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If there’s one Oro Valley resident that has become a household name, it’s Dick Eggerding.
A tireless contributor to OV for 30 years, Dick has earned titles ranging from “Citizen of the Decade” to “Arts and Cultural Ambassador”.
At the recent groundbreaking of the Heroes Memorial, a crowd of over 200 attendees sang a round of Happy Birthday for Dick’s 90th birthday. It was a special moment for this unique communitarian, who has volunteered his time since 1991 to the planning and development of OV in the areas of Arts and Culture, Parks and Land Use, Historic Preservation and Education.
The powerful Heroes Memorial – a 24-foot-high obelisk with an embedded honorary medal, encircled by 8-foot walls – was designed by Matthew Moutafis. It pays tribute to the millions of Americans who serve their country. In southern Arizona, there are over 400,000 veterans, first responders, health care workers, and active military. Dick came up with the original idea of having a site that honored our authentic heroes.
The Heroes Memorial project was thrown off track for a couple of years by the pandemic (“Covid just knocked our socks off,” says Dick). But now the project has re-gained traction and may be completed by early next year.
According to Dick, the Heroes Memorial Executive Director, Lisa Hopper, has been pivotal to the project. He explains (with heartfelt gratitude) that Lisa arranged for four local construction firms to step up and donate their services on a pro bono basis:
Working on the 1996 General Plan, Dick had the foresight in the fast-growing community — along with town staff — to propose that developers earmark 1% for the arts. (“The town staff was terrific in drafting up the language.”)
“After the town council approved the 1% arts code, the developers were up in arms,” he recalls. “We finally convinced them: you can write it off, and you will be leaving something behind for the town…and you will be revered for it.”
Dick was right: The staff of OV Hospital recently extolled the facility’s extensive art collection in an interview with ILoveOV. Dick points to the waterfall installation in the hospital surgery waiting room, which he says sets a peaceful tone for those waiting.
“In looking at what makes a successful community, art is not optional,” he explains. “While the infrastructure is like the heart of the community, art is like the soul. It reflects the inner thinking and the intellectual plane that the town operates from.”
In 1997, OV’s art budget – which came from an arts organization in Tucson – was $3000. By the time Dick retired from the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council in 2006, the budget had grown to $650,000.
Today, there are over 250 art pieces in OV. You can explore an interactive map of OV’s exceptional art here.
Dick also talks about the success of local art festivals that were put on by the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council, of which he was co-founder with Bob Weede. “Dave Dame was the head artist for Saguaro National Park, and he and I worked with the Arts Council to put on juried art festivals. For an artist to participate, they had to send slides of their work to be approved for the festival. This made for very high-scale pieces, which in turn made the overall festivals very high-grade.”
The symphony also used to come and play in OV. Dick described one 8,000-attendee concert of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra at Riverfront Park on July 4, 2003.
“The symphony was playing the 1812 Overture. In the music, when the cannons go off, we had arranged with the hotel to shoot off the fireworks. But they weren’t answering the phone. I drove up there and said, ‘you darn fools – turn your phone on!’ And they turned the phone on just in time,” he recalls with a laugh. “The music and fireworks went off in perfect sync.”
Steam Pump ranch is Oro Valley’s most important historic landmark. But 20 years ago, the site was almost paved over and converted into an automobile repair center.
In 2004, Dick joined Al Kunisch, Pat Spoerl, and town founder Jim Kriegh to start a land conservation committee. One of the important goals of the committee was to preserve Steam Pump Ranch. A bond was passed for the acquisition of Steam Pump Ranch and Naranja Park.
Just as Dick had the foresight to anticipate the art needs of OV, he also knew that Steam Pump Ranch was an important piece of history that should be preserved. Today, Steam Pump Ranch is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Dick can remember when OV was still a relatively small town.
“When I first started getting active in the town in 1991, it was an entirely different environment – much more relaxed… We used to go down to the town hall unannounced, and the town manager, human resources manager and town clerk would all come out, and we’d talk. And it was easier to get stuff done. That doesn’t mean that it was all smooth sailing. But it was a genuinely small-town environment.”
Eggerding has seen OV grow more diverse and sophisticated over the years.
“The culture has changed dramatically. At one time this was a predominantly senior population because we annexed Sun City. Rancho Vistoso started building up. That changed the culture completely. Now you’ve got a variety of elements. There are lots of young families, 55+ residents, and Generation Z. The apartments never seem to have a difficult time filling up – even though they are more expensive than in the city.”
Dick also notes that OV enjoys an educated, high IQ population: “At one time, there were 3200 Raytheon engineers here. They had commuter buses that would stop by Riverfront Park. So, it’s an intellectual town.”
When asked why OV is such a desirable place to live, Dick observes that in addition to great schools and an active community of faith-based organizations, OV enjoys a reputation of being one of the safest places to raise a family.
“The police are highly regarded. A map was once confiscated from some drug runners that were speeding. There was a big circle around OV saying ‘don’t go there’!” Dick laughs. “The cops here have a reputation of being tough on speeding. But I’ve known three chiefs of police well. They give out almost as many warnings as they do tickets.”
Dick started his career as an opera singer, which partly explains why he has been such a tireless champion of the arts. After 35 years as a Commercial Insurance Executive, he “retired” to OV in 1988.
He is married to his high school sweetheart, and has two sons and two granddaughters.
When asked which local art piece really speaks to him, Dick mentions the tree by the library by artist Joe Tyler. “Every leaf is hand soldered. It’s one of the iconic pieces of the town. It’s an extraordinary piece of art.”
By Tom Ekman, J.D., M.Ed.