TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The mystery behind a miniature masterpiece of western art has been solved. As I showed you last week, there is a unique, one-of-a-kind, mini old-west town on display at the Tucson Rodeo Parade Museum on the south side.
No one knew anything about the people who built it, other than their first names - Paul and Wilma. A viewer gave me their last name and that led me on a journey to find out more.
"I was blown away. I didn't think my wife and I would ever be able to see it again," Monty Derting wiped away tears as he gazed upon the mini town his dad spent 17 years building.
For his wife, Deborah, it's like reliving the past, "As I'm looking at this I can see him laboring over it," she said referring to her father-in-law Paul, "For me to see Monty see this again, was very emotional. Very emotional."
It's a trip down memory lane for Monty and Deborah. Monty says the town was a true labor of love for his dad, "it was his passion. He was the maker and builder and my mother was the painter. His passion was scale and detail as you can tell by looking at this town."
Paul started building the town in his garage in Tucson in 1971, working on it for 17 years until cancer forced him to stop in 1988. Sadly, he lost his battle in 1990. "He was the kindest, most gentle man you'd ever meet. My mother was tough. She was the one that cracked the whip," said Derting.
Wilma passed away in 2005 and that's when Monty and Deborah donated the family treasure to the Tucson Children's Museum for the kids to see. It was on display for a short time at the Children's museum, but it was too fragile to play with, so it was stored away for more than 10 years.
It was nearly forgotten until someone found the pieces and called the Tucson Rodeo Parade Museum in 2012. Time had taken its toll as volunteers, like Bernice Anderson, pulled all the pieces out from 20 boxes, "It was really difficult because these (figurines) are glass and they broke so easily. We had to glue a lot of things."
For almost a half year, parade museum volunteers spent countless hours bringing the old west town back to life. Monty is thankful for their passion and attention to detail, "(I need) my tissue." Seeing it again is emotional for Derting. "Yeah because the time they put into it. The love and affection. Their love of the desert, the western culture."
His wife Deborah feels the same gratitude, "It's just wonderful. I can't tell you. I was just so thrilled when you called me. I was just blown away. Just blown away. Thank you so much. I thank you so much for taking the interest to see this and take an interest and look us up. I can't tell you how much it means to me."
Interested in visiting the Tucson Parade Museum and seeing the miniature western town in person, head on over to 4823 South 6th Avenue on the northeast corner of 6th Avenue and Irvington Road.
Click here for times and information on private tours once the museum closes for the season.