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Alumni Happenings - July 2005
Grand County High School

David Lance and Dina Johnson Lance
GCHS Alumni
by Jeff Richards

Longtime Moab residents Dina Johnson Lance and her husband David Lance graduated from Grand County High School 1978 and 1981, respectively. Dina is a language arts teacher at Grand County Middle School, while David does custodial and maintenance work at Grand County High.

Dina taught 3rd grade at Red Rock Elementary School for several years before switching to the middle school a couple of years ago. “It was a bit of a cultural adjustment,” she says of the change. “But 8th-graders are just like 3rd-graders -- they’re just in bigger bodies.”

Dina’s oldest two children are already in college. Son Jestin Darbonne, 22, graduated from GCHS in 2001 and is now attending college in Ogden, studying architectural design. Daughter Anna Darbonne, 20, graduated from GCHS in 2003 and recently completed her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Westminster College in Salt Lake (she earned her associates degree concurrently with her high school diploma). Anna is now back working in Moab, recently taking a position with Four Corners Mental Health.

Dina also has two teenage sons, both of whom will attend GCHS in the fall. Donnie, 17, will be a senior and Luke, 14, will be a freshman. Donnie plans to graduate early and leave in February 2006 to attend Wyotech in Laramie, Wyo. and study auto mechanics.

In addition to Dina’s four older children, she and David have a son together, Hayden Lance, a 3-year-old diaper-clad toddler who enjoys playing with cars and trucks.

“We keep pretty busy around here,” says Dina, nonetheless relishing her much-appreciated summer break. She and David recently moved their former home off its foundation to one of their rental properties off Millcreek Drive. For the past three weeks, they’ve been trying to remodel the trailer home that took its place. Eventually, they plan to construct a log house on the west side of their property.

“We’re doing everything on our own,” says Dina of the home construction projects that have left their living quarters - just south of the old Murphy homestead on Murphy Lane - in a bit of disarray.

Dina notes that she and David are both descended from pioneer families that have lived here for generations. “My mother’s a Murphy and my dad’s a Johnson,” Dina notes. “Their families have lived here in the Moab area since 1887.”

After finishing high school, David worked in the auto body business for nearly two decades, working at a variety of shops before running his own for about five years. Finally, he closed that one and went to work for the school district as a swing-shift custodian. In addition to managing rental properties (both business and residential) with Dina, he still manages to do a little auto body work on the side. He’s currently restoring a 1960s Ford Mustang for an acquaintance.

“We both have very similar interests,” says David of his and Dina’s hobbies. They share a love for woodworking, and always have several projects under way. They also enjoy being outdoors, where they like to camp and fish.

Both were actively involved in activities while attending GHCS. Dina played JV basketball and David was the school’s Sterling Scholar in vocational education. Dina’s older children have also been involved in various sports and activities: Jestin played football and soccer, Anna was on the drill team, and Luke plans to wrestle in high school.

Dina says she attended college in California, but didn’t complete her degree until several years later, after she had moved back to Moab. “I always wanted to be a teacher, but at first I wanted to be a band or music teacher,” she says. “But then my interest turned to computer science for awhile. Also, writing has always been a passion of mine - I love to write children’s literature.”

Dina eventually settled on elementary education, taking classes through the USU extension office in Moab until she became a certified elementary teacher. A couple of years ago, she passed a test that allowed her to switch to secondary education.

“Teaching is a hard job,” she acknowledges. “But it’s extremely rewarding. That’s why I’m doing this - I like the kids. I remember what it’s like to be in junior high school.”

Both David and Dina have fond memories of several of their middle school and high school teachers, many of whom still live in Moab.

“Al Heaton was a favorite for both of us,” says David. “We both took wood shop all four years of high school.”

Another favorite teacher of David’s was Mark Knowley, whose welding expertise helped David launch his career in auto body work. “Also, Donna Brownell, who just retired, I had her when she was first starting out as a teacher. then this year, her final year at Grand County High, I had the chance to get reacquainted with her,” says David. “I sort of followed her career from beginning to end.”

One of Dina’s favorite high school teachers was English teacher Darwin Gilger. “He was just a good friend - someone you could talk to,” recalls Dina.

Dina also enjoyed P.E. and geography teacher Ron Pierce for his “good sense of humor.”

Dina remembers going with Coach Pierce on a lengthy driver’s ed. road session, when she drove as far as the Needles District in Canyonlands National Park, only to notice that the gas gauge was on empty. “He got after me for not checking the gauge before we left town,” she recalls. “I don’t know how we made it all the way back to Moab, but somehow we did.”

Other favorite teachers include Obid Hamblin and Jim Walker, both of whom also still live in Moab. “That’s one of the positive things about going to school in a small town like Moab,” Dina observes. “Our teachers that we had in school are our friends now. We just have all these good hometown relationships.”

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