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January-February 2018

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In Memoriam: Joe Ana Ruiz, Arizona Collector (1924–2017)

Joe Ruiz was a self-taught amateur mineralogist who loved to look for new and interesting minerals. He spent many happy hours with his microscope, carefully examining specimens that he brought back from local collecting trips or that were given to him to study by other collectors. Joe enjoyed discussing his discoveries with friends and fellow collectors and encouraged them to better understand their minerals. He is best remembered by many for his persistent and careful study of the minerals that interested him, his love for the mineralogy of Tiger, Arizona, and his devotion to family.

Joe was born in Sonora, Arizona, a small town in Pinal County that has since been mined out by the big Ray open-pit copper mine. He received his bachelor's degree in pharmacy from the University of Arizona while working underground at the Ray mine. He served with the U.S. Marines during World War II and then again in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean conflict. Joe settled in Mammoth, Arizona, where he owned the local pharmacy and was active with the local school board and in the Democratic Party and also served as mayor, town magistrate, and then justice of the peace for many years.

Joe was as skilled in providing wisdom from the bench as he was in dispensing health advice from the drugstore. Many of his customers were workers from the Ray, Mammoth, and San Manual mines who brought him mineral specimens that eventually sparked a keen interest in mineralogy. Joe had already been dabbling in mining claims and mining exploration in the Mammoth area. An avid hunter of both animals and minerals, he came to know the mountains around Mammoth “like the back of his hand,” so much so, in fact, that he could relate the history of many of the old mines and prospects scattered throughout those mountains.

His interest in mining exploration led to a long partnership with Robert A. Jenkins and Sid Williams. Jenkins is a geologist and avid mineral collector whom he met while Bob was exploring for large copper deposits in the Copper Creek area for Phelps Dodge Mining Company. Sid Williams was a renowned mineralogist and petrologist who also worked for Phelps Dodge. Their mutual interest grew into a lifelong friendship and expanded Joe's mineral fraternity to include many noted mineralogists. Thus, when he found unusual minerals, he had a way to have them examined by experts.

Joe was an excellent observer and this, combined with his knowledge of chemistry from his days in pharmacy school, led him to understand the importance of mineral associations. He is credited with, and/or partnered in, the discovery of several new mineral species from the Christmas mine in Gila County, Arizona, including gilalite, apachite, junitoite, and, of course, ruizite, which, was named in his honor.

Ruizite, CaMn+3(SiO3)2(OH)·2H2O, monoclinic, orange to brownish crystals associated with kinoite, apophyllite, and others, at Christmas Mine, Gila County, Arizona (Williams and Duggan 1977).

Joe then developed a particular love for minerals from the nearby Mammoth–St. Anthony mine at Tiger. The mine is world renowned for its beautiful specimens as well as a wide variety of rare and unusual species. He was always on the lookout for interesting specimens from Tiger that might contain some of these rare minerals. Because of his careful study of old specimens, he was involved in the discovery of several new species including macquartite and bobmeyerite. Although an avid collector of Tiger minerals, he remained disappointed that he never found additional samples of bideauxite or yedlinite, but he did find a number of specimens containing the rare minerals pinalite and georgerobinsonite.

Joe will be remembered for his factual knowledge of mineralogy, especially of the minerals from Tiger, the Christmas mine, and the many localities he explored around Mammoth and throughout southwestern Arizona. He was always available to look at a collector's “new” mineral and help determine its identity. Joe was responsible for a number of additions to the minerals found in Arizona including arsendescloizite, namibite, beyerite, stringhamite, vésigniéite, and surite. A font of knowledge about local localities and minerals, Joe shared both with his friends, often collecting flats of material and giving much of it away after having thoroughly studied it. On field trips, besides his excitement and good humor, he was especially known for the end-of-day treats he pulled out of his cooler: margaritas and mojitos! Joe was another proponent of the phrase “buy a good hand lens and use it.” Joe was a member of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society as well as the Flagg Foundation, and he could always be found exploring the dealer booths at their shows, searching for an overlooked rare mineral from Tiger.

Joe is survived by his wife, Rosa, and four sons, three daughters, and many grandchildren. He passed on his love for mineralogy to his son Efren.

REFERENCES

Mitchell, R. S. 1982. Minerals named for persons associated with mineralogy and geology in Arizona, Rocks & Minerals 57 (1): 11–17.

Williams, S. A., and M. Duggan. 1977. Ruizite, a new silicate mineral from Christmas, Arizona. Mineralogical Magazine 41:429–32.

 

Robert A. Jenkins is an exploration geologist for Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold and has been a collector of rare and unusual minerals since childhood.

Ron Gibbs is a retired mining engineer, a longtime mineral collector, and currently a research associate and volunteer at the University of Arizona Mineral Museum in Tucson.

 

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