VERDE VALLEY - Joe Vogel has had a lifelong passion for flying.
But it took him 70 years to spot his first Native American ruin from the sky.
"To use the airplane to search for and photograph Indian ruins was natural after I moved to Prescott," says Vogel, 85.
With archaeologist Dr. David Wilcox and avocational archaeologist Judy Taylor at his side, Vogel flew his 1958 Beechcraft Bonanza over the Agua Fria National Monument on the morning of Aug. 2, 1999.
Not Wilcox's first time at the historic site, he knew of several ruins. After the trio had spotted some familiar remains, Wilcox suggested they fly up a canyon on the east end of the monument.
"Then we saw a ruin David had never seen," Vogel says. "It was my first time, so I hadn't seen it either. David was so excited, he almost jumped out of the airplane.
"That started it all," Vogel says.
Since his inaugural trip searching for ruins, Vogel has photographed more than 900 sites and has found variances to the landscape that have led to the identification of prehistoric sites. This commitment to avocational archaeology is why Vogel will receive the Verde Valley Archaeology Center's first Sherman Loy Memorial Award at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 30, at Cliff Castle Casino Hotel.
Loy's family was one of the Verde Valley's founding families. According to Jim Graceffa, president of the VVAC Board of Directors, Loy was protective of all sites in the area.
"He was a big part of the preservation of sites in the Verde Valley," Graceffa says. "To honor him, we can do this award each year and also honor an avocational archaeologist. This award honors two people at one time. They have done a lot for the Verde Valley."
Each year, VVAC will present the award to an avocational archaeologist for protecting and promoting the archaeological heritage of the Verde Valley. For Vogel, it is an honor he humbly says he may not deserve.
"There are quite a few people who work a lot harder at this than I do," he says. "Sherman Loy must be given a lot of credit for setting up this annual award to recognize and encourage avocational archaeologists."
Maybe Vogel underestimates his contributions to the documentation of Verde Valley's archaeological history. But Wilcox recognizes the efforts and appreciates the photographic collection and database the Prescott resident has donated to the Arizona State Museum in Tucson.
"The diversity of the sites he's recorded has helped give us a more realistic understanding of this diversity," Wilcox says. "And Joe is a remarkable pilot, the kind of guy who I like to say can chew gum and ride a bicycle at the same time. He has a remarkable ability to do many things at the same time. It takes great skill and knowledge."
VVAC will also host a presentation on the importance of aerial photography in archaeology. Vogel will show some of his aerial photography, and Dr. Wilcox will talk about Vogel's contributions to the discovery and preservation of archaeological sites.
For more information about the Verde Valley Archaeology Center, call (928) 567-0066. VVAC is a non-profit Arizona corporation consisting of professional and avocational archaeologists dedicated to preserve archaeological sites and collections.