Anna Mae Deming and Dee Strickland Johnson have been selected as two of the state's Culturekeepers for 2004 and will be honored in a special hall in the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa in Scottsdale.
The 750-room hotel on Greenway Road features Arizona history throughout -- from its decor, to the naming of inside shops and restaurants. The hallway leading to the hotel's grand ballroom is named Culturekeepers, and has been designated to permanently honor a total of 100 individuals, organizations and entities -- 10 selected each year for 10 years -- culminating in a grand celebration of Arizona's 100th birthday in 2012.
Guidelines the Arizona Historical Foundation committee followed in making its choices were that those selected had to still be alive and they had to have contributed deeply to preserving the state's culture and history. Portraits and plaques describing the contributions of each of the 100 Culturekeepers will be hung in the hallway.
Sharesse von Strauss, former director of the Northern Gila County Historical Society, is on the selection committee.
The nomination form for Culturekeepers defines them as "individuals who have made a positive impact on Arizona's history, culture, environment or economy. They are the current pioneers of the state ... typically unsung heroes ... whose passions toward Arizona are fueled from inside and whose works may never have been officially recognized."
Deming was born in Star Valley and grew up at the Tonto Natural Bridge. She co-authored "Rim Country History Illustrated" and has written about the area in numerous publications.
For 55 years, Deming has also been the official weather observer in Payson for the National Weather Service.
"Mrs. Deming has taken observations continuously for the past 55 years in all types of weather, including blizzards, heavy rains, droughts, and severe thunderstorms," said Michael Campbell, meteorologist in charge of the NWS's Flagstaff office. "She is also an official NWS storm spotter, and her reports help define what weather patterns have occurred in the Payson area."
Deming was grateful when informed of her selection.
"I was so excited I didn't know what to do or what to say -- thrilled to death," she said. "I didn't expect anything like that at all."
Johnson, who performs as Buckshot Dot, has worked to preserve and present Arizona culture for much of her life. A teacher, songwriter, author, poet and performer, the Rim country's hometown poet tells Arizona stories in song and verse throughout the state and around the country.
Johnson's latest book, "Arizona Herstory, Tales from Her Storied Past," celebrates the history of her native state with careful scholarship, captivating tales, and a sense of humor. Her stories in verse speak through the colorful and convincing words of Arizona natives -- vaqueros, soldiers, cowboys, outlaws, sheriffs, mule skinners, chuckwagon cooks and settlers.
Johnson, who lives in Mesa del Caballo, grew up on the Navajo and Hualapai Reservations. She was named "Female Cowboy Poet of the Year" in 1997.
Deming, Johnson and the other Culturekeepers will be honored at a banquet at the resort Friday, April 30. Other Rim country residents previously selected as Culturekeepers include Marguerite Noble and Vivian Burdette.
Nominations for the remaining Culturekeepers can be mailed, faxed, or e-mailed to Marshall Trimble, Arizona State Historian, 9000 E. Chaparral Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85265. Trimble's fax number is (480) 423-6066 and his e-mail address is marshall.trimble@sccmail. maricopa.edu.