Gary Dillard is a native of Cochise County who has escaped a couple of times, but has always returned. His parents, Jack and Hilda Dillard, were displaced southerners who left Louisiana in the early '50s to benefit from the post-war boom in the West. His dad was an auto mechanic; his mom, a housewife.
Gary is the only one of their four children born in Arizona. He grew up in Bisbee when it was an active mining town. In fact, it was while he was absent, attending the University of Arizona in Tucson, that the local mining company made the decision to cease mining. He started out studying nuclear engineering, but soon returned to journalism for his studies. He had served as sports editor of the Bisbee Daily Review while in high school.
As a senior at UA, he got his first real taste of Arizona history when the owner of the Tombstone Epitaph, Harold O. Love, donated the local edition of that historic newspaper to the UA to use as a student laboratory. Gary was part of the first team that went to Tombstone to give that community its own local newspaper. He would serve as news editor and editor of the paper and won the John Clum Award for his contributions. [It was Clum who famously said: "Every Tombstone needs its Epitaph."]
From there he went to the Sierra Vista Herald-Dispatch, then edited his hometown paper, the Bisbee Review. It was while he was there that the papers merged, giving both communities a daily paper.
Starts career at PAY DIRT
Soon Gary joined William C. Epler over in Bisbee at PAY DIRT mining magazine, a venerable trade magazine that had been published since 1938 and had been in Bisbee since 1968. Bill was wanting to take the magazine beyond Arizona mining, but needed more staff to do so. Thus in 1980, the New Mexico Edition was born.
As well as expanding the geographic coverage, Bill wanted to be able to create special issues. The year 1981 represented the hundredth year of Phelps Dodge in the copper industry, so Bill and Gary put together a 200-page Centennial issue. That was truly Gary's introduction to the wealth and depth of history that surrounded his hometown and then surrounding region.
From there, he continued to study local, regional and mining history, as well as the history of the borderlands.
Shortly after that, in the mid-1980s, the copper industry took one of its periodic dips and Gary left Bisbee to exercise his limited wanderlust, heading off to Phoenix to help found Southwest Contractor magazine. One thing he discovered contributed to his appreciation of history: While most mines had extensive histories that made them interesting on several levels, most construction projects did not.
In about two years, "urban phobia" kicked in and he was out of the city. He spent a couple of years in Douglas as editor of The Daily Dispatch then was off to Safford as editor of the Eastern Arizona Courier. After a couple of years there, the politics bug bit him again. (He had been elected to the Bisbee City Council in 1980, serving one term.)
Back into politics? No, just back to Bisbee
Gary thought he might run for the state Legislature and went so far as taking out petitions and gathering signatures, testing the waters locally and in Phoenix and getting t-shirts printed. But these years came in the wake of the catastrophe of Gov. Evan Mecham's dispute with the establishment, and Gary quickly saw that he wasn't up to the kind of politicking that would be necessary to bring home any perks for his district and thus abandoned the race.
Soon thereafter, he received a call from Epler asking him to return to Bisbee to edit a local newspaper he had started -- in competition with two that already existed in the small city -- the Bisbee Gazette. That would founder in a few years due to the economy and Gary would go back to editing PAY DIRT.
Gary's next foray into the realm of history was the publication of a 16-page booklet called "A Brief History of Bisbee" in 1995. It sold for $1 and sold several thousand copies. Unfortunately, the profit margin was just pennies each, but it became a contribution to Bisbee's ongoing efforts to market its heritage.
Gary had married Margaret in 1993 and one of their early business ventures was printing a tabletop publication for restaurants called The Daily Diner. It included a column on history, which proved exceptionally popular. With the Diner, moreover, came a "printing press," a Gestetner copyprinter that could be used to turn out booklets, including thick covers, as well.
Thus came a book-printing phase of life during which he was able to convert his research into a marketable product, with titles about George Warren, the hapless prospector who is credited with Bisbee's earliest development; the Warren Ballpark, the oldest major-league-scale park in the nation; tales from early Tombstone; and a host of others.
History of the Bisbee Daily Review
By the mid-'90s, Epler died and Gary didn't particularly get along well with the heirs, so he left again, this time to get one of his most interesting jobs. He spent a year writing a centennial history of the Bisbee Daily Review in 1998, turning out two pages of copy and photos each week for 52 weeks that traced some of the important events in Bisbee's history as they were covered by the local newspapers.
This provided a paid gig doing what he gladly would have done for free -- delving for hours on end into the microfilm of the old newspapers in the library at the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum. (During that same time, he joined the board of the museum's parent organization, serving half a decade as its chairman and seeing the beginnings of the great exhibit that evolved from the affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution.)
The time spend in the old newspapers gave Gary an intensive look at the early history of the community and the region, solidifying -- if that needed to be done -- his appreciation of the local story.
Also during the late-'90s, Gary and Margaret would attempt to publish Cochise County History Magazine, but the project survived only a few issues. Like a Phoenix, as well be recounted shortly, it would gain a new life more than a decade later.
During this time Gary also had to opportunity to spread the world about Cochise County and regional history through presentations when he began to lecture for Elderhostel (now Exploritas), a national life-long learning program, originally designed for retirees, through Geronimo Educational Travel.
This led to much exciting work, which continues today, though on a reduced scale. Gary's favorite was "On the Trail of Pancho Villa," a 10-day trip through northern Mexico that led to some out-of-the-way places that few visitors will ever see. It gave him a much deeper understanding of Mexico's culture and history over the past 140 years.
This paved the way to Gary's additional "career" as a speaker on a wide variety of topics of history related to the region and to mining throughout Arizona.
Also at this time, Gary and Margaret began their first ventures into the use of the world wide web, publishing first a site that related to Cochise County history.
Soon thereafter, Gary would return to editing PAY DIRT, part of a more-or-less continuous relationship that has lasted 30 years -- more than half his life.
Radio, then television
For about a decade, Margaret had managed Channel 2, the local origination channel that ran on the local cable network. For the most part during that time, it had been dedicated purely to advertising. (For the historians out there, the Bisbee cable system is the second-oldest in the nation, dating to the late-'40s, needed by the community because the Mule Mountains completely block the signal between Tucson and local antennas.)
But at the turn of the new century, Margaret decided that since the channel ran picture-only ads, with a digital music channel as audio, it would be possible to run a local-origin audio stream on top of that. So they went to a local restaurant, ran a phone cable from microphones sitting at a table, and each Saturday morning did a three-hour interview show, with Gary as the host, on local topics.
The show was an instant hit. I wasn't long until she also discovered that it was simply to hook in an inexpensive video camera and do it as a TV show instead of "radio." To accommodate video, the show moved back to the studio on Bisbee Road and Focus on Bisbee took off, again hosted by Gary (who says he has a "face made for radio.") The show was broadcast live on Fridays and replayed throughout Friday and Saturday. Thomas, who was being home-schooled, was able to serve as cameraman while Margaret ran the editing equipment.
The subsequent acquisition of higher-end video equipment, and learning how to edit video via Adobe Premier, let Gary look for more complex video jobs and was able to produce a variety of projects, including videos for the Mining Museum and the Queen Mine Tour.
Then in late 2009, Margaret decided to follow up on something that they had been discussing for several years -- creation of a county-wide television show. New technologies and the availability of access, at a price, to much of the county through local cable providers, made this possible. Cochise County TV thus saw the light of day in January 2010. Gary serves as a host and as a "consultant" for that show.
Meanwhile, a project Gary had been working on for the better part of a decade, Western Audio History, came to fruition. By year-end 2009, he finally had created his first "spoken word" CD, "A Brief History of Bisbee," which was published in January 2010. He currently is working on a book that will accompany that CD and the second audio history, "The Bisbee Deportation."
At present, Gary also is doing the research to create a book tentatively titled "PR and Marketing for the Micro Nonprofit." This will cover both traditional PR and the use of Web 2.0.
He also continues to serve on the board of directors of the Copper Queen Community Hospital, one of the most forward-looking small hospitals in the nation.
Was born in southern Minnesota and called the tiny town of Truman home where activity centered around the town's library, grocery store, swimming pool and grain silo. Soybeans and corn grew as far as the eye could see and every child was repeatedly warned not to wander into the field because they would never be found. Fully matured corn in that part of the country reaches heights of 10+ feet.
Margaret attended elementary school in Missouri and Texas, where her parents made a nice living farming and cattle, hog and turkey ranching. She claims her first job was patching barbed wire fence and that she learned to drive the hay truck through the fields while her father and brother loaded bales on the bed.
Margaret's Career Began Early
At the age of eight, she began a sales and marketing career with Cheerful House Greeting Cards. Much to her mother's dismay, she slipped the postcard into the mailbox that ordered a free sales kit. It was a success! At age nine her checkbook revealed more than $100 in the bank and a recruit. But, one-too-many doors slammed in her face cooled her enthusiasm by the age of 11.
High School and College
Fenster Ranch Camp and School was Margaret's home during pre-teen years. There, she enjoyed riding horses, swimming, learning to play guitar and archery in the Tucson sunshine. She loved the desert and vowed to someday make her home where the sun shines most days and the temperatures are mild.
Margaret began high school in Clovis, New Mexico but spent only a few months there before moving a half-hour east to Melrose. Margaret's older sister, Marie graduated from Melrose High School in 1978 and the family moved closer to Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, New Mexico. Two years later, Margaret graduated from Portales High School and later attended Eastern New Mexico University.
A Very Young Store Manager
Early sales experience landed her a job in Phoenix, with General Nutrition Center a health food store chain with more than 1,100 outlets nation-wide. She was soon promoted to the youngest GNC store manager and transferred to the newly-built mall in Farmington, New Mexico. The company education programs taught her much about serving others and striving to meet their needs. Soon thereafter, GNC adopted a company-wide policy to hire only those over the age of 25 created a rather awkward situation. Margaret's staff of four was older than she was, but it proved to be doable and the Farmington store ranked #1 or #2 among 20 or so in New Mexico and Arizona.
On to Bisbee
Margaret came to Bisbee, Arizona in 1985 as a young mother of two children, Cassie-age 2 1/2 and Aaron, just 3 months.
In 1990, just before the birth of her third child, Greggory, Margaret began her affiliation with Channel 2 in Bisbee, as a representative for a local newspaper, The Brewery Gulch Gazette, which managed the channel. This was when she learned the value of television advertising over newspaper advertising. Margaret says Channel 2 clients received active feedback about their advertising, while newspaper ads fell flat. But time was running out! In childhood she had promised herself that show would have her own company by the time she was 30.
Prism was Born
Prism Communications was founded in May 1991. Early-on it served the Bisbee-Naco communities as a sort-of advertising agency. Margaret spent long hours counseling business owners about basic concepts including developing their marketing and advertising budgets/ and strategies and identifying their customer.
Prism's scope of services also included representation of 22 different media; newspapers, radio stations, magazines, etc.
The fledgling company acquired The Daily Diner; a publication that graced restaurant table-tops and entertained customers in eateries in Bisbee, Naco, Elfrida and Tombstone. For about 5 years, it was Prism's main focus, then was sold and the new owners carried on for most of a decade before retiring themselves and the business.
Back to Channel 2
Channel 2 was no longer leased out but was instead managed by a cable company employee and was lacking in paid advertising. Prism Communications acquired management in 1995. Other CableOne system managers noted the success of Channel 2 in Bisbee and entered into contracts with Margaret to create, market and manage all aspects of Channel 6 in Safford and Channel 2 in Globe Arizona Prism Communications served both communities until the economy and demand for the cable company to expand services took priority. Both channels were reallocated by CableOne in the spring of 2010.
Over the years, Margaret speaks of community channels as reflections of the people. "Managing Channel 2" she says, "is a balance of retaining the flavor of the area while incorporating new material and technology to help insure its survival in ever-changing times and economies."
The Team-Margaret, Gary and Thomas
Margaret met Gary while both were employed by The Brewery Gulch Gazette. Gary is the voice of reason and author of business strategy and ideas while Margaret brings them to life. The two were married and Thomas, the youngest of four siblings, was born in August 1993. Thomas attends Cochise College, has his sites set on an art career and serves as a valuable member of the Prism Team.
Prism Communications is constantly evolving! Margaret, along with her husband, Gary have led the company into book and magazine publishing, writing and marketing. One such venture was Cochise County History Magazine that lasted for just four issues before the two realized that such a grand undertaking requires a staff of more than two. Gary, then wrote a dozen 28-32 page booklets on local history while Margaret and children assembled and distributed them throughout Cochise County.
Gary's passion and expertise in local history influences the business plan of Prism. History Lectures are still mentioned by visitors who winter at Turquoise Valley Golf Course and RV Park. Spring of 2006 and '07, Gary entertained upwards of 50 guests with an 8-week series about The Mexican Revolution, The Bisbee Massacre, Tombstone, Cochise, The History of Cochise County and more.
Serving the Community
Channel 2 host of Cochise County Association for the Handicapped since 1962 ?
Chamber of Commerce President and Board
Prism publisher of Bisbee Chamber Newsletter
Boys and Girls Club Telethon
Produced Museum Exhibit Videos
Boys and Girls Club Board
Channel 2 finds lost pets and offers community PSAsSocial Media and Online Marketing for SBDC and BBB