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Remarkable Women of Arizona: Irene Vickery Part 3

This is a series on three remarkable women who helped to shape the Globe-Miami community and the State.

While much of Sarah’s life is a matter of public record, Irene Vickrey is Globe’s mystery archaeologist, remains an enigma. Tenacious research by historian Janolyn LoVecchio reveals that she was born to Christopher and Grace Singleton on April 4th, 1911 in Hume Illinois. LoVecchio interviewed longtime Globe resident Lowry Logan, who said that Vickrey was “Five foot eight inches tall, very outgoing, liked the outdoors, hiking, trout fishing, and climbed Baldy Peak.”

According to a resume she filed with the Arizona State Museum while applying for work as an Assistant WPA Archaeologist,in the early 1930s she did two years of law work, one year of archaeology at the University of Indiana, another year at the University of Arizona, and two summers of field work in archaeology with the University of Arizona. Vickrey served as sponsor’s supervisor for a New Deal archaeology project from May through November, and from then until the time she filed her resume she served as sponsor’s supervisor and WPA supervisor in archaeological work.

Vickrey had to accept the title sponsor;s supervisor” because married women could not be employed by New Deal projects. Government officials believed that husbands needed the work more to support their families. Perhaps somewhere before her first government archaeology job, she married Parke E. Vickrey, although the year and locations of the marriage are not known. What is clear is that Parke Vickrey was born in Indiana in 1886 and arrived in Globe in 1910. In 1919, Parke was part of Professor Byron Cummings’ first summer field trip, A Course Among the Cliff Dwellings. By the 1930s Mr. Vickrey was a high school manual arts teacher and coach in Globe. In interviews with one of Parke’s relatives and Logan, LoVecchio learned that the couple met and married in Indiana.  Archaeology was their common passion, despite their twenty-five-year age difference.

Irene must have been efficient and well-organized, because she rose quickly through the ranks and soon served as assistant to Roy Lassetter, project superintendent for the WPA Statewide Archaeological Project. Vickrey was in charge of subproject E, the excavation of the Besh-ba-Gowah ruins. When Lassetter resigned to enlist in the Army on July 8, 1940, 29-year-old Vickrey became Acting Project Superintendent for archaeology programs throughout the state, a position she held until the impending war halted all non-essential work on October 4, 1940. By that time crews excavated more than 200 rooms and 350 burial sites in the Globe area. Vickery wrote about the discoveries in Arizona Highways and Kiva, an Arizona State Museum publication.

Always energetic and socially involved, Vickrey was a first vice-president of the Globe chapter of the Business and Professional Women’s Association of Arizona, and also a member of the Order of the Eastern Star and the Red Cross.

In May 1941 she involved the whole community in bringing Globe’s ancient past to life by directing Last Days of Besh-Ba-Gowah,a pageant performed on the roof of the museum that climaxed in an attack by rival outsiders. The pageant involved a small cast who played several parts, and let children get into the act as well. The night sky glowed with colored lights, the high school chorus provided background music, and San Carlos Reservation Apaches performed a devil dance as a grand finale. In following years the cast for the annual grew to more than a hundred, and everyone in the Globe-Miami area must have known someone who was involved with the gala.

Irene Vickrey was so vibrant and involved that everyone was heartbroken when she died in January, 1946, at the age of 35. But it wasn’t a total surprise. Lowry Logan said that she came to Arizona with respiratory problems, and working with soil and dust didn’t do her any good. He said, “She liked to keep active and was a Christian Scientist. My father worked at the Miami Hospital and she wouldn’t let a doctor make house calls at her home.”

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