Charlene Cox Cruz
Charlene Cruz, 72, of Las Vegas, passed away March 6, 2014. She was born Sept. 19, 1941, in Las Vegas. She was a member of LDS, DAR and DUP. She was a tour guide, spiritual counselor, art, calligraphy and music teacher. Char was also part Cherokee/Algonquin and, in Nevada, Elder for the Kaweah Nation. Her achievements included Tour Guide of the Decade, Nevada State Literary Award, American Mothers Association of Nevada, National Music Teachers Association, co-chair of Nevada Women's History Project, American School of Japanese Arts, Women of Achievement finalist in arts, Golden Gleaner Award, Old Spanish Trail Association, National League of Penwomen, American Society Dowsers, Friends of Red Rock, UNLV instructor and 631 Teamster.
Char's Story: (As written by Char before she passed.)
"Char" and the City of Las Vegas grew up together. Her parents were living at "Vegas Camp"in 1941 when she was born. There were 8,000 people in the valley. They built their first home where the present day Stratosphere Tower now stands, at the beginning of the fabulous Las Vegas Strip. The year she was born, the first resort hotel was built. WWII had brought the military to the area and from that dynamic era on, there was a growing love affair between this young lady and an emerging metropolis. Her family goes back four generations. In 1855, her great-grandfather helped with the first settlement in Las Vegas. Her great-grandmother became the first school teacher in Clark County. Her grandparents helped build the first railroad station in 1905, (the year Las Vegas became a city). Her parents began trucking and road building operations in 1927 as the Boulder Canyon Project began (Hoover Dam). They built many of the first roads in Nevada, Utah, Arizona and California, including HWY 91. Char retains her father's I.C.C. permit, the first ever issued in the State of Nevada.
With a father in the construction business and a beautiful mother (usually dressed in satin and lace), she was introduced to a world of ballet, piano, road construction and mining. A stream of blue construction language was as natural to her ear as the language of classical music. She grew up through a childhood of dreams and dirt. Practicing her dancing on the flat bed of a diesel truck, tripping her fingers over the keyboard of an old upright piano from the Red Rooster Bar, driving her Dad's heavy equipment through the desert and listening to the songs of the wind through the cottonwood trees. Being born the same year as the arrival of the mafia and the military has provided some very interesting history.
She was fortunate to have experienced the freedom and harmony of a clean desert environment while riding horseback through the mesquite and creosote. She grew to appreciate the untouched beauty of areas like Redrock, Valley of Fire and Mt. Charleston. She swam in pools of natural artsian water at the old ranch and twin lakes and the concrete pools of the first hotels on the Strip. She attended the opening of Bugsy's famous Flamingo Hotel in 1946 with her mother and father, saw Elvis' first appearance in 1956, caught the Beatles on their world tour and grew up listening to old-timers tell of the history and beauty of the west through stories and songs.
Now a wide variety of events round out her week including workshops, commissioned art and calligraphy work, business meetings and touring our visitors around Las Vegas, through the Mojave Desert, and into canyonlands, ghost towns and Indian sites around the area. Proud of her heritage, Char enjoys providing professional tour services for the many delegates and visitors that arrive here. Her love of the land is apparent as she shares her special perspective of southern Nevada, Indian cultures and legends. She is a storyteller and is recording many of these stories in written form as her legacy to Las Vegas. As part of the Nevada Womens History Project, she profiles of some of her ancestors through oral storytelling and cowboy- style poetry. Many of these original poems she then puts to music.
Her achievements number many including Nevada State Literary Award, Past President of American Mothers Association of Nevada, member in the National Music Teachers Association (music teacher for 25 years), founding member of The American School of Japanese Arts, Women of Achievement Finalist in Arts, Golden Gleaner Award, Co-Chair of the Nevada Womens History Project, and active member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, member of the Old Spanish Trail Association and member of 631 teamsters. Her art has been exhibited in galleries and museums in many western states and she has been elected into the National League of Penwomen of America in the catagory of art.
As a teacher, her classes range from keyboard and calligraphic arts, to history of southern Nevada and the Mojave Desert. She is a docent with Friends of Red Rock. Pioneering calligraphy classes in Las Vegas, she began teaching in 1980 at UNLV. While her classes are sprinkled with humor and constant encouragement, they reveal a no-nonsense attitude toward her craft she refers to as the "zen of learning." She has created a movingly personal art form wihch bounces with the spontaneous freedom of oriental brush and watercolor and the discipline of traditional calligraphic hands. Her provocative poetry, written in a simple and powerful style reminiscent of Japanese Haiku, brings additional depth to the work. Her life's work is called "Earth Mark" in reverence to her Indian name. She produces her own line of greeting cards and publishes stories and poetry. Her fine art has a freshness and directness which is truly expressive of the beauty and clarity of the dramatic desert environment she loves so much.
Her Indian heritage (CherokeeAlgonquin), has given her a deep respect of the earth and love of storytelling. These attributes bring an enjoyable dimension to her tours and art. She is a registered member of the northern Tsalage Nation in Virginia, holds membership and is presiding Elder in Nevada for the Kaweah Nation, representing all Native Americans in the western states. She is also a minister with the Native American Church.
Char is an indefatigable worker with a strong perchant for perfection and personal integrity which expresses itself in both her art and personal life. She is a licensed minister and performs weddings and other ceremonies. Her beautiful family includes 2 sons, two daughters four grandchildren and with the birth of her first great-granddaughter, the circle of seven has been created in the Las Vegas Valley. They will always be at the center of her heart.
Char brings to her audience a profound knowledge of regional history and human nature. Acting in all things with an overview of wide experience and keen vision. She is a perceptive participant in the process of living and giving of herself.