Doris Sturges Harger, 89, died Tuesday in a Payson rest home.
"Doris' contributions to this community were enormous," said Kay Loftfield, Harger's longtime friend and former sister-in-law.
"Wherever she was needed, she pitched in. That's why she took such an interest in the Tonto Apache Tribe. They were being pushed from one place to another. She and Melton "Chief" Campbell, the tribe's leader, went to Washington, D.C., and she spoke eloquently to Congress and the tribe was granted the land they're on now."
Born in Ohio and raised in Michigan, Harger and her family moved to Tucson in 1935. Her first experiences in the Payson area were on camping trips.
In 1962, she and her then-husband, Joe Sturges, moved to Payson with the youngest of their 5 children, Brian.
A year later, Joe and Brian, then 6, were killed in a Valley traffic accident.
Harger recovered from that tragedy by throwing herself into work and community involvement and, later, by marrying local engineer Andy Harger.
On top of her job as the Payson Roundup's editor, she became manager of the Chamber of Commerce, assisted with the Payson Rodeo, and, as Loftfield remembered, helped the Tonto Apache Tribe obtain its 85-acre reservation.
In 1971, Harger was named Payson's "Woman of the Year" for her decade-long efforts in behalf of the Tonto Apaches.
The same year, in an editorial which appeared in the Phoenix Gazette, it was written that "the heavyweight in this fight has been Doris Sturges of Payson, a woman as charming as she is intelligent.
"Mrs. Sturges has fought the Apaches' battle as if it were her own. She is due a large share of the credit for helping right a very old wrong."
No services are planned at this time.