Lee and Arona Farris named Holtville's citizens of the year

January 27, 2001|By DORA DEPAOLI, Staff Writer

HOLTVILLE — Lee and Arona Farris, a retired businessman and a former city employee, respectively, were named Holtville's citizens of the year Friday night at the Barbara Worth Golf Resort.

Upon hearing his name called, Lee Farris said he thought it was "very nice."

"I don't know of any place I would rather be than Holtville," Farris said, "with the exception of July and August."

The couple was chosen because of overall participation in community activities and leadership positions. The selection was made by community leaders.

Lee was born in Rocky Ford, Colo., and raised in Escondido. He moved to Holtville in the early 1950s and soon started working as manager of the local Imperial Hardware store. Love blossomed for Lee and Arona when they met frequently at the post office while Arona was employed by the city. They were married in Holtville at St. Paul's Lutheran Church on June 14, 1953.


Arona, a native of Holtville, has been a Sunday school teacher at St. Paul's for 45 years and was secretary of the Sunday school for many years. She is active in Lutheran Women's Missionary League. Although not a Soroptimist Club member, Arona is an avid supporter and helps at Soroptimist functions whenever needed.

Nathalie Heckenberg, a former Sunday school superintendent and fellow member at St. Paul's, said Arona has "never hesitated" to help.

"She has always gotten along well with the children and is always there," Heckenberg said. "Lee and Arona are always together and willing to help. Lee is always at church early Sunday mornings to make sure the sidewalks are swept clean."

Lee has held many leadership positions at St. Paul's and was congregation chairman during the building of the new sanctuary in 1983. Currently he is a property trustee and president of the Holtville branch of Aid Association for Lutherans. Lee has served on the county grand jury twice and was Holtville Rotary Club president in 1969-70. He is a former Holtville Chamber of Commerce director. An Eagle Scout, Lee was a scout leader and helped at least two young men obtain the Eagle Scout ranking.

Renowned for his skillfully crafted wood items, Lee is noted for the beautiful ironwood gavels he makes. Since 1970 every outgoing Holtville Rotary Club president has received one of his masterpieces. One of his gavels is used in federal court in Sacramento and seven made from native woods are on display at the Pioneers' Museum near Imperial.

The Farrises are active in the Sunrunners Car Club. Their pride and joy is a 1960 Dodge Dart formerly belonging to the late Aaron and Ella Gramly, parents of Arona. Arona can regularly be seen behind the wheel of the vintage car in local parades.

In addition to enthusiastically taking part in activities of their two daughters while they were in school, the Farrises have continued helping with Holtville High School basketball team activities. They have two daughters, Cindy Briseno of Saugus and Laura Goodsell of Holtville, and two grandsons.

Laura said they have cooked hundreds of hot dogs and hauled gallons of cheese sauce for the high school food booths in recent years. They also have hosted numerous year-end basketball team parties.

Other citizen of the year nominees were Jean DeLoach, Frank Irigoyen, Liz Maynard and Pete Mellinger.

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