In this economy not many are willing to work free for five years. Not Lisa Schnebly Heidinger.
The Arizona native spent half a decade compiling 100 years of Arizona’s history into the official book of the Arizona centennial, Arizona: 100 Years Grand.
“Since I was a kid I had always been excited about being alive during the centennial,” said Heidinger, who serves on two centennial committees and is the author of five other Arizona books.
Her passion for Arizona dates back to when she was in elementary school decorating Valentines Day boxes. She recalls her mother telling her that Arizona’s birthday is the same day as Valentines Day. So, the young Heidinger embellished her shoebox with a map of Arizona and the state flag.
She graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in journalism and began her career in 1979 at the Green Valley News. She continues to demonstrate proof of her passion for not only Arizona but for journalism, “Once you begin the process of discovery you can’t stop,” said Heidinger.
To make sure she would not miss any of the important historical moments of the Grand Canyon State, she not only did extensive research but she created a review board to help her decide what would make it into the book. The review board was composed of 18 people all from different walks of life.
Heidinger began this project in 2006 and finished this past summer. She had no outside funding. Photographs were donated and she promised to pay the printer and binder before she would make any profit. Twenty percent of the profits she is donating to the centennial committee.
Throughout her five-year journey, she learned many new things about the state she so passionately loves. Here are some of the oddest facts she said she discovered:
1. In 1931 the Hopi Tribe made Albert Einstein an honorary chief.
2. Leo the MGM Lion once was in a plane that was forced to crash land in the Mogollon Rim east of Payson, AZ.
3. Arizona voted women’s right to vote eight years before the United States approved it.
4. The Hale-Bopp comet was discovered by two men in 1995 in Casa Grande. Bopp however was not an astronomer nor did he have a telescope when he spotted the comet.
“I once thought history was like math, a fixed thing, and that there was only one history, but its not and there isn’t,” said Heidinger.
What was most surprising to her about Arizona’s history occurred in 1917. She said Germany offered Mexico the states of Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico if Mexico would agree to ally with Germany in World War I. “It haunted me, I thought how different would my life have been,” said Lisa.