Grand Lady Of The Rim Country Dies At 91

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The Rim Country has lost one of the most stalwart standard-bearers of its pioneer heritage. Anna Mae Deming, one of the grand ladies of Payson, died Jan. 17, 2008.

Deming reported the Rim Country's weather to the National Weather Service for 60 years and played a part in creating the community's hospital and library. Her family roots go deep into the Rim. Her mother's family settled the Pine area and her father's people homesteaded the Tonto Natural Bridge -- her uncle, David Gowan, is credited with being the first European to see the unique geologic site.

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Anna Mae Deming

Deming was born May 2, 1916 in Star Valley, the daughter of pioneers Andrew and Agnes (Lazear) Ogilvie. The second of the couple's five children, she was eight years younger than their first child, but was quickly followed by three younger siblings.

She remembered her childhood fondly when interviewed for the Payson Roundup's "Icons" series in early 2007.

"We were the happiest four children that ever lived," she said at the time.

She elaborated on those happy days in the article she wrote for the first edition of "A Cultural History of The Pioneer Women of Gila County, Arizona and Their Descendants" (2002). "Each one of us had our own horse, we milked cows, hoed the garden, cleaned the irrigation ditches, pulled weeds for the pigs, learned how to cook, can, sew, clean, wash clothes and iron. No kid on that ranch was ever ‘bored' or thought, ‘there was nothing to do.'"

When her mother became ill in 1930, she took on the job of raising her younger sister and brothers and running the family's home.

She married her beloved Jimmy at Tonto Natural Bridge -- which had been homesteaded by her family -- on July 15, 1933. The couple had two children and almost 57 years of happiness together before he died April 3, 1990. Tonto Natural Bridge is now an Arizona State Park and in 1982 the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park dedicated one of the trails to the bridge as the "Anna Mae Trail." She was one of the featured speakers at the 75th anniversary celebration.

Deming made significant contributions to the area throughout her life. She joined and was officer in many organizations, including the Northern Gila County Historical Society, Payson Womans Club, The Payson Pioneer Cemetery and others. One of her proudest honors was being chosen as an Arizona CultureKeeper in 1992. To be chosen for this honor, one must have made significant contribution to the history and preservation of Arizona.

In 1976, she was named Payson Woman of the Year, and in 1990 she was chosen Gila County Pioneer Woman of the Year. In 2004, Payson dedicated the corner of McLane and Main Street as the Deming Pioneer Park in honor of Jim and Anna Mae and the many pioneers who have made Payson what it is today. She co-authored the "Rim Country History" book for the Northern Gila County Historical Society, which was released in 1984.

Deming was a working wife and mother. She was a clerk at Boardman's General Store, a telephone operator for Mountain Bell, a clerk for the U.S. Forest Service and spent 23 years at Valley National Bank. She was proudest of her job as a National Weather Observer. She began the work in 1947, and continued for 60 years.

In 2001, she was given the John Campanius Holm Award, the highest honor given by the National Weather Service. She never considered "sending the weather" a job, it was her passion.

She often grumbled about the population growth in the Payson area, but was quick to add as she gazed at the Mogollon Rim, "That is one thing they can never take away from us."

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