This is the text of the speech given by Mr. Becchetti on the occasion of accepting his Honorary Alumnus status at the First Annual BBAA Dinner.
It’s good to be back in Benson with friends and former students who are enjoying their Golden Years in this beautiful land.
Oh! How I’ve missed this wonderful corner of Arizona!
While I was here those eleven years, I drank in its beauty. I thrilled to the fiery skies of sunset in the west and learned to love the quiet of twilight as it settles over the Whetstone mountains.
I remember standing on the banks of the San Pedro river after a cloudburst in the mountains and marveling at the power of its muddy waters.
I listened to the words around me and perhaps took on some of the slow and gentle way of saying things that I heard, so that I might be mistaken as being from the San Pedro Valley from my birth.
I heard of the Apaches high in the Dragoons and of their noble chief Cochise; and on the streets of Benson, specially at rodeo time, I saw honest-to-goodness real cowboys and watched them on parade, their horses prancing proudly, with silver trappings shining in the sun.
I even got a glimpse of the best cowboy of them all, Benson’s own Del Haverty, the All Round World Champion Cowboy of 1951, and heard the story of how he used to sit at his school desk and practice his calf-tying with a rope that he always carried.
Along with everybody else, I learned and sang the first few words of all the cowboy songs we heard on the radio, and I actually heard coyotes howling at night.
Once, I picked up a horned toad, flipped him over on his back and hypnotized him by tickling his belly.
And then there was cactus. I remember the beautiful snow white cholla that lay in wait for you and jumped on your legs and wouldn’t let go. I even sneaked up on a prickly pear cactus one time and picked one of its red fruits to eat.
And the kids living down by Lourdes Church told me how their grandma — their abuelita – kept them from wandering off at night by telling them of La Llorona, the weeping woman who roamed the streets in search of her lost children, and of how she might take you with her, never to be seen again.
All these things I remember about the San Pedro Valley, and I will never forget them.
So I am thrilled beyond all measure to be back and to join my distinguished companions Mark Battaglia, Linda Lou Lamb and Gilberto Zamudio as Honorary Alumni of Benson High. I thank the Benson Bobcat Alumni Association for this honor, and I am especially appreciative of the courtesy that the president of the Association, Chic Maldonado, has shown me on my trip.
Thanks to this title of Honorary Alumnus, I now have the same “Alma Mater” as the five hundred students that I taught for eleven years from 1950-1961.
In addition, I have now become a “blood brother” to the thousands of men and women of the San Pedro Valley who have graduated from Benson’s schools since they hired their first teacher 142 years ago.
In the fall of 1875, while Apaches still launched their attacks from the Dragoon Mountains, the settlers in the Valley hired Mary Belle Bernard Aguirre as their first teacher. Mrs. Aguirre established her first school in the settlement of Tres Alamos, on the east bank of the San Pedro river, about seven miles upriver from Benson. She taught 23 students of all ages in a one-room adobe house with a dirt floor. She and her students walked a mile each day to the school.
Unfortunately, the school had to be closed the following spring because of Indian attacks, so Mrs. Aguirre and her son returned to their home in Tucson, but the determined settlers re-opened the school the next year with a teacher from San Francisco.
Tonight’s dinner celebrates all those graduates of the past 142 years. We also honor all the teachers who have taken the children of the Valley and molded them into cultured men and women who have made significant contributions to American society.
Above all, we do honor to the citizens of the San Pedro Valley and to the School Board for their constant dedication to the education of their children.
The attractive campus in Benson and its exciting activities give testimony to the concern that the good people of the Valley have always had for the future of their children. All the teachers in Benson can give testimony to the support that they have received from the citizens of the Valley.
After seeing the quality of the educational facilities in Benson, we alumni are certain that future graduates will bring credit to their parents and to all the residents of the San Pedro Valley.
I join with my fellow Honorary Alumni in congratulating all the graduates, the members of the School Board, all the teachers and all the Valley citizens for their contributions to the good education of our young people.