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Native Coloradan still working hard for Duncan at 80

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Dianne Vandell

Dianne Vandell may be unique in that she wasn't born and raised in Duncan, but everyone who knows her knows she couldn't love the community anymore even if she were a native.

Vandell has been the secretary treasurer of the Duncan Preservation Restoration in Duncan's Enhancement Society for the last 10 years. The Colorado native joined P.R.I.D.E. in 2003, just a couple years after it was created.

The society is responsible for the renovation of Spezia Square, the Sandra Day O’Connor walkway, Veterans’ Park and various other beautification projects. Seventeen Duncan residents formed the society in 2001 after the historic Frieheit Building was destroyed to their dismay.

"She does all of the foot work. She's a really hard worker," said Duncan native Doug Barlow. "She's a pretty good lady and P.R.I.D.E. wouldn't be here without her."

Vandell, 80, and her late husband, Donald, moved to Duncan in 1995 and opened a saddle shop where he made the saddles and she made other leather products, such as belts. The pair had met in Arizona, but spent several years living in Oregon and New Mexico. When they decided to move to Arizona, they made a stop in Duncan and fell in love, she said.

"We had a ranching history and we liked the open fields, the river and the friendliness of the town," Vandell said.

When her friend Peggy Toy invited her to attend a P.R.I.D.E. meeting, she readily agreed, being a history buff.

In addition to setting out notices and other book-keeping sorts of details, Barlow said Vandell writes grants for the non-profit group, which is dedicated to "preserve and enhance" Duncan's image and historic value.

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P.R.I.D.E. President Joan Billingsley described Vandell as an "outstanding" treasurer secretary who is always on top of things and looking for ways to raise funds to help Duncan.

"She's a very dear friend of mine. She has a very caring, loving personality. She's just a good person inside and out," Billingsley said.

Duncan city council member Deborah Mendelson said the organization has been through many changes over the years and Vandell has been "a rock" through out. 

"Diane is one of the most persistent people I know even on projects that seemed like they will never, ever go anywhere," Mendelsohn said. "She just doesn't give up. You can count on her always to be fair-minded and creative and persistent in kind of a unique fashion."

Vandell counts the Spezia Square renovations among her favorite projects, but nowadays her mind is never far from the Billingsley House renovation project. The society recently hired Velocity Builders of Safford to replace the roof on the home, which was built in the late 1890s.

According to family lore, Benjamin Billingsley built the home in the late 1890s after his fiance, Eleanor “Nelly” Hilton came to Duncan and promptly announced she would not be moving there until he built her a home. The couple would go on to have five children.

The home was donated to the society last year.

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