Valerie and Rusty
Russell “Rusty” Tangren,
a member of Grand County High School’s “bicentennial” Class
of 1976, and his wife Dianna were proud to attend their
daughter Valerie’s commencement ceremony at GCHS
Valerie, 18, is the fourth of Rusty and Dianna’s
six children, all of whom either have attended or will
attend GCHS. Older sisters Nichole (Class of 2000), Natalie
(2003), and Sarah (2005) are all GCHS graduates. Valerie’s
younger brother Spencer just completed his freshman year
and will be a 10th-grader in the fall, while youngest brother
Joshua will be a 9th-grader.
Valerie participated in various sports and activities throughout
high school. She played soccer all four years, and also
was on the track team her first two years. She also did
basketball and cross-country as a sophomore.
“I decided to focus on soccer after my sophomore
year, because I had a lot more going on,” recalls
Valerie, a member of the National Honor Society. Outside
of school, Valerie has worked as a busser and hostess at
the Sunset Grill for the past three years. She plans to
work there through the summer before moving to Cedar City
in the fall, where she’ll attend Southern Utah University.
She plans to major in elementary education. “I love
working with little children,” says Valerie, who
also has years of babysitting experience.
Valerie views her high school experience as a positive
one, and feels she received a well-rounded education at
GCHS. “There’s lots of classes that I wouldn’t
normally have taken,” she says, citing ceramics,
jewelry, and even Mr. Ron Dolphin’s U.S. government
class. “Politics doesn’t interest me at all,
but I really learned a lot in that class,” she adds.
Valerie and her dad even had one high school teacher in
common – science teacher Ray Olsen, who retired a
couple years ago after a long career in Grand County schools.
Rusty, himself a fourth child, grew up in Moab and is the
son of Clair and Gayle Tangren, both of whom still live
in the Moab area. Rusty’s older brother Kay C. was
five years older than him, and another five years separated
Rusty and youngest sibling Brent, meaning that Rusty didn’t
attend high school at the same time as any of his siblings.
Rusty enjoyed hanging out with his high school
classmates, including David Knutson, Kevin Harmison,
and Doug Holyoak, all of whom remain close friends
today. He recalls working at his dad’s auto
body shop after school, where he learned to do
auto body work and auto mechanics, which he has
continued to do as a hobby or as side work over
Rusty also enjoys hiking and jogging, and has run in a
number of local distance races, including the Canyonlands
Half Marathon. (Rusty ran on the track team in high school,
specializing in the half mile run.) Showing his artistic
side, Rusty also enjoys welding and shaping metal sculptures.
After graduating from GCHS in 1976, Rusty spent two years
in Germany serving a full-time mission for the LDS Church.
Upson returning, he enrolled at Brigham Young University
in Provo, where he majored in civil engineering.
His first year at BYU, he met his future wife Dianna Dodson,
a fellow BYU student who had grown up in Riverside, Calif. “I
didn’t want to go out with him at first, just because
his name was Rusty, which I thought was this hick name,
and I was this California beach girl,” recalls Dianna.
“I even told my roommate that I would go with Rusty’s
roommate instead, but then she said his name was ‘Jed’,” adds
Dianna with a laugh.
Rusty and Dianna were married in Manti in December of 1980.
They continued to live in the Provo area for the next five
years until Rusty graduated with his masters degree from
BYU in December of 1985. Rusty then got a job working as
an engineer for the Utah Department of Transportation.
He first worked in the main UDOT office in Salt Lake for
a year or so, then the family moved to Moab for a couple
of years while Rusty transferred to a UDOT position in
Green River. He then went back to work in Salt Lake for
another couple of years before leaving UDOT to work for
The Tangren family then lived in the small town of Howell
(north of Tremonton, Utah) for five years while Rusty worked
for Thiokol. Then, an engineering position in Moab finally
opened within UDOT, and Rusty returned to work for them
in the fall of 1994. Early the following year, the Tangrens
moved into their current home in Spanish Valley, where
they’ve resided ever since.
Rusty and Dianna have been doing more than usual share
of gardening and yard work these days, as the family is
trying to get things looking nice for two upcoming wedding
receptions they’re hosting this summer. Daughter
Sarah is marrying Trevor Knutson (son of Rusty’s
lifelong pal David) in late June, while oldest daughter
Nichole will wed Matt Irish (GCHS Class of 2001) in early
September. Nichole and Matt currently reside in Moab and
have two boys: Trentyn, 4, and Justyn, 18 months.
Natalie Tangren recently graduated with a bachelors degree
in accounting from Utah State University in Logan. Right
after her USU graduation last month, she and dad Rusty
went on a trip back east to visit New England, Niagara
Falls, Gettysburg, and other significant sites. Natalie
will soon be living and working in Boise, Idaho.
Meantime, Spencer and Josh plan to work around the house
during the summer. Josh plans to go out for Red Devil football
in the fall, and both boys plan to play high school soccer
in the spring.
After moving around a lot the first 14 years of their marriage,
Rusty and Dianna say they’re glad to have finally
settled down here in Moab. “We’ve always loved
small towns,” says Rusty, noting that even while
he was working in Salt Lake they lived in American Fork. “We
like it back here in Moab because we’re close to
family and friends, and the kids have the opportunity to
grow up and go to school here.”