The Oklahoman has named Stroud resident Dawn Welch, owner of the Rock Cafe, Oklahoma’s 2009 Woman of the Year.
In 2008, Welch watched helplessly as the historic cafe, which she has owned since 1993, burn down. A year and nine days later, in May, she triumphantly reopened the Route 66 landmark. (In the meantime, the ever-busy Welch published a cookbook.)
The Rock Cafe has been around for 70 years, and it is one of Stroud’s top attractions and an immense source of community pride. The community has experienced a decade of hard times since it was ravaged in the May 1999 tornado that destroyed the town’s Tanger outlet mall, and it could ill afford to lose a landmark like the Rock Cafe.
Welch not only saw that the cafe was rebuilt, she is again filling the walls with community memorabilia, from newspaper clippings about the high school football team to artwork from customers.
She recently got some help filling the wall space from Pixar chief John Lasseter, who based the Porsche character Sally from his 2006 film “Cars” on Welch after meeting her on his Route 66 travels. Lasseter recently sent Welch a box of new “Cars” stuff to replace what burned in the fire.
Oklahoma country music star Carrie Underwood was among the five finalists for Oklahoma Woman of the Year. The 2005 “American Idol” winner experienced a breakout year musically, winning the Academy of Country Music’s entertainer of the year title, notching her third straight chart-topping album with “Play On” and earning a place in the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. But she also started the Checotah Animal, Town and School Foundation to facilitate her charitable efforts in her hometown. Her first act with the foundation was to donate $117,000 in musical instruments to Checotah Public Schools.
The other finalists are Ree Drummond, the blogger and cookbook author known as the Pioneer Woman; Darcie Harris, who helps train women entrepreneurs from war-torn countries in business practices; and Brenda McDaniel, the active and influential first lady at Oklahoma City University.
To read more about the Oklahoma Woman of the Year and the finalists, click here.
And many congratulations to all five.