The Michigan Wolverines will face off against Texas Christian University’s Horned Frogs in the Fiesta Bowl on New Years Eve, but even more important to residents of the Copper Corridor, the Globe High School Alumni Association will honor Globe native and the first female governor of the state at the game’s famous parade on Dec. 17.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Fiesta Bowl Parade and its theme is “Legends Made Here,” honoring the history of Arizona and the people who have made the state what it is today.
The float honoring Globe native Rose Mofford is the brainchild of GHS alums Aurelie Flores, Regina Ortega-Leonardi and Alumni Association member and longtime GHS teacher Vernon Perry.
“We really want to highlight Globe and some of the things Rose said like, ‘I’m just a small town girl who stayed small town,’” says Flores. “That’s the story of my life too: Just because you come from a small town, don’t let that stop you from having the confidence to compete with the rest of the world.”
Mofford also represents an ideal that influenced both Flores and Ortega-Leonardi that women do not have to be bound by traditional gender roles in society.
“I feel like we’re walking in footsteps that preceded us and brought us to this point,” says Ortega-Leonardi. “I think it’s really exciting that we’re able to focus on Rose Mofford, especially with the election of a new woman governor, the fifth in state history.”
The life of Rose Mofford
Mofford was born Rose Perica on June 10, 1922 to Croatian immigrants Frances and John Perica. She was class president and valedictorian, graduating from GHS in 1939.
She was also a star athlete during her high school career and even turned down an offer to play professional women’s basketball, opting instead to move to the Valley to work in state government.
At the age of 18, she was hired as secretary for State Treasurer Joe Hunt. From there Mofford worked her way through the ranks of government after she was fired in 1960 by Thad Moore because he felt it was more important to have a man at the position.
Not missing a beat though, Mofford was hired as an executive secretary for Secretary of State Wesley Bolin, where she served until 1975, when she became assistant director of the State Revenue Department.
When former governor Raúl Castro resigned in 1977 to become President Jimmy Carter’s Ambassador to Argentina, Bolin ascended to the governor’s office and appointed Mofford to be Secretary of State.
In 1978, Bolin died in office, but because she was appointed to the Secretary of State position rather than elected, Attorney General Bruce Babbitt was appointed instead, according to her biography on the Arizona Secretary of State website.
Mofford later ran for and won Secretary of State and served in that position—after winning reelection in a landslide in 1986—until the impeachment of Evan Mecham in 1988.
It was then that she was appointed governor, becoming the first woman in the state to serve in the highest executive position. Her appointment to the governorship opened the door for women who followed and with the election of Katie Hobbs in November, Arizona will see its fifth woman governor.
Mofford married T.R. “Lefty” Mofford in 1957, but they divorced in 1967 and had no children. She never married again.
Ultimately, Mofford spent 51 years of her life serving the people of Arizona and with her signature beehive hairdo, brought the state together in the wake of Mecham’s impeachment and exit from the governor’s office.
“She was trying to put the state back together,” says Perry, who also serves on the Gila County Historical Society board. “She had quite a personality, was an excellent speaker and visited different parts of the state. She helped bring a lot of the animosity in the state to an end.”
Globe’s Fiesta Bowl Parade float
In addition to her time as a state employee and serving public office, Mofford was also business manager of Arizona Highways in the 1940s and was a founding member of the Arizona Softball Hall of Fame, playing for the amateur softball team Arizona Cantaloupe Queens in 1939.
The float will reflect several aspects of Mofford’s life and is being designed and assembled by an alliance of organizations in the Valley—including set designers, choreographers and artists—teaming up with the GHS Alumni Association.
Flores, a costume designer working with several high schools in the Valley, brings her expertise, connections and theater know-how to the project, while Ortega-Leonardi brings enthusiasm and her fundraising abilities to the table.
The group has received funding from Freeport-McMoran, as well as donations such as 25,000 chocolate coins to distribute to children along the parade route from the GHS alums.
A turquoise colored Cadillac will carry a beehived woman representing Mofford and a 1940’s-era Civilian Conservation Corps flatbed truck owned by local patriarch Frank DalMolin will pull a flatbed featuring dancers and women dressed as Mofford at various stages of her life.
The float will also include a nod to Mofford’s love of softball, featuring dancers dressed in softball uniforms based on 1930’s style, as well as miners reflective of the era carrying pickaxes and handing out chocolate coins.
The idea originated with Perry and the Alumni Association, when they heard about the parade’s theme and decided to reach out to Ortega-Leonardi and Flores. The original concept was to feature the Globe-Miami high school rivalry that is more than a century old, but the group eventually settled on Mofford as a more recognizable icon for the state.
Once the two women were recruited, there were only two days left to file an application, but to the relief of everyone involved, that deadline was extended two days.
“I received the call and he said, ‘by the way, the deadline for the application is in two days’” says Ortega-Leonardi. “So I said, ‘okay Mr. Perry, we’ll get right on it.’”
Despite the tight window to apply, the group was able to submit a 15-page, detailed plan they were sure would get them into the parade. As the time passed for notification for the participants, Flores thought the application had been denied. A little more than a week after that though, they received the nod, but time was growing short to gather all the resources and volunteers together.
“I had three, maybe four days to pull it together,” says Flores. “We formed this alliance with these different groups and from there it just started growing. Regina was able to get us financial support from Freeport and that made the possibilities bigger.”
Once the project gained steam, more organizations like the local Boys and Girls Club as well as the Gila County 4-H offered support.
“What the Festival parade is about is a focus on community with the emphasis on unity,” she says. “So people are working together and everybody contributes a little bit and we come up with something great.”
Ortega-Leonardi has returned to the Globe area after spending time away in Tucson, Phoenix and Hawaii to contribute to local initiatives such as I Art Globe and the Stairizona Trail, and sees this as another opportunity to bring wider attention to the community she loves.
“It’s not just me making a phone call,” she says. “There’s so many people who you ask and they deliver. That’s how it is in our Globe, Miami, San Carlos community and it extends outside of Globe to the people that left.”
The float did a trial run at the Globe Parade of Lights. The Fiesta Bowl Parade will take place in downtown Phoenix on Saturday, Dec. 17, at 10 a.m.
Journalist, writer and editor who has worked for community newspapers for more than 15 years. After four years at Davis-Monthan AFB and a few years living in Tucson, moved to California to find his fortune. He is happy to be back in Arizona, in the mountains he loves.