Special Lady Needs Our Help

AROUND THE RIM COUNTRY

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I first met Amy von Somogyi two years ago outside a local restaurant. She and a friend were enjoying a cup of coffee as fellow Roundup employee Dave Rawsthorne and I approached in desperate need of another person to appear in the Roundup's "Street Talk" column.

I don't remember the question, but I do remember it was controversial. Amy didn't bat an eye as she belted out an equally controversial response.

A few weeks later, Amy came to the Roundup and asked to see me. The issue on her mind was ducks and geese, and she was just as passionate as when she answered the Street Talk question.

The front page story that emerged from her visit began:

Amy von Somogyi believes the ducks and geese that hang out at Green Valley Park are in peril, and she wants to do something about it.

Early in the morning and again at sunset the waterfowl

cross Country Club Drive en route from one lake to another.

"People coming around that curve frequently don't have time to stop and they keep getting hit by cars," she said.

To make matters worse, von Somogyi added, when one does get hurt all the government agencies abdicate responsibility. "A while ago, a goose got hit and I tried to get it some help.

"The parks department said they aren't responsible because they didn't put the birds there in the first place -- people did. Arizona Game and Fish said they're not responsible because they are domestic birds -- not wild ones."

So Von Somogyi launched a campaign to save the ducks and geese at Green Valley Park. She spoke out at town council meetings, ticking off town politicians and bureaucrats who somehow failed to grasp the simple concept that the way to deal with the issue was to profess undying love and affection for ducks, geese and all of God's furry and feathered creatures.

She even endured a borderline-abusive phone call from a former town manager who berated her for embarrassing the council and advised her to back off. She didn't.

It wasn't long before Amy became known as "The Duck Lady." It was a mantle she wore with pride.

I asked her once how her very private husband, Zoltan, dealt with the notoriety that came with being married to The Duck Lady. "He knew what he was getting into," she shrugged.

By the time the whole thing quieted down, Amy had gotten the speed limit reduced to 15 mph on Country Club Drive, set up a program whereby injured ducks and geese receive prompt medical care, and initiated an adopt-a-duck program through which excess waterfowl would be placed with locals who could care for them.

The duck problem under control, Amy moved on to other causes -- especially literacy.

As a volunteer for the Rim Country Literacy Program, she teaches English as a Second Language.

But Amy only has one gear -- high, so she also became a passionate advocate of both literacy and the program. If it had sounded as sexy as The Duck Lady, she would be known today as The Literacy Lady.

As you can tell, Amy is a doer and a fighter, and the Rim country is a better place to live because of her efforts. But now she's engaged in the fight of her life, and she needs our support and assistance.

Amy, who is only 42, was recently diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. She is currently in a Phoenix hospital undergoing six weeks of chemotherapy, which will have to be repeated several more times.

The family is straining under the financial burden, and her many friends have organized to raise money to offset at least some of her medical expenses.

The first event is a bake sale and raffle from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 15 at Safeway. Contributions can also be made directly into a Stockmen's Bank account established for that purpose (No. 2703006045).

In a column that appeared in this space on Aug. 16, 2001 -- at the height of Amy's campaign to save the ducks and geese -- I related an encounter I had late one night with a Green Valley Park duck who would only identify himself as Deep Beak.

His message was that the world's ducks and geese were fed up with the indignities and abuses suffered at the hands of humans. He cited Daffy Duck, the Mighty Ducks movie and hockey team, and expressions like "wild goose chase" as evidence.

I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to incur the wrath of Deep Beak and his flock by forgetting to help their good friend Amy von Somogyi in her time of need.

For more information, call Kris Ladau Burkett at (928) 468-8208, or Su Connell at (928) 468-7257.

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