Whatever Happened To Michelle Freark?

Michelle (Montroy) Freeark, class of 1996In high school, Michelle was active in band and FBLA. She served as a class officer, FBLA officer and was the statistician for the baseball team. For two years she was one of the high school’s drum majorettes. She enjoyed participating in band competitions, recalling the very long, yellow bus ride to Las Cruces, NM to participate in a large marching band competition. Benson Schools are very special to Michelle-she attended Kindergarten through 12th grade in Benson schools. There were several others in her graduating class who had been to school together since preschool at the Presbyterian Church.

After graduation, Michelle attended Northern Arizona University where she graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Science. Michelle returned to the Benson area where she went to work at Apache Nitrogen Products, Inc.

She spent 6 years at Apache working as an environmental supervisor.

While working at Apache she met her future husband, Justin Freeark. They were married in 2000, welcomed their first child Grant in 2004 and their daughter Jillian in 2011. In 2013, they relocated to northeast Tennessee for Justin’s career.

Michelle began working for Arizona Electric Power Cooperative, Inc. (AEPCO) in 2005. She joined AEPCO as an environmental planner and has been promoted over the years to positions with increasing responsibility. In the fall of 2016 she was promoted to Executive Director of Legal & Corporate Services. In this capacity she supervises the legal, environmental, safety, land services, resource planning and transmission planning departments.

Much of the compliance effort involves monitoring, commenting on and working with agencies on proposed federal and state regulations. She has also worked closely with state legislators, members of Congress, and other public officials and policy makers.

Michelle is actively involved in the National Rural Electric Environmental Association having served as President for two years. She also sits on other advisory committees in the electric utility.

Her greatest accomplishments in her career include being a published author in an industry journal for a patented emission control technology, having served on advisory boards for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), been interviewed in New York City by the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post on issues surrounding environmental regulations facing the electric utility industry, and successfully negotiating with the EPA an alternative to the $200 million emission control technology upgrade imposed on AEPCO.

She gives much of her credit to the outstanding teachers she had while in the Benson School


Judy Worden Lee, class of 1956

How does one fit a lifetime into a couple of paragraphs?

I wanted to be a writer for as long as I could remember.  Over my school years, I wanted to be a lawyer and eventually become a judge working in the area of abused women and children.  I got sidetracked somehow and became a teacher.  Loved all 34 years that I taught.  And I did manage to do some writing along the way.

 I’ve written several books and still have not been able to say it all.  But, here goes, the condensed version of a long life.  .

We moved to Benson in 1948 from Tucson.  My dad started at Apache Powder, my mother started at the Horseshoe and I started at Benson Elementary. I loved every minute of school in Benson.  Great teachers, great friends, dances, chorus, band, drama and my BFF Helen Critchley.

I married an Airman in 1956, moved to Tx, Okinawa, SC, again TX, IN, and the last AFB was in NY.  Stayed in NY for 15 yrs. Along the way I had three children, Pam, Cindy and Rebecca, in NY I adopted three children, John, Jim and Denise.  Got a degree and teacher cert.  Developed a business in Fire Service Education and spent seven years traveling the country teaching a Train the Trainer program to fire departments.  Moved back to Benson in 1985, and taught in SD for 15 years.  Moved to PHX in 2000 and taught at Shadow Mt. HS and Paradise Valley Comm. College.  Moved to the Dallas area after my husband Rudy Casillas passed away.  Taught there until 2014 when I returned to Benson.  I’m home.  Bought a house on the hill, and got involved with the community.  I belong to Benson Rotary, Retired Teachers, S.D. Historical Soc. and I am president of the Benson Museum.  I also lecture on the Cochise Brown Bag Lecture Series.

One of the results of having six kids, they multiply.  As of today’s date there are nine grandkids and eight great grand kids.   Seems as if every time I get a phone call there is another baby on the way.

I can honestly say that I have had a very happy and rewarding life.  And enjoying every minute of my golden years.  I love Benson, its people, its people and every rock, tree and cactus.

Would you like other BUHS alums to know what became of you? Contact Janet Hearn, jhhearn@q.com, with your info.

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