Former Brigadette celebrates her 90th birthday on Saturday

November 06, 2001|By DORA DEPAOLI, Staff Writer

HOLTVILLE — Opal Immel was honored Saturday for her 90th birthday.

Born in Austin, Texas, she moved to the Imperial Valley with her family in 1916. She married the late Alvin Immel in 1934. The two owned a farm equipment store in Holtville for 27 years. During that time she worked as the business bookkeeper for both the store and her husband's farming operation.

Besides her family, the Barbara Worth Brigadettes have been a big part of her life. In 1993 she was honored for being the first woman to be with the Brigadettes for 50 years. Immel was a charter member of the club's Galloping Gossips square dance team.

When she joined the club she couldn't ride.

She quickly learned and performed in thousands of rodeos, parades and fairs, including an appearance at Brawley Cattle Call Arena before former President Ronald Reagan while he was governor of California. She and the former president are both 90 years old this year. She curtailed her riding activities with the club after a broken ankle grounded her in 1986. These days she spends much of her time researching her family's genealogy.


Friendships formed during her activities with the club are still strong. Many Brigadettes were at the birthday luncheon at the Barbara Worth Golf Resort.

Faye Rawles, a friend for nearly 60 years, shared that Mrs. Immel had "always been generous" with her resources.

"I had a 4-H light horse group," Rawles recalled. "It was fair time. The wind started blowing. Opal let the 4-Hers wash their horses in her barn to protect them from the wind. She helped dry them herself with a blow dryer.

"I'll always treasure the years that I rode with Opal, especially the Sunday rides," said Rawles.

Mrs. Immel has two children, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Her son and daughter-in-law, Dick and Penny Immel, live in Lakeside, Mont. Her daughter and son-in-law, Marianne and Lynn Wilson, live in Boulevard.

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