We also had a lot of fun events at Red Rock State Park.”

Sirius Lookers encourages people of all ages to join the club or enjoy the events. The curiosity of looking up is the only fee, Young said.

“Our purpose is public awareness of science in the public’s eye,” he said. “We’re here to have fun, promote science and to look at the night sky.”

The next meeting at the library will be Wednesday, June 16, at 7 p.m. The next event will be observing the Perseids meteor shower on Thursday and Friday, Aug. 12 and 13, at the Two Trees.

One of the group’s biggest events is coming up Saturday, June 5, at the Grand Canyon. Each year several members of the Sedona club, along with those in the Verde Valley and Flagstaff, join a club from Tucson at Yavapai Point for the Grand Canyon Star Party. They set up about 60 telescopes and allow anyone who comes to view the stars and planets.

“It’s always on the new moon in June, which is June 5 this year. We’ll be there one week,” Young said.

People from around the world come to this event, he said. Sometimes as many as 1,000 people come by on a single night.

“It’s not just looking at the stars, it’s learning about them and events that happen celestially,” Young said. “For example, when the Shoemaker-Levy comet hit Jupiter [from] July 16 to July 22, 1994, it was the most observed [celestial] event in history. Even the smallest telescope could see impact stars.”

People are fascinated with the stars and space, wondering what is out there — and wanting to see far-away objects more clearly, Young said.

Astronomy offers people a chance to see something they cannot with the naked eye, something they’ve only seen on television.

“You can’t experience something you’ve only seen on television. Once you go out and look with your own eyes, see it through a telescope, you can’t replace it. Like shooting stars, no matter how often you see one you still gasp,” Young said.

Many people gasped often when the comet

The comet Hale-Bopp passes over the red rocks when the comet was visible from Earth in 1997. The Sirius Lookers Sedona Astronomy Club brings enthusiasts together to admire the night sky. The club meets monthly at the Sedona Public Library.Hale-Bopp passed by Earth in 1997. It was visible to the naked eye on the low horizon in the evening and overhead in the very early morning.

The Sirius Lookers also travel around the state to large telescope sites such as Mount Graham near Safford, where there is a large binocular telescope, which Young said is the largest one in the world.

“It’s 8.4 meters. With the two of them working together the light grasp is about 12 meters,” Young said.

Another favorite spot is Kitt Peak near Tucson, which has several telescopes for both nighttime and daytime observing. Arizona has more telescopes than any other state and each is unique with some type of specialty, Young said.

“They look for sky condition, steadiness of the air, pollution, accessibility and clear skies. Arizona is good in all of those areas,” he said. “I’ve actually been able to see Jupiter, Mercury and Mars — during the day because I know the location. The conditions are that good.”

Young and other members of the group are looking forward to the newest large telescope coming to Arizona near Happy Jack, about 18 miles east of Lake Montezuma. The Discovery Channel has constructed a building there and will soon install a telescope mirror approximately 14 feet in diameter that is 10 inches thick and weighs about 6,700 pounds.

“I was giving a talk a few years ago about astronomy in Arizona and the organizers told me there was a man in the audience who was inspired by my talk. It turned out to be the president of the Discovery Channel,” Young said with an excited voice.

New district offices will be built on the old school’s site

In 1910, the small community of Sedona opened a school.

Families in the area drove to Flagstaff to bring back supplies to build the school on land Frank Owenby Sr. leased for $1 a year, according to a report in the Edith [Smith] Denton Collection at the Sedona Heritage Museum.

brewer_school_in_1918Once the schoolhouse was built, 10 children made their way to class: Lloyd, Dally and Iva Van Deren; Myron, Edward and Lindsay Loy; Henry and Lum Farley; Frank Owenby Jr. and Lewis Thompson.

The first teacher, Georgia Tomlinson, did not stay long. Olga Thompson took over but had a baby and quit so Charley Stemmer finished the year as teacher, according to Denton.

By 1914 the school was too small, and rooms were added. The late 1930s saw the school with three rooms, an auditorium made of native rock, flush toilets and a drinking fountain.

In 1937, a training shop was built with electric saws, lathes and other tools.

“Mr. [Alfred] Freestone taught the boys woodworking and Mrs. [Orvo Elizabeth] Freestone taught the girls to knit, crochet and sew,” Smith wrote.

Lightning struck and destroyed the school July 26, 1948. The following semester, students attended classes at the ranger station across the street.

Workers were in the process of adding more classrooms, and just extended the construction, Walter E. Jordan Jr., aka Sonny, said.

Jordan was in the class at the station.

“We’d liked to have froze to death in that old barn,” he said.

brewer_school_in_2010Learning at the Brewer School went on uninterrupted until the mid-1960s. In 1966, an article in the Sedona Red Rock News reported on an open house at the school to celebrate another addition. Today, the building is the home of the Sedona-Oak Creek School District administration office, at least until August when the building will be razed.

On Saturday, June 12, from 2 to 7 p.m., former students are hosting a reunion for anyone who attended Brewer School.

Ruth Van Epps, Jordan’s sister, went to the Brewer School in the mid-1940s. In 1946 and 1947 she was taught by her mother, Ruth Jordan.

“When the bell on top of the tower rang we knew we had to go inside right away,” Van Epps said. The bell also called people to 4-H meetings, gatherings, dances and Sunday school, she said.

Van Epps remembers a couple of times she missed class. At noon the children played “cops and robbers.” The robbers hid among the nearby rocks and the cops would come find them. One day Van Epps was never found. When she finally went back, it was 2:30 p.m.

“Mrs. Fern put an abrupt end to my robber career,” Van Epps said and laughed.

At another time, Van Epps was not tall enough to reach the top rung of the monkey bars. She found a way, though, by swinging high in a swing, reaching out and grabbing the bar. One day she missed.

“The next thing I knew Granny Brewer had me under the water faucet trying to get me to wake up. I was out of school for a few days,” Van Epps said.

Van Epps said the kids would use a sore throat excuse to get out of class.

“If you had a sore throat you went to Granny Brewer. She sat down on a chair, pushed her dress down between her knees and pulled you in. Then she’d lock her legs behind you and swab your throat with Merthiolate. Kids didn’t get a sore throat often,” Van Epps said.

The auditorium saw many plays and performances and was also the place for holiday parties.

“Halloween was outstanding. Uncle George [Jordan] liked to invent things. We’d enter the school and he’d greet us all dressed as a ghoul,” Van Epps said. “He’d decorated the whole place. There were a lot of screams coming out of there but nothing to hurt anybody.”

When West Sedona School opened in the fall of 1972, some Brewer School students transferred to the new school.

The district will build new offices on the site after the building is demolished.

Woman wanted to do the climb while she is still in shape

mt._kilimanjaro_hikerPart-time Sedona resident, Helga Ausman, 78, didn’t think about George Mallory’s 1924 retort to the question, “Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?” as she began to ascend the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Mallory’s response is probably the most famous quote in mountain climbing — “Because it’s there.” He is said to have spoken the words just prior to planning his first attempt to conquer the world’s tallest mountain peak at 29,029 feet.

He and his climbing partner, Andrew Irvine, disappeared on the north slope some time during their expedition. Mallory’s body was discovered in 1999, only a few hundred meters from the summit.

Ausman was not among the first to attempt Mount Kilimanjaro, but she is reportedly the second-oldest woman to reach the 19,340-foot summit and return under her own power.

“Nothing happens by coincidence. Someone up there is pulling the strings,” Ausman said. “Even this Kilimanjaro thing — it’s a fabulous story, how it came about.”

Ausman is an avid hiker. She joins the Sedona Westerners hiking group whenever she is in Sedona and has hiked most of the surrounding trails.

When she is not in Sedona she spends her time between Austin, Texas, and San Francisco. She has grandchildren in both cities.

About four years ago, Ausman decided to go with a group to hike near Mount Shasta in Northern California but ended up climbing the mountain.

“I was surrounded by experienced mountaineers. I was a hiker and ended up with them by accident. I got with the wrong group,” Ausman said. “They helped me reach the top. The whole time they talked about Mount Kilimanjaro and thought I should go. I told them I didn’t think I could do it.”

Well, the thought crossed Ausman’s mind several times over the following four years — until January when the mountain kept creeping into her life in various ways. Ausman had been to Africa many times but never climbed a mountain there.

“I decided I’d better go while I was still fit. Two weeks after I signed up they e-mailed me for a medical certificate stating that I was fit to go,” Ausman said and laughed. “I think it was just because of my age.”

Before leaving, Ausman had to buy several medications, including one for altitude sickness. A person can train physically but not for the altitude, she said.

“They told me about 16 people die every year on the mountain, but thank goodness I didn’t know that until I came down,” Ausman said.

The first two nights in Africa, the eight men and three women in Ausman’s group stayed in tropical-style lodges. Tanzania is only a few degrees latitude south of the equator.

The climb began the morning of the third day.

“They took us by Jeep to the trailhead outside of Moshi. Again, I told the leader I didn’t think I could do it. He said, ‘Don’t worry. You’re German and I’ve never had a German not make it to the top,’” Ausman said.

Most of the group were in their 40s, 50s and 60s. Ausman was the only grandmother so the porters nicknamed her “Bibi,” which means “grandmother” in Swahili.

“I was called Bibi for three weeks and they pampered me,” she said.

Ausman’s group climbed six to eight hours every day, and took seven days to go from the jungle to the snowy peak. Moshi in January is approximately 85 degrees. The top of Mount Kilimanjaro in January is from zero to minus 8 degrees at night.

Fortunately, the porters carried the major weight and a lot of food. Ausman said the group was very well fed because of the energy needed to climb the mountain.

“The higher we got, the harder it was to breathe and to walk. We barely took steps at times, but when we reached the top it was very spiritual. There’s snow and icy glaciers. It was 20 degrees and windy, but you had a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. Only about 40 percent make it to the top, and we all did,” Ausman said.

“Going down was much more difficult. First, you’re very weak and exhausted. Second, you want to go down as fast as possible, but that’s when it’s dangerous," she said.

There is loose rocky debris on the mountain, increasing the possibility of sliding and falling while descending. The urge to descend quickly is strong but it can exhaust a person.

Back at the bottom, during an evening ceremony, each person was called by name to receive a certificate for a successful climb. When Ausman’s name was called, the porters hoisted her on their shoulders and danced around the lodge shouting “Bibi, Bibi,” Ausman said as she danced around her living room demonstrating what the porters did. “It was so heartwarming.”

Although the trip was physically exhausting — Ausman lost eight pounds — and expensive, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro was worth every sore muscle, labored breath and dollar she spent.

“Oh heaven’s yes, it was well worth it,” Ausman said and closed her eyes as she relaxed back into her chair.

Sometimes it is astounding to see the high level of talent our young people possess.

People in Sedona and the Verde Valley will have a chance to see what art students created during the past few months at the Northern Arizona Watercolor Society’s 20th annual Student Art Show on Saturday, May 8, and Sunday, May 9.

northern_arizona_watercolor_society_student_art_showStudents in art, photography, ceramics, jewelry and sculpture classes from 17 area schools in grades seven through 12 have their works on display at the Sedona Red Rock High School cafeteria, 995 Upper Red Rock Loop Road.

“We have more than 500 students entering their work from the middle schools and high schools. The show is our big event for the kids to encourage them to continue with the art. I’ve been an art teacher and our group likes to do this,” show chairwoman Sue Davis said. “They represent about 14 different mediums.”

The pieces were judged Tuesday, May 4, and awards will be presented at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 9, in several categories, including Best of Show and People’s Choice, along with several first prizes, many including money.

First place for a junior or senior is $100, for a sophomore or freshman it is $75, and first place for a seventh- or eighth-grade student is $50.

Under the guidance of Sedona Red Rock High School art teacher Geoff Worssam and photography teacher Mal Cooper, more than 150 SRRHS students entered the show.

“Personally, I’ve had students enter since the show started. I taught at the school on Brewer Road, then Big Park and now here,” Worssam said. “It’s the biggest show in Northern Arizona, and our students usually show well.”

Cooper said about 12 of her students entered the show, and she thinks they will do fairly well.

“I have one student who is going to the London School of Photography next year,” Cooper said.

Tyler Novak, the art teacher at Mingus Union High School, is very excited about Cottonwood’s 80 students who took their works to the show.

“There are three of us teaching the art category in art, sculpture, ceramics and photography. We expect to do well. We have some incredible artists,” Novak said. “I think a lot of it is our students are very dedicated with their work and take pride in what they do.”

After the show, the winning pieces will go to M&I Bank in West Sedona where they will be on display for two weeks, Davis said.

The Student Art Show began with the Arizona State University alumni group in Sedona. Approximately five ago, NAWS took it over, but the alumni still donate $400 toward prizes.

In their efforts to promote art in youth, NAWS gives two scholarships each year to a student who present three of his or her art pieces for consideration. The winners receive $500 to the college of their choice.

Sedona and Verde Valley schools participating in the Student Art Show include SRRHS, MUHS and Camp Verde High Schools, American Heritage Academy, Sedona Charter School, Verde Valley School, New Visions Academy, Rimrock Public High School, Beaver Creek School, Cottonwood Middle School, West Sedona School and Big Park Community School.

They are cute, luxurious to the touch and make good pets but most people who have alpacas have them primarily as a source of income.

It’s no wonder. The fleece, or fiber, can bring in between $240 to $800 per animal a year, depending on the quality and quantity of the fleece.

Jay Maloney had the good life — the American Dream — until his demons took it away.

“I was a computer business analyst. I made a lot of money and never wanted for anything. I was also a drug and alcohol user for about 40 years,” Maloney said as he sat on the couch in Harmony House, a substance abuse recovery home for men in Sedona.

harmony_houseAbout eight months ago, Maloney sought help.

“I lost my house, my family, my summer home, my boat, four cars — my finances turned from fat and flush to nothing,” Maloney said. “Without [the Arizona Health Care Cost Contaminant System] and food stamps, I don’t know what I’d do.”

Maloney came to Harmony House to find a place to live for 30 days, but found out it was good for his recovery. The No. 1 rule of the house is to be clean and sober. The No. 2 rule that a resident must be actively engaged in 12-step meetings.

“To maintain sobriety has to be respected and followed,” Maloney said.

Today, Maloney fills his days searching for a job, attending 12-step meetings and watching some television. He expects to land a position within the next two weeks.

Harmony House is based on an Oxford House model. It’s not a treatment center, but it is a clean and sober place for men in recovery to live. The five men who currently make up the household have been through a detox treatment program and have either lost their homes or are estranged from their families.

“It’s a self-governed, self-sustained place with only a few rules that translate into healthy boundaries,” house liaison Mark Pope said. Pope travels to Sedona from the Phoenix area often and has served as a minister at Unity Church of Sedona, which sponsors Harmony House.

“This house is our primary charitable work in the community,” Pope said. He is one of the founding members who got the house started.

Pope said the rules are simple, and there are only five. In addition to being clean and sober, and attending 12-step meetings, each man must pay his rent on time, work hard to get along with the other residents and maintain not only his own room but the common areas. Everyone participates in the workings of the house.

“The last piece is we have a weekly house meeting,” Pope said. “Something we don’t do here is get involved in social, political or religious issues.”

There are no exceptions to the rules, especially the first one. If a man is found to be drinking alcohol or taking drugs, the other house members ask him to leave.

“On a rare occasion, we’ve had to ask someone to leave. When you fall from this place, there’s not far to go. This is a last place before the street,” Maloney said.

Before a man can move into the house, he is interviewed to find out if he is following the basic rules of sobriety.

“They have to show they possess a real desire and determination to stay clean and sober,” Pope said.

Bob, who did not want to give his last name to protect his family, came to Harmony House after he got out of treatment for alcoholism. He needed a place to live for a while, although his family is in the area.

“Being here has taught me how to keep living sober, and live my life as a mature person instead of a little kid,” Bob said. “I’m in school now to get a bachelor’s degree to become a chemical dependency counselor.”

Another man is only 20 years old and came from another state. He discovered his family was dysfunctional and if he stayed he would only go downhill with drugs and alcohol. He boarded a train and came to Sedona. He found a job right away — and Harmony House.

“I’m doing so great here, and I’m glad I’m out of where I was,” he said. “Being here I’m learning a lot of things, and taking better care of myself. It’s not all recovery.”

All of the men agreed the 12-step meetings help keep them on track, and give them hope for a brighter future. Pope said an interesting phenomenon about the meetings is that they are a strong, spiritual tool.

“To grab a hold of Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous is to have a spiritual basis, a power higher than yourself,” Pope said. He is also a participant in the 12-step program. “What we think is the core addition to all addictions is looking for something missing in your life. Often that something is a higher power.”

Before he got involved with 12-step meetings, Maloney was an agnostic who thought a person made his or her own life. He has changed his mind.

“I discovered that without a higher power to give me strength, I wasn’t going to be able to do this by myself,” Maloney said.

Harmony House is the only Oxford House in Arizona. The first Oxford House was established in 1975 in Maryland.

Oxford House is a nonprofit, publicly supported corporation. Houses are established for men or women and there are houses which accept women with children. There are more than 1,200 houses in the United States. The basic purpose is to prevent relapse.

“Before there was AA, there was Oxford,” Pope said.

The Harmony House recently received a donation from an unexpected source: The Sedona branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northern Arizona. The children involved in the program sold hot dogs and hamburgers at the Celebration of Spring and raised $530. Sedona branch Director Chris Quasula and some of the children presented a check to Pope at the Greater Sedona Substance Abuse Coalition meeting Wednesday, April 28.

“Like everybody, they needed money so we had a fundraiser for them. It was a way we could give back to the community,” Quasula said. “All the food was donated by [the Methamphetamine Advisory Task Force] and we cooked it."

Carl Fliessbach

Sept. 6, 1910 — April 15, 2010

One of the most loved and respected Sedona residents died Thursday, April 15, but the legacy Carl Fliessbach leaves behind will keep him alive in the minds of Sedona residents forever.

carl_fliessbachCarl Fliessbach died at age 99.

Fliessbach made a huge footprint on Sedona since he arrived in the early 1980s with his wife, Kate Fliessbach, after retiring from International Harvester Co. in Chicago. Kate Fliessbach died March 6, 2003.

Fliessbach may have retired from his job with Harvester, but he hit the ground running once he arrived in Sedona. He immediately started getting the Orchards No. 2 Property Owners’ Association organized and incorporated, and served as its first president in 1982. From there he helped build a tower of successful causes, movements and community activities.

Perhaps one of his top accomplishments was promoting the incorporation of Sedona as a city. The move was successful in 1988.

Another success Fliessbach was involved with was the formation of the Sedona-Oak Creek School District. Fliessbach, along with Serge and Katherine Wright, Lee Antonsen and George Moore lobbied state legislators for a district. The referendum was placed on the ballot in

1991 and the city voted the district in.

Fliessbach served on the district’s board of governors and as the board president from 1994 to 1995. During that time he worked to help establish and build Sedona Red Rock High School, which opened in 1994.

Fliessbach organized and hosted tours of the school to show people what was going on in the classrooms and how the school operated.

He not only came up with ideas, Fliessbach did the work, according to the SOCSD’s first superintendent, Nancy Alexander. She first met Fliessbach when he and four other school board members went to Colorado to interview her for the job.

“He always had a great sense of humor and really cared greatly for the community of Sedona, especially the schoolchildren. He was a kind, good-hearted man,” Alexander said. “I think he’s a role model for everyone. He proved that you’re never too old to make a difference.”

Alexander said Fliessbach remained active with the school district until his late 1990s.

“He always thought young. We all have a lot to give, and Carl gave it his all,” she said.

Alexander said Fliessbach put a committee together and took them out to dinner for his 95th birthday to talk about his celebration of life after he died.

“Ninety-nine and ½ years — that’s a good, long life,” Alexander said.

“Carl will always remain my inspiration on how to be of service to others for a lifetime. His commitment to our youth, intelligence and kindness of spirit will not be forgotten,” SOCSD Board President Bobbie Surber said.

Among all of Fliessbach’s accomplishments some of the best loved took place in a kindergarten classroom at Big Park Community School. It started with a project in Patty Nelson’s class. The children had to earn money to send a gift to a senior citizen. That senior citizen was Carl Fliessbach. He returned their kindness with a thank you letter and visited the classroom.

In 2003, Nelson’s classroom adopted Fliessbach as their very own senior citizen and had a birthday party for him every year. Fliessbach was born

Sept. 6, 1910. Nelson kept a scrapbook with photographs, artwork and letters.

“Each child had to bring a handmade card for him, so they thought about who he was and what he meant to them,” Nelson said.

Many of the cards thanked Fliessbach and talked about what they liked about him.

“Because of you I like reading. — Your reader, Sierra;” “Thank you for helping me read in first grade. If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be a great reader, Sophia;” and “I remember reading with you. It was lots of fun, Mason.” Others wrote “I can’t believe you’re 98! Not many people live that long. Although for right now enjoy being young, Mason;” “Just like the awesome guy you are, you always have a smile, Jessica;” and “You are the

nicest person in the world, Colby.”

Fliessbach kept returning to the classroom and sometimes brought others along. He read to the students every Friday.

“Carl was wonderful. The kids just loved him. He was always in the moment,” Nelson said.

Fliessbach also spent a lot of time at Sedona Red Rock High School.

Maureen Barton, the school’s journalism teacher, said Fliessbach was an icon that connected the schools with the community.

“Never will there be a better model of pure pride when it came to the youth in our community. Carl was a fabulous cheerleader — always on the sidelines with his joyful smile pushing us to do well and screaming loudly whenever we did,” Barton said.

The list of Fliessbach’s accomplishments is a long one. So long in fact that in 1999 he was named Citizen of the Year” by the Sedona Red Rock News. His energy stretched from the city to the people to the animals. Everything was worthy of Fliessbach’s attention.

Fliessbach volunteered and served on the board of the Humane Society of Sedona. He also took all of the photographs for the Paw Prints page in the Sedona Red Rock News.

“Carl will be surely missed in the Sedona community. He has been instrumental in helping to form our own school district and doing everything humanly possible in helping children. He was one of those remarkable people you rarely find who truly cared about others rather than self,” Larson Newspapers Publisher Robert B. Larson said.

Fliessbach served as president and on the board of Keep Sedona Beautiful, was a committee member of Sedona Focused Quality of Life, a board member of the Sedona Academy, served on the first Sedona Board of Adjustments, was a board member of Friends of the Forest and was active with the Citizens for an Alternate Route.

Fliessbach has been described as warm and loving, dedicated and an all-around good guy who goes about helping others without fanfare. His dedication and wisdom make Fliessbach a role model not only for the younger generation, but for every generation.

“He was a happy man. Anybody who didn’t know Carl missed out on someone special. How awesome for my students and me to have been a part of his life,” Nelson said.

A celebration of life for Fliessbach will be at Oakcreek Country Club, 690 Bell Rock Blvd., in the Village of Oak Creek Saturday, May 1, from 4 to 6 p.m.

Sedona’s Church of the Red Rocks is celebrating two anniversaries in 2010. The church is having its Golden Jubilee and the Rev. George Ault is marking his silver anniversary as the church’s pastor.

“By June, I’ll have been here longer than any other pastor. I get a set of steak knives,” Ault said and laughed as he and church members John Moore and Judith Glenn conducted a tour of the church recently.

church-anniversary-3-10In 1960, 20 Sedonans established The Church of the Red Rocks. About half of them came from Wayside Chapel.

“Only two of the original 20 are still here. Ann Jackson was a Jordan and she came with her husband, Bob, and Patty Fox is still very active,” Moore said.

The congregation will celebrate its 50th anniversary with concerts, special events and speakers throughout the year.

“All of our anniversary events will be free to the public as a gift to Sedona,” Moore said.

As part of the celebrations, the church commissioned a Jubilee Quilt from nationally-known quilter Eunice Hill. It was dedicated Dec. 6 and hangs in the large meeting hall. In the center is a depiction of the wooden cross that adorns the altar in the sanctuary.

“Someone found that piece of wood while hiking on this property. It’s been here nearly as long as the church,” Moore said.

The first full-time pastor, Rev. Paul Babbitt, challenged the congregation with, “It is an awesome thing to build a church, but let us expect great things from God.” Construction began in December 1963.

In the early 1970s the Rev. Perry Avery led the group and encouraged them to “live with their diversities in love.”

From 1973 until 1983, the Rev. Alice Snow began her ministry during which the congregation grew to nearly 500 members.

The congregation today has more than 500 members, a church with a sanctuary, meeting rooms, offices and a large kitchen on top of a hill overlooking Oak Creek.

“Since Rev. Ault has been here we’ve seen our community outreach increase, our programs expanded and a long-range plan for our future,” Glenn said.

The Church of the Red Rocks built a music program through support and a venue for many artists.

“Our church has always been a great supporter of the arts,” Glenn said.

Continuing to grow, the church dedicated a new Life Long Learning and Leadership Center in 2008.

Ault’s anniversary will be honored at a Sunday of Appreciation in June. His path to the ministry began through a church camp program.

Ault first served as an intern to the Rev. Roy Grazier for one year, while he finished seminary.

After graduation Ault went out on his own. His first church was north of Philadelphia, his second was in the city. After he served there for a few years, Ault went to Mt. Clemens, Mich., and then Sedona.

What Ault likes best about being a minister is the changes he sees in people as they progress in their faith.

“I love seeing them come closer to the Lord and having their lives enriched,” Ault said.

Moore and Glenn added their comments.

“I think one of the things people really like about George [Ault] is his ability to live with the people and become part of their lives,” Glenn said.

Moore said when Ault baptizes a child he does not just hand the child back to the parents.

“He brings them around and introduces him or her to the other parishioners,” Moore said.

The next celebration at the church is a vocal and instrumental recital of Mozart’s “A Little Night Music,” Thursday, March 11, at 7 p.m.

For more information, call 282-7963.

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