When former Clairemont Sentinel reporter Chuck Buck read the “Squaremont” story about himself in last month’s Clairemont Times, he asked if a visit could be arranged with the Navarro family.
Chuck was only 23 when he wrote for The Sentinel, but he remembered Beth Navarro, an 11-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, learning to crawl by using a new procedure known as “patterning.”
He recalled sharing what he learned from that story with friends when they became parents. “I did it, I’m sure, with gravitas,” he added.
It took a minimum of four people – family, friends and volunteers – to coordinate the movement of Beth’s hands and legs with her brain. Repetition was the key. Chuck never forgot the spunky little girl and wondered what happened to her.
During the visit, her older brother, Pete, reminisced about Beth after she learned to crawl. “She wore a path in the carpet going back and forth between the living room and down the hall,” he chuckled.
After she mastered crawling, she leaned to walk.
Mrs. Navarro, Elisa (Licha), explained that once Beth was able to walk, she wanted to explore. They quickly had to build a six foot wall so she couldn’t wander away.
Beth frequently got up while we were talking and walked out the back door. She likes to look for lizards and hummingbirds in the yard… then she walked back into the house, visited the other rooms and returned to the conversation in the dining room. It’s a pattern she follows going back to adolescence.
Beth, who is now 64, learned how to bowl. She proudly shows her bowling trophies and medals. Life for her is about routines. She understands the importance of regularly brushing her teeth and loves to visit Starbucks with her younger sister, Margaret.
Pete takes her to the casinos. He asks Beth, “Did you win a million dollars?”
She laughs and says, “Yes.”
Pete said that with all the noise and lights at the casinos, “Beth thinks she is always winning when she pushes the buttons.”
Even at age 90, Mrs. Navarro still keeps an immaculate home. Her husband, Pedro, Sr., was a retired Navy Chief. Everything had to be spotless. Little American flags are found throughout the house and in the yard.
The Navarro family is originally from New Mexico. Pedro, Sr. was a city boy in Las Cruces. Elisa grew up on a farm north of Las Cruces. As a girl, she picked tomatoes, cotton and famous Hatch chiles. She is grateful for her schooling and for the opportunities America gave her family. Most of her siblings were born in Mexico, but learned to read and write English in school. Assimilation and being American were important values in her family.
New Mexico struck a chord with Chuck. During the 1940s, his father worked on Ralph Edwards’ popular NBC Radio show, “Truth of Consequences.” In 1950, Edwards announced that if a city or town would rename itself as “Truth or Consequences,” he would conduct a broadcast from that venue.
Hot Springs, New Mexico, population 4,700, on the banks of the Rio Grande, an hour north of Las Cruces, won the contest. It’s a place where Apache warrior Geronimo soaked in its healing waters.
When Chuck was 7, he remembers driving from Los Angeles to New Mexico in the backseat of the family’s 1939 Nash. Appropriately, the program aired on April Fools’ Day, 1950. The reception was so warm that Edwards returned to “TorC” to do one show a year for the next fifty years. They still crown the Hatch Chile Queen in Truth or Consequences.
Ralph Edwards also produced the Emmy Award-winning TV program, “This is Your Life,” that ran from the 1950s into the 1980s.
Following the visit, Chuck reflected, “In a sense, having Mrs. Navarro reveal a scrapbook of newspaper clippings and photos of Beth… seeing Beth stand alongside her trophy case that displayed her trophies, showing me her bowling medal and talking with her mother and brother was very much like, “This is Your Life, Beth Navarro.”
Pete will have quite a story to tell the next time he visits the relatives in Las Cruces.
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