By John Hernandez
Darrell Klesch has been a stonemason for 30 years and it is no coincidence that when the Oracle Oaks Committee decided to make their theme Oracle Rocks!, he would be named as the Grand Marshal for this year’s parade.
Klesch’s rock work can be seen all over Oracle in residential projects of patios, retaining walls, fountain features, steps and more through his company, Oracle Stoneworks. Those that have been to Biosphere 2, Sabino Canyon, Molino and Madera Canyon, or up to Mount Lemmon have seen his work.
He was working steadily for Biosphere 2 for 10 years when abruptly everyone was kicked out and the work stopped. He said he had not prepared himself for this and had no money or crew.
While sitting at home, a picture of his mother fell off the wall. He watched as a “little cotton angel” floated down and landed on the photo of his mother. Klesche looked at the photograph and said “Mom, I need a job.”
The next day, the Forest Service called him about some projects and he has been working ever since. Klesch give some credit to Roberto Chavez and Eddie Lerma, who he says have been instrumental in the forest projects.
At Sabino Canyon, Darrel and his crew have built some stone restrooms and rock walls. In Madera Canyon, the crew camped out for eight months, completing 500 flagstone steps and rock walls. They have done work along Catalina Highway and Mount Lemmon, including a 250-foot wall at Aspen View and rock work for the Gordon Hirabayashi monument on Mt. Lemmon. Gordon Hirabayashi was a Japanese American sent to the Federal prison camp on Mt. Lemmon during World War II because he chose to challenge the relocation and internment of Japanese Americans.
Oracle Stoneworks has done some civic projects including rock walls at the Oracle Union Church, a patio at the Acadia Ranch Museum and the “Goddesses of Oracle” monument dedicated to women, located across the street from the Acadia. Klesch calls himself an unlicensed rock artist, saying that as a young man trying to find his way in life, he spent time visiting the artists at Rancho Linda Vista.
“I was influenced by Linda Vista artists only my art is heavy and three dimensional,” he said.
Klesch was raised in Bonne Terre, Missouri. In 1959, he moved to San Manuel to live with his mother’s sister’s family. He graduated from San Manuel High School in 1965 and attended the University of Arizona for two years.
He was then drafted into the United States Army where as an infantry man, he was sent to Vietnam. In 1973, he moved to Oracle. He is an environmentalist and activist that has fought to keep Oracle from being overrun by high-density developers.
He was a docent at Oracle State Park for 20 years where he was an environmental educator and was a founding member of the Oracle Historical Society over 30 years ago. He helped create the San Pedro Actors Troupe (SPATS) and acted for many years in their plays. He was the co-founder of the Oracle Run and has been the Race Director for a number of years. This is one of the oldest continuous races in southern Arizona having celebrated 30 years of running last year.
Klesch has two daughters that he is very proud of: Erina, who is now married, and Autumn, who will be teaching elementary school. He is a rabid Wildcat fan and enjoys running and sports. Look for him in the parade. If he has his way, he will probably be riding in the back of a truck loaded with rocks.