Patty Urch is not a woman to be taken lightly.
Not only is the retired teacher and newly elected president of the Library Friends of Payson energetic, engaging and intelligent, but she's also -- by her own admission -- almost a witch.
"I'm not quite a witch, but I'm very close to being a witch," she said. "My birthday is Oct. 27 and Halloween is Oct. 31. I try to be a witch sometimes."
Especially in her teaching days:
"I always told my students if they didn't bring in their homework the covers would fall off their bed, or the wind would blow down their chimney, or the milk would sour on their cereal. They would say, ‘Mrs. Urch, you sound like a witch.' ‘Then bring your homework in; you don't want to test me,'" she would respond.
Her teaching career spanned nearly three decades.
"I taught 27 years, with 10 of those years in Colorado and the rest in Sierra Vista, Ariz," Urch said. "Teaching in a program for gifted students afforded me a great opportunity to learn along with them, while enhancing their English, creative writing and journalism skills."
Among Urch's other major accomplishments is her marriage to husband, Roy, a retired science teacher. The Urchs are about to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, no small task anyway, but especially given the fact that Urch was just 15 when she got married, was a high school dropout, and had only known her husband for a few months.
What are the chances, and how did they pull it off?
"He's a very patient and very tolerant and very kind man, and he has always allowed me to do the crazy stuff that I do," she said. "He's sort of my anchor that slows me down and makes me be sane and questions me on whether I really want to do that or not."
Urch believes it also helps that she and Roy have different interests.
"It escapes me why you would marry someone who is exactly like you are," she said. "That's like looking in the mirror. I don't even like me all the time, so why would I like someone exactly like me?"
The Urchs considered retiring in the Tucson area, but chose the Rim country instead. To make sure their retirement was real, the Urchs established some ground rules.
"The truth of the matter is, my husband and I signed an oath in blood," she said. "We would take no more children to raise, we would have no pets that can't live under water for five minutes, and we would limit how involved we get with all kinds of organizations. So we each chose one organization to join and that's it."
Roy joined the Payson Rimstones Rock Club, while Patty opted for Library Friends.
"Library Friends of Payson (LFOP) is a solid organization with a clear mission -- to support the Payson Public Library in many ways," she said. "Financial support is the main objective. Fund-raising is important.
"LFOP manages the used bookstore inside the library. The bookstore collects an average of $1,000 per month from the sale of books, magazines, tapes, CDs, and puzzles donated by Payson area residents."
In addition to managing the bookstore, Library Friends delivers library materials to homebound patrons, hosts a readers group, sponsors other fund-raising activities, and applies for grants.
"The readers group chooses a book each month to read and discuss," Urch said. "Discussions often get readers interested in new genres and in subjects not before explored."
Both retirement and Payson are treating the Urchs well.
"My husband and I made Payson our retirement choice because it affords us quiet and beautiful natural surroundings after our years of being in noisy classrooms," she said.
"When not out collecting with our rock-hound friends, we spend time with our library friends."
Name: Patty Urch
Occupation: Retired teacher
Family: Married to husband Roy for 50 years, twin daughters Patricia and Pamela and six grandchildren.
Personal motto: I got it from an eighth-grade girl. She was involved in everything and she wanted to be editor of the newspaper. I asked her how she could take on one more task and she said, "My dad taught me if you want to get a job done, ask a busy person."
Inspiration: My inspiration has always been kids.
Greatest feat or accomplishment: I coached an Odyssey of the Mind team to the world finals where they took second, beating out 27,000 other students.
Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Reading
Three words that describe me best: Extremely impatient, brutally dedicated, and can't carry a grudge (grudgeless?).
I don't want to brag, but ... I've managed to keep my husband coming back for more than 50 years.
Person in history I'd most like to meet: The framers of our constitution, because we have to live with that every single day as the courts have interpreted what they think those people meant.
Luxury defined: I think I'm living it. I choose to live here and I like it very much.
Dream vacation spot: I have been fortunate to travel to many dream vacation spots, to luxuriate on cruises, to camp 30 days in the outback of Australia, to have seen lovely cities, museums, architecture, art and to meet wonderful people. I have loved it all and look forward to the next great adventure.
Why Payson? When we retired we thought we wanted to live in Tucson because that's close to the university and theaters and nice restaurants and all of the things you think you want. When our children came to visit they wanted to go to little Heber-Overgaard where we had a little manufactured home out in the wilderness. Then we knew we did it wrong. We needed a house in the mountains and Payson worked for that. There's everything here you need. If you want something different, it's within driving distance.