Remembering on Memorial Day the meaning of freedom

by Kareena Maxwell

Concho, Arizona—It always seems like some people do all the work and I get to show up and enjoy their efforts. Today was no different. I showed up at the Lions Park in Concho, Arizona, on this Memorial Day Monday celebration and got to make the rounds. After caretaking for my mother, I didn’t want to rush. I thought about taking her with me but in the last minute was grateful that she was distracted with sorting through her clothes and I went by myself. It was a guilty pleasure as I got to roam around looking for the two I met yesterday at the Concho Valley Community Church, Lesa Ward and “Skip” Higginson, but somehow I missed them. And this is Concho. We never run out of ideas and interesting lives to listen to. So, on this warm afternoon, in a town where the elevation is about 6,300 feet above sea level, under an ominous sky, I found two kids who I have worked with at the Concho Elementary School as an Instructional Aide. They too were roaming and after saying they were thirsty, we sat down together and while they ate hamburgers, and potato salad, I wanted to know how they felt about this day.

“It’s a day that you congratulate the veterans who fought for our country when they were young,” one said. “They fight for your country,” said the other. How could those answers be wrong? They aren’t … and soldiers and veterans do exactly that. As I looked around, at the tables where folks like me and the two girls sat and talked and ate the food that was prepared by volunteers and genuinely good people, I wondered if they thought like me. That they show up and someone else has done the work. I didn’t ask. I looked instead into the two faces that were in front of me. Little girls who have things done for them, for the most part, in this town in America. Some, veterans and military people, don’t go abroad and have things done for them while they get to scout the park, or even look for stories. I get to do that. I can and do make contributions to needful situations anonymously. But I can engage in freedoms because someone made my world better. In fact, many soldiers who went to battle far, far away and never came back home to sit at a table or to watch others enjoy Memorial Day, ironically the day they are part of. They got to do the work and again I got to enjoy my life and the lives of others because of their sacrifice. Today, in the peace of my world, I honor those whom I will never meet and silently say thank you for all you have done and my students have it right…you fought for this country and we thank you  and applaud you for that.

Veterans in Concho share their history of military service at local church

by Kareena Maxwell

Veterans from different times and wars abroad were honored today at a Memorial Day weekend event at the Concho Valley Community Church in Concho, Arizona. I went to meet a local named Roughsedge “Skip,” Higginson but he had to leave. The look in his eyes and the devotion to his family told me he was a special sort so I told him I would catch up to him tomorrow at the Lions Park or the parade for Memorial Day. In the meantime, I met Lesa Ward, President of the American Legion Auxiliary District 6 in Concho, whose husband was a POW MIA. In the ritualistic arena of life where we remember what we went through as a country, it’s the stories of each one that stand out. Today, the congregants and the considerate members of Concho, who could make it to the memory of wars, medals, deceased people they loved dearly and a gentle fusing of Jesus, they listened, laughed and allowed moments of gratitude and vulnerability to take them back.

Colonel Hunsacker was the voice of recall and history. “It’s a new beginning at this church as today we honor a Memorial Day Celebration for men and women who paid the price for somebody like me to stand here,” he said. The room was softly filled with men who seemed bigger than usual in clean suits and deep voices. Perfume permeated the cool, white room as the veterans who are still with us, accepted the words of wisdom and gratitude from the Colonel. I appreciated every minute of it. He reminded us that it’s the responsibility of veterans to “Keep the tradition going.” We were also told that uniforms were basically borrowed from the Romans, and Memorial Day began in 1868 by General Logan. The 31st of May was picked because there were no battles or war on that date. The important part of remembering soldiers was enhanced by informing us that, “Soldiers wear medals because they earned it, and to represent the men and women who have served.”

It was a celebration with humor, history and a lot of heart. A commune of veterans being valued for protecting the United States of America that provided safety to their homes and families back home. Some veterans come back able to continue with their lives. Others are not so fortunate. I leaned forward on the edge of my seat listening to the subtle cry of a wife as her eyes lead the story. The end of May always brings the memory forward. I will meet up with Lesa and “Skip” tomorrow. The sharing helps.


Philosophy Café in Concho where words bring neighbors together

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Philosopher, Jay Warren Clark in photo above, conducts the Philosophy Café every second Tuesday of the month in Concho, Arizona.

By Kareena Maxwell

I took two philosophy classes in college and as a communications major it was the perfect infusion of how to listen to what someone else was thinking. With topics like ‘just’ and ‘good’ a seamless match to my idealistic thinking I was on a roll. I took notes and imagined a world where we could talk to each other and keep the conversation flowing without judgment, be respectful, and keep an open mind that perhaps we can meet on common ground where life could be so much better for all of us.

On a recent Tuesday evening I met up with Jay Warren Clark who would like for us to talk to each other. The retired Philosophy and Religious Studies Professor sat at the Bull Market Café in…

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Philosophy Café in Concho where words bring neighbors together

Philosopher, Jay Warren Clark in photo above, conducts the Philosophy Café every second Tuesday of the month in Concho, Arizona.

By Kareena Maxwell


I took two philosophy classes in college and as a communications major it was the perfect infusion of how to listen to what someone else was thinking. With topics like ‘just’ and ‘good’ a seamless match to my idealistic thinking I was on a roll. I took notes and imagined a world where we could talk to each other and keep the conversation flowing without judgment, be respectful, and keep an open mind that perhaps we can meet on common ground where life could be so much better for all of us.

On a recent Tuesday evening I met up with Jay Warren Clark who would like for us to talk to each other. The retired Philosophy and Religious Studies Professor sat at the Bull Market Café in Concho as the participants walked over to his table. He was sharp with the generous presence of an accomplished philosopher who asked questions to engage us. He repeated the questions in a rephrase way with clarity and listened as one-by-one the group contributed to the opening topic, ethics and trust. The discussion went forward with the possibility that what we perhaps wanted to do was to define the theme with other ideologies of self-governing modes of behavior like, “do no harm,” or “global behaviors that result in death, internal and external, the existence of consciousness, or what is nature? Viktor Frankl and his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” was mentioned as a deeper way of living with horrific conflicts, and in the case of Frankl he was a concentration camp survivor from Auschwitz.

Mr. Clark mentioned the principles of philosophy by Aristotle and as I reflected a day later on the way the evening’s meeting went, I went back and researched and found that a good interpretation of the discussion would be Principle #3, “The Mean” by Aristotle, where “Moral thinking is steeped in sharp dualities: Good v evil, God v Satan, and right v wrong.” The goal to talk to each other, to listen, to share and no matter what to be tolerant to the way others think flowed that evening from the Philosophy Café at the Bull Market in Concho.

I believe it’s most likely true that if we speak to each other, and not at each other, the world we share could be a better place to live. A communications concept that is thousands of years old is like new with Mr. Clark and his gentle way of embracing a philosophical discussion prompted by the words: Ethics and trust.

The Philosophy Café meets every second Tuesday of the month at 6:00 pm, at the Bull Market, #7 County Road 5100, Concho, Arizona 85920.

St. Patrick was a noble man worth celebrating

by Kareena Maxwell

Green beer? Shamrocks and the intrigue of finding a three-leaf clover? St. Patrick who has been celebrated in parades every March 17th, (the date he died in 461 A.D.), is an American and an international tradition in many countries. The first parade was in America in New York City in 1762 and by the mid 1800’s Fifth Avenue was the place to be for St. Patrick’s Day. The writings by others have revealed some common threads of history about St. Patrick’s life and reputation. For one, that he was originally from a wealthy family in England and taken as a slave and kept in Ireland for 16-years until he escaped. “Patrick was a nobleman born in about 370 A.D. in Britain and kidnapped by Irish pirates at the age of 16, said Philip Freeman, author of St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography,” is noted by First Coast News.

Cities like New York City love parades. It brings out the celebratory nature and the comradery that busy people miss in their daily lives as they rush to their next goal. So a parade forces the locals to slow up a bit, gnarl at the traffic at intersections, and to fill the bars with St. Patrick’s Day revelers who think they know who he was. Being of English heritage and Irish influence is just part of his importance. He brought ritual of what he knew about Christianity to the Irish. This was a wise and peaceful man. Instead of fighting and trying to destroy a system of beliefs he, “Used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He also superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross, so that veneration of the symbol would seem more natural to the Irish,” according to “Who was St. Patrick?” on the History Channel.

At that time in Ireland the Christians were few and many practiced Paganism a belief that has its roots in nature. The Irish culture is known to center its traditions on stories and wonderful myths. All in all, telling tales, sharing dreams and even visions of angelic visits was probably what happened. “When this is considered, it is no surprise that the story of Patrick’s life became exaggerated over the centuries—spinning exciting tales to remember history has always been a part of the Irish way of life.”

The research, or the myth of St. Patrick is pretty much the same. He wasn’t from Ireland but was enslaved there for six-years as a sheep herder. He had two significant dreams in his life. One was to return to England. The second one was when an angel appeared and told him to return to Ireland as a missionary for the Christian faith.

Adrian Hado in his blog article, “The Psychology of a Holiday,” shares the following: “Dr. Linda Papdopoulos, psychologist, says that holidays are absolutely vital to our psychological and even physiological wellbeing – and that there’s a good reason that holidays are inbuilt into every single culture in the world.

“We need to remember that we are human beings, not human doings”, she comments. “We need time to relax, to unwind, to get out of a routine. While people are creatures of routine, they need a period of time where there aren’t any ‘shoulds’, or ‘have-tos’ or ‘musts.’ People that take regular breaks and time out to spend with their partners, or children, are likely to have better self-care skills – to eat better, to sleep better.”

According to various sources, St. Patrick was a sweet guy who went with the flow when he was captured and held in a different world from what he knew as a teenager. It is believed by many that he was placed in Mount Slemish in County Antrim. “He worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian. (It is also believed that Patrick first began to dream of converting the Irish people to Christianity during his captivity.)”

It is known that St. Patrick was born in England to wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century. “Although his father was a Christian deacon, it has been suggested that he probably took on the role because of tax incentives and there is no evidence that Patrick came from a particularly religious family. Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family’s estate. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity.” Eventually, he was able to escape and, “According to his writing, a voice—which he believed to be God’s—spoke to him in a dream, telling him it was time to leave Ireland.”

He walked nearly 200 miles from County Mayo, to the Irish coast. After escaping to Britain, it was believed that he had another vision in which an angel in a dream told him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Soon after, “Patrick began religious training, a course of study that lasted more than 15 years. After his ordination as a priest, he was sent to Ireland with a dual mission: to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish.”

In the St. Patrick’s Confession he wrote, “My name is Patrick…I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers. I am looked down upon by many.”

Traditions and stories are many about this man who lives on in legend and if his message holds true it would most likely be that we can be with different belief systems, religious or otherwise, and still get along.

So, if we look at the St. Patrick’s day symbols of the color green, and shamrocks, (that he used to remind his followers about the holy cross), his legend has continued worldwide to encourage us to think about a gentle approach to discussions about differences in religion and, at minimal good conversations at the local pub about life, humility, and service to others.

Kareena Maxwell is an eight-time award winning author and a journalist with a poet’s heart. She is the author of seven books including “The Granny chronicles: Learning to Speak Leopard,” ”Meth Moon: To Hell & Back,” “Finding Juanito,” and “The God of My Shoes.”, and three other novels. She moved to the White Mountains 4 years ago from New York City with her husband where she lives in a World War ll-style Quonset hut. Her books are available on


Concho Jiffy Store owners sell business leaving kindness as their legacy

By Kareena Maxwell (questions for this interview were also provided by Elijah Weightman)

The long standing local go-to establishment, The Jiffy Store, has been sold and new owners will be taking the place of Monty and Nhiem Jackson. This oasis of candy, gas, dish detergent and anything you may need until you go into town, has most things the locals of Concho, Arizona need. With the change of ownership will no doubt come a different way of looking at the way the store should operate. This is the west. Folks here adjust quickly, but they don’t forget. The tongues will wag for a while comparing the leadership of the Jackson’s to the new owners. Sometimes, change and transition is bigger that we realize. At first it was announced with a for sale sign in the front of the property. In February, the sale was shared in the local newspaper, then it was spoken about and while change is not always easy, it is inevitable. Even with all of that going on it’s hard to believe that they will no longer be at the store. After all, it’s the only store here. They became the mom and pop place. And more than that, they were the endearing, dependable, figure heads that would be kind to everyone. Not so surprising, in the last few weeks, since the finalization of their ownership was announced, there has not been one unkind word said about them.

In a recent one-on-one chat with Nhiem Jackson, part owner of the Jiffy Store in Concho, Arizona, it became clear that the store is second to the life she shares with her husband, Monty. At first I thought, ‘this is a love story.’ I shared that with her. She didn’t disagree. It was their life together, she implied, the so called ordinary things couples do in the journey that are automatic like coffee in the morning at the store, closing it at the end of the day…rituals bind us. “I’m not there yet,” she said, when I asked how she was feeling about the move in her life. The intent of our meeting was about the store they owned and operated for 28-years and so much more is in this place than the needs of a community. It’s the walls they walked past, the door they opened and closed, and the children that came into the place and then of course, the children of the children. “The best part was watching children grow up,” she said. It was interesting to learn that they were never robbed and that their biggest sellers were candy and soda. “We charge less for candy here for the children may not have $1.19 like other stores. Instead we charge .99,” Nhiem said.

She welcomed me to the back of the store where we sat with the memories of her life and Monty’s career in the service and a photograph of the two of them from decades ago. She hasn’t changed that much. A petite well-spoken and generous thinker she has, “mixed feelings,” she says about the leave. His medals in a frame and a photograph he took of a nature scene are on the wall over the desk. Her life goals were to get married, to live in America and then when the World Trade Center in New York City crumbled during the September 11, 2001 disaster, it brought back the despair of living in Saigon. “It is so peaceful here, but when 9/11 happened it brought it up all over again,” she said referring to the unrest of war during the late 1960’s. “I love this community,” she said.

They met in Viet Nam, when she was 19-years old. “It went fast,” she says, “I will be sixty-five this year.” While this story begins and continues with love, it’s the in between life stuff, like the time they lived in different states during Monty’s military career that stationed them in Washington, El Paso and Arizona. While in Arizona, they traveled to Concho, two or more times a year when Monty’s parents owned the Jiffy Store for 8 years. During that time, “The lake was up to the top of the ramp. Now it is low (referring to the water.) The development changed it,” she said. Eventually, Nhiem and Monty took over the business. “It’s a lot of give and take,” Nhiem says, “people would say that being with your husband or wife all day long will be hard.”

If there is anything she wants the community to know about them is that they appreciate everybody. “Everyone has been so nice to us,” she said, “and I will still be coming here for gas.”

April 1st fundraiser in Concho at local church to continue its goal to feed the community

Photo above of the Wing-Off  in October 2016, where over 400 came to eat wings of local restaurants brought in dollars to feed the hungry in Concho. On November 4th the Concho Kitchens United was opened where every Friday at 6:30 PM a free meal is served

How do you create a fund raiser for Concho Arizona’s community and make sure that the food needs of the hungry get met? You have an event similar to last October’s “Wing off” that had over 400 people show up, cook the best brisket of beef or pulled chicken, have a cash bar and music by ‘The Wild Ride” at the Catholic Hall Ball Room at the San Rafael Church for $10 in advance or $12 at the door, then watch the turn out.

To benefit the Concho Community Kitchen, or Concho Kitchens United, in Concho, Chris Brown, Cori Brown and Marie and Ray Rhodes of the Sugar Shack are about to hit it out of the White Mountains with the party of the season while creating a source to bring those cash donations where they belong: To feed those who need the assistance at no cost. This town is hot with volunteerism. It is on fire with home grown chili peppers and hands of healers who move forward with their eyes ready to accept the struggle that they see in front of them and their hearts filled with tireless joy to provide. The town of Concho in Apache County, Arizona, is the poorest county in Arizona. How is it that in such poverty there is so much generosity and fortitude to create venues to help others?

This team of Concho residents want to feed others. They have decided not to wait for the government to provide by filling out 501-c-3 applications for hundreds of dollars and wait while some were going hungry. The formula is simple; they ask, they think, they decide, then they work hard motivated by the faces that they see in their town that are in need. They meet and formulate how to problem solve one of the foremost needs of humans…how to get food when it is scarce to the hungry.

This second event, that will factor in an automatic raffle winning, should your ticket have the winning number, will provide a shuttle ride for a donation to Clothe-A-Child. For more on that call Ronda Sharp, well in advance, at 928-337-4665 ext. 211.

April 1 @t 5:00 PM, The Annual Community Fundraiser, 23 County Road 5041. Call Mr. Brown for details 928-337-4665 or stop in and see Mr. Brown and get a ticket in advance at the Concho Elementary School.  -Kareena Maxwell