By Matthew Hendley
By Monica Alonzo
By Monica Alonzo
By Monica Alonzo
By Stephen Lemons
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Dulce Paloma Baltazar Pedraza
By Ray Stern
Doris Tryon keeps busy any way she can.
In the evenings, she rips drywall from the kitchen of her mobile home, which is located on a half-acre desert lot 40 miles west of Phoenix. The plasterboard will soon be replaced by new cabinets.
Doris doesn't like to be idle--in mind, body or spirit.
When she's not remodeling, the 63-year-old former real estate broker spends time with her church group. Even when she's just talking, Doris keeps her hands moving; on this January afternoon, she's creating a needlepoint banner for an upcoming spiritual retreat.
Whether it's been starting a volunteer fire department, raising her three boys, or helping out more than a dozen other children along the way, Doris has always been on the move--usually helping others.
But it's different now.
Now that Fred is gone.
Doris is trying to fill a hole in her soul that hurts far more than any physical pain she's been through. And Lord knows, Doris has been through a medical nightmare that would leave most people feeling hopeless and physically wasted.
For 45 years, Doris and Fred Tryon were almost always together.
"It was love at first sight. When I saw him, with his beautiful eyes, I knew he was the most wonderful man I ever met," says Doris.
He was a mechanic, hunter, outdoorsman, firefighter, husband, father and leader--in Doris' eyes, Fred Tryon could damn near do anything.
And Fred's primary concern had always been his wife's frail health. Obtaining medical insurance was paramount. In 1986, Fred did just that by landing a job with Arizona Public Service Company as a security guard at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station.
Fred worked at Palo Verde for seven years, earning commendations from superiors and accolades from his co-workers. But Fred made one mistake. He supported the formation of a union, the only union now in place at Palo Verde, the nation's largest nuclear generating station.
Exercising this legal right appears to have proved costly.
In 1993, Fred decided to retire at age 62. The company sent him letters outlining his retirement benefits, which included continued medical insurance for his wife.
On February 25, 1993, APS managers gave Fred a gold watch symbolizing his retirement. His supervisor wrote a letter thanking Fred for his performance. Co-workers threw a party.
But the joy of retirement didn't last long. A week later, APS informed Fred there had been a mistake. Fred hadn't retired, after all. No, APS personnel officials said, Fred had quit.
And quitters don't get insurance benefits, or retirement pay. Or medical coverage for wives who have leukemia.
Dead goldfish float upside down in the stone pond Fred Tryon built in the backyard last fall.
Nearby sits an old school bus Fred had overhauled and turned into a minicamper, a "For Sale" sign on its windshield. Next door, where Fred's son and grandchildren live, a playhouse Fred was building awaits completion. The animals in the steel corral Fred built are gone.
In Fred's workshop, a dozen or so ammunition-loading machines line the edge of a Ushaped workbench. Bullet casings of every size and shape are stored nearby.
"I remember seeing him sitting there with a beer in one hand, a cigarette hanging from his mouth, saying he had enough gunpowder to put together a half-million rounds," says longtime friend Peter Smith.
Despite his imbibing, Fred Tryon was admired by his Palo Verde co-workers for a physical prowess that ranged from hunting to participation in the Palo Verde Designated Response Team, an elite group of volunteer security guards.
"I was kind of envious of him when you look at the physical shape he was in," says former co-worker Mike Robbins. "When he came and told me he was retiring, I was shocked. He looked much younger."
Fred left his mark everywhere at the Tryons' desert homestead; he also left an inspiring legacy.
Whether it involved rescuing his son's Boy Scout troupe, which had become stranded in an ice cave near Flagstaff, or building a boat to cut upstream on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, Fred always seemed up to the challenge.
"He was the patriarch," his youngest son Andy says.
He'd been one for a long time, and in a lot of different places.
In 1953, Doris and Fred Tryon moved from Indiana to California after Fred lost his job when the railroad he was working for closed down.
The couple landed in the small town of Fontana, located just west of Riverside, where Fred soon began a dual career as an automobile mechanic and a firefighter. In the summer of 1961, the young family moved to Palm Springs, where the weather was expected to be more suitable for one of the children, who was ill with arthritis and sinus infections.
Fred took college classes and firefighting training courses, rising to the rank of captain by 1971. During the same period, he also worked as a mechanic at a Palm Springs automobile dealership.
The next year, the family moved to Kachina Village, a then-tiny community about six miles south of Flagstaff. Doris worked as a real estate broker; her career took off, and the family enjoyed small-town life.