Father Jack Wilson, a popular figure when he lived in Payson, is returning to attend the Zane Grey Cabin Foundation fund-raising banquet Saturday, Oct. 23, at Mazatzal Casino.
‘Father Jack,' as he was known around town, served as the vicar of St. Paul's Episcopal Church and as chaplain for the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Payson Police Department for many years before moving to Pueblo, Colo. in 1997. He will give the invocation at the banquet.
"I'm coming back to do the clergy thing," he said. "I'm coming back to shake my rattles and do my dance."
Wilson has an abiding interest in the history of the Rim country.
"I had a special interest in the Zane Grey place," he said. "Western history has always had a very strong appeal to me."
Wilson is currently on the clergy staff of Ascension Episcopal Church in Pueblo and is writing a column for a local newspaper.
"I'm syndicated now," he joked. "I write it for the newspaper and six members of my family also get it. That's syndicated.
"I write on everything from sex to Santa Claus, areas of local interest, the foibles and folkways of the world in general."
The Zane Grey Cabin event won't be Wilson's first return to the Rim country, but it will be one of his few public appearances.
"I show up every now and then incognito," he said.
The fund-raiser dinner, which begins at 6 p.m., includes a silent auction, raffle and Las Vegas-style entertainment. Auction items include Kachina dolls, original works by local artists, and services donated by local businesses.
Tickets are $50 and can be purchased from foundation members or at the Payson Public Library, Payson Roundup, and Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Cabin construction under way
Construction actually started Wednesday on the Zane Grey Cabin replica next to the Rim Country Museum at Green Valley Park as a backhoe began excavation for the foundation.
Grey's cabin, originally built on three acres near Kohl's Ranch, was destroyed in 1990 by the Dude Fire. The famous novelist, who penned more than 60 westerns, spent each fall at the cabin during the 1920s. He set 24 of his books in Arizona, half of those in the Rim country.
"It's too bad we couldn't do it at the original site, but that had been purchased by somebody else unfortunately," Bill Furman, a foundation member, said. "But it's wonderful to be able to put it up where the public can look at it and children can learn about history, and hopefully they will be reading the books for years to come."
Furman, a licensed building contractor and real estate broker whose Valley company does project coordination, has donated his services to coordinate the entire project.
So far enough money has been raised to complete the foundation and floor of the cabin.
The foundation is hoping to complete the project in the spring of 2005, and Furman said donations of labor, materials and money are needed to make that happen.
To join the foundation or learn more about ways to contribute to construction of the cabin, contact the foundation by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; by mail at P.O. Box 3188, Payson, AZ 85547; or by phone at (928) 474-6115.