Arizona’s Classic Love Stories
From outlaws and warriors to activists and politicians, Arizona’s 100-year history stands as the home for infamous lovers and happy endings.
Here are three stories of love in the desert.
Cesar and Helen
Born in Yuma, Cesar Chavez worked as a migrant farm worker alongside his family. Fully able to understand the difficultness of life and the task at hand, he vowed to make a change. He founded the United Farm Workers and began a civil rights movement that reverberates still today.
Through it all, his wife, Helen, championed his cause.
“Helen Chavez was an incredible power in his life,” said Yolanda Broyles-Gonzalez, a professor of Mexican-American studies at the University of Arizona.
Chavez met his future wife, Helen Fabela, while working in the fields with his family after returning home from his two years in the Navy, wrote Richard W. Etulain, editor of “Cesar Chavez: A Brief Biography with Documents.”
Like Chavez, Helen was a devout Catholic, and also belonged to a “farm worker” family, adding another commonality between the two.
Married in October 1948, Cesar and Helen Chavez depended on each other.
According to Chavez’s biography, throughout the first few years of their marriage, the newlywed couple packed up their belongings and moved around the state of California in search of strong, reliable jobs.
Shortly after the couple, along with their eight children, moved to the San Francisco area, Chavez began to fast to promote the value of nonviolence.
Helen never left her husband’s side.
In Chavez’s biography, Helen wrote that she “never had any doubts that [Cesar] would succeed.” Broyles-Gonzalez said that Helen was not a passive person, but was always active and alongside her husband.
However, money was always an issue for the Chavezs. At one point, Cesar and Helen picked cotton together to earn extra income.
Noted in his biography, Chavez recalls his wife asking him if she should separate the cotton from the boll, a protective pod that surrounds the cotton fibers.
Chavez told Helen to throw the whole boll into the collecting bag for the weigh in. However, when they turned in their bag full of bolls, the two were fired and only paid $4 for their days’ work.
Chavez recalled how they both laughed at themselves and walked away together – “… if you haven’t got your wife behind you, you can’t do many things.”
Despite undergoing challenging obstacles, Cesar and Helen proved that love conquers all.
“They definitely had a remarkable bond and a mutual understanding,” Broyles-Gonzalez said. “They had a profound relationship.”
Geronimo and Alope
Born in No-doyohn Cañon Ariz., Geronimo lived his life just as the other members of his Apache sub-tribe, Be-don-ko-he. However, at a young age, he not only experienced love, but he was forced to endure everlasting heartache.
According to “Geronimo’s Story of His Life,” edited by S. M. Barrett, Geronimo explains that in his culture once a man reaches the age of 17, he may be “admitted to the council of warriors.”
After admittance, the young men are finally able to travel wherever they desired and complete any task they wished. Although Geronimo wrote that these new freedoms excited him, there was one other privilege he honored more.
“Perhaps the greatest joy to me was that now I could marry the fair Alope,” Geronimo wrote.
The two had long been lovers, so as soon as he was permitted into the council, Geronimo visited her father, No-po-so, to ask for his daughter’s hand.
However, No-po-so did not make it such an easy task.
“Perhaps our love was of no interest to him; perhaps he wanted to keep Alope with him … at any rate he asked many ponies for her,” Geronimo wrote. “I made no reply, but in a few days appeared … with the herd of ponies and took with me Alope.”
This solo act legitimized their marriage in the tribe. Geronimo and Alope set up their new home, a tepee near his mother’s, and began their life together.
“We followed the traditions of our fathers and were happy,” Geronimo explained. The two eventually had three children.
In the summer of 1858, while Geronimo and other men were away from their camp, his family was murdered in a town they called, “Kas-ki-yeh.”
Upon returning to his ravaged home, Geronimo recalls that, “there were no lights in camp, so without being noticed I silently turned away and stood by the river … I had no purpose left.”
“I was never again contented in our quiet home,” Geronimo wrote. “Whenever I … saw anything to remind me of former happy days my heart would ache for revenge.”
Wyatt and Josephine
Tombstone’s story remains a classic tale, but woven into it is the love of Wyatt Earp and his wife Josephine.
Married for 47 years, with a 13-year age difference, Wyatt and Josephine led a life full of excitement and adventure.
“She stuck right with him and they made a life together,” said Marge Elliott, owner of the Tombstone Western Heritage Museum.
Elliott said that despite hardships and difficult times, the two shared many common interests and experiences together.
According to her memoir “I Married Wyatt Earp,” Josephine narrates her first encounters with Earp in Tombstone.
“… He possessed an unflinching type of courage (that) made him stand out from other men,” Josephine wrote.
Despite already being engaged to Johnny Behan, later to become one of Earp’s adversaries, Josephine wrote she could not dismiss her growing feelings for Wyatt.
She reminisces about their travels together after Earp was forced out of Tombstone, as well as intimate moments such as the way her husband “would fill and light his pipe, put on his hat and walk out” the door while the two were arguing.
Josephine wrote that this act by Earp “exasperated her,” but later the two would think back and laugh at their squabbles.
As written in her memoir, Josephine recalls Wyatt teaching her to shoot a gun, as well as the “loneliness (that) follows … after you’ve lost the love of your life.”
“They were probably best friend types,” Elliott said. “Obviously they were a match.”
Gabby and Mark
On Jan. 8, 2011, tragedy struck and forced one couple to engage in the ultimate test of love.
Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly embarked on a journey of “courage and hope” that Arizonans will never forget.
“Gabby and Mark’s love story is truly inspirational,” said Rhegan Zavala, a site leader at Pueblo Del Sol Elementary School’s recreation program. “There was no doubt that he would be there for his wife.”
Kelly, who served both in the Navy and as an astronaut with NASA, announced his retirement after returning from what would be his final NASA mission on the Endeavour.
Kelly wrote on his Facebook page that while his wife continued to work on her recovery progress, he only wanted to “be by her side.”
Zavala said she thinks what Kelly did is the perfect example of what wedding vows mean.
“He realized that to be a husband to the woman he loved, he would have to change everything in his world,” Zavala said.
Throughout Giffords rehabilitation, Kelly was not only alongside his wife, but he also made video diaries so she could see and understand exactly what happened.
These videos aired for the first time on Nov. 14, 2011 along with the couple’s interview with Diane Sawyer on 20/20.
“The sickness and in health clause – that’s real,” Kelly said in his interview with Sawyer.
“I think that people all around the world see this remarkable display of love,” Zavala said. “Love can prevail even through the worst possible circumstances.”