Late last month, Wickenburg lost two very valuable members of the community. I’d like to take a moment to share my thoughts about these two fine people.
Vi Wellik, owner of the Flying E Guest and Cattle Ranch, may have done more for this town than any other citizen — at least any other citizen I’ve heard of.
Mrs. Wellik and her late husband, George, donated the land that Wickenburg Municipal Airport Wellik Field sits on. Mrs. Wellik also donated the adjacent land, which is now Sunset Park. And more recently, she donated the funds necessary to move a steam engine from its odd position behind the library to a more suitable position beside the rail road track and old train depot. I believe she was also involved with the acquisition and complete renovation of the drover’s caboose that now sits behind the engine. These are only the things I know about — and I’ve only been in town for eight years. I’m sure there are far more things she’s done.
I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Wellik at a Chamber mixer just before Christmas several years ago (back in the days when I belonged to the Chamber of Commerce). She had hosted the event at the Flying E. The place was decorated for Christmas and steam rose off the swimming pool outside. It was an almost magic night and, by far, the best mixer I’d attended that year. I didn’t get a chance to say much to Mrs. Wellik and, frankly, I can’t remember what I said at all. But that’s the only time I saw her in person, so that’s the way I’ll remember her — in a cheerful atmosphere, surrounded by holiday trimmings and happy people.
There are two things that impressed me most about Vi Wellik as I learned about her throughout the years. First was the distinct impression that she gave to the town because she wanted the town to have these things — not because she wanted credit for giving them. Her giving seemed like a caring gesture, not in the least bit motivated by recognition. Second was her obvious desire to keep Wickenburg western. That could clearly be seen at the Flying E, a guest ranch that is probably more down-to-earth and truly western than any of the others in town. Mrs. Wellik could have closed down the ranch and made a fortune selling off the land to developers. But she didn’t. And what really emphasizes her desire to keep the ranch alive is the foundation she set up before her death that ensures that the ranch would continue operating just the way it did while she was with us.
The plaque on the airport’s terminal building that acknowledges the Welliks’ contribution to the airport may have become tarnished with age, but it serves as a reminder that some of a community’s best things are made possible by the generosity of a few people. I, for one, thank Vi Wellik for her contributions to this town.
Certainly not a name you read about weekly or even monthly in the Wickenburg Sun. But someone you knew if you kept your eyes open as you traveled around the town of Wickenburg.
I first noticed Adrian as she worked in the small park areas around town. The tiny triangle of land at the intersection of Frontier and North Tegner (near Coldwell Banker). The vaster stretch at the intersection of Savage and West Wickenburg Way (near Dr. Miller’s office). Very long hair, loosely braided. A straw hat with a pink ribbon. A friendly smile as she returned your wave.
The first time we spoke was sometime last year. I noticed that a Night Blooming Cereus that had been growing in the tiny triangle at Frontier and North Tegner was suddenly gone. This particular type of cactus is relatively rare since it’s easily eaten by rabbits and other desert creatures. I’d noticed the plant the year before when I first started driving past on my way to work. When it was gone, I was concerned. The next time I saw Adrian, I asked her about it. She assured me that the plant was okay; that it had been moved for some reason. She seemed surprised that I’d noticed the plant. We chatted and I continued on my way. (Some months later, the plant reappeared and it remains there today.)
Just before a Chamber event at Wickenburg Airport, Adrian stopped by the airport with Lee, another Parks Department worker. They unloaded dozens of picnic tables for a pancake breakfast that weekend. The following Monday, Adrian returned to pick up the tables. We chatted again and I asked if she could leave an extra table behind for the airport. She could always get it another time if it were needed. She agreed to leave the table. We talked about the upcoming landscaping job I’d planned for the airport. She was anxious to see what we’d do.
Months later, the airport landscaping done, I ran into Adrian somewhere else in town. I asked her when she’d put the airport landscaping on her schedule. She said she’d seen it and it looked great. She was excited about keeping it tidy since the airport was an interesting place to work. She was just waiting for her boss to give her the green light. A few days later, she stopped by the airport. I wasn’t there, but she chatted for a while with Jeff, one of the fuelers.
A week later, she was dead, the victim of a rollover accident.
Jeff gave me the news a week after it happened. He called her Pinky; it turns out everyone did. He was just as shocked and upset as I was that she was gone. It seems that everyone who knew her felt the same way. How could someone so good, so friendly get taken away in the prime of life? Why couldn’t it happen to someone else?
The Town of Wickenburg — and its residents — lost a good person when Adrian “Pinky” Tyra died. She had the kind of friendly attitude and hard work ethic that made her a good person and a good employee. She was someone I really liked — heck, how could anyone not like her?
And I’ll remember her long after the pink ribbons around town have faded and blown away.