Jan Fancher is approaching 88, a noteworthy accomplishment by any standard; but the story is not about age, it is about a lifetime of experiences.
In the fall of 1950, Jan and seven other young women took to the sidelines as a group that added some zest to Arizona State College's football team. They were unusual and a first, but we'll get to that later.
First, let's clear up that institution of higher learning. It was chartered in 1886 as the Territorial Normal School; designed to produce teaching grads primarily.
The school would name transition to Arizona State Teachers College in the 1920s, and later morphed into Arizona State College. In 1958, a few hardworking petitioners campaigned to make the change to its present handle: Arizona State University.
It brought on a highly contentious atmosphere across the state. Behind it was the disdain of the University of Arizona for the Tempe school. U of A was not about to share its staked heritage. After some political moves, it was decided that the issue should go to the voters. The result was a landslide victory for the newly named ASU.
Only two counties voted against the proposed name change; no surprise that one of them was Pima. Sorry 'bout that Wildcats.
Jan Wilky came from old Arizona stock, five generations worth. Her great-great-grandfather is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery.
Her grandfather was sheriff of Maricopa County. In 1917, while moving a prisoner to Florence for safety, he was overtaken by a large mob. They performed the last known lynching in Arizona. The victim had brutally killed a man and brutalized his wife. Upon capture, he confessed to the crimes. Whether it was 1887 or 1917, it was still the Old West. Instead of a horse, he was dispatched from the roof of a car driven out from under him. A jury later ruled it was justifiable homicide.
Jan married Harry Fancher in 1950, left school, and embarked on a life that always embraced Arizona.
Harry managed military-related careers and various enterprises. After a stint with the Air National Guard, they located in the White Mountains, where they ran a lodge in Pinetop. They also had a local garbage operation. Jan took on accounting positions as well.
In 1976 they built a place in Tubac. Harry shifted his talents to making furniture.
"Tubac was a small place filled with gifted people. Still is," Jan said, "You get to know everybody."
Among the notables that Jan knew well: Will Rogers Jr., Jane Loew Sharples (who "Meandering" interviewed a few years ago), noted Navajo painter R.C. Gorman, Ted DeGrazia, and Bobb Vann (also a "Meandering interview).
Jan was a community figure and was prominent with the Tubac Historical Society. “Tubac is really special," Jan pointed out.
Harry Fancher passed away in 1983. They raised two children, Dana and Jill.
Vision problems have limited her activities.
"I miss golf and playing bridge, but I have my friends and lunches, and try to walk a mile each day," she noted.
Our interview had another present. Jan's best buddy, Carolyn "Cubby" Stevens. Intrigued by the nickname, I pressed her. Seems like her parents thought she was like a cuddly teddy bear, or maybe it was bare. I let it rest.
Oh yeah, about the pom poms. Jan was the first, but in an unofficial way.
"We were not sanctioned by the school. We just did it on our own. We made our own costumes and had learned the routines. After each touchdown, we were the center of attention with our act."
She should have got a patent.
Scott Dyke is a Wyatt Earp historian, Western lecturer and researcher. He is a member of Western Writers of America. He can be reached at email@example.com