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Mon, Nov. 18

Williams: Is Prescott the world’s hometown?

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that people from around the world — and from some of the most unexpected places — find a new home in Prescott and its surrounding towns. Some of my past columns have profiled folks from England, South Africa and East Germany. My wife and I also knew a Scottish fellow and his South Korean wife who selected Prescott as their retirement town when they could have settled in any of a number of places around the globe.

When I met Nailya, who is a member of my table tennis club in town, I had no choice but to ask questions about where she came from and about her life prior to coming to the States.

I’ll have to admit, I’ve had two challenges with Nailya. The first has been facing her as a table tennis competitor. Despite the fact that she is slim in stature and may not exceed 100 pounds in weight, she is the human equivalent of the Energizer Bunny when she has a pingpong paddle in her hand. She attacks the ball and her opponent with a consistent vitality for hours at a time. I remember surviving basic training in the Army. Seeing Nailya at the other end of a ping- pong table reminds me of those relentlessly arduous days of dawn-to-dusk depletion.

The second challenge that Nailya represents is attempting to pronounce her last name: Almagambetova. Through rigorous repetition, I’ve learned to spell her name, but I will not attempt to pronounce it in this column.

Nailya grew up in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan, and earned her MD there. She served her endocrinology residency in Moscow, Russia. In addition to endocrinology, as a physician she also practiced internal medicine and cardiology. Additionally, she earned a medical clinical sciences PhD in Moscow and a second PhD in social science at Syracuse University. She then taught pathophysiology and various public heath courses at Northern Illinois University. She also taught at Syracuse and Upper Iowa Universities.

I’m not sure Nailya had a choice in selecting her profession. Her dad was a surgeon, her mother was an obstetrician/gynecologist, her sister was a medical rehabilitation specialist, as were her uncles, an aunt and several cousins. I take it there wasn’t a single insurance salesperson in her whole family!

She came to the United States in 2000 so her son could receive education to become a computer engineer. There might have been some subtle family pressure to consider a medical career, but he was insistent. He graduated with a PhD in computer and electrical engineering and is currently teaching at Embry Riddle University here in Prescott.

A number of years ago, Nailya encountered some health issues which encouraged her to move from Illinois to Prescott to be nearer to her son and to her two granddaughters.

I wasn’t surprised that during her recovery from a brain stem tumor rupture, she decided to learn guitar and to take up tap dancing — and, of course, table tennis. I also wouldn’t be surprised if she decided to sign up for bronco busting at the rodeo next year.

Every once in a while, we each meet folks who have a stunning depth of life experience and talent. How would we know about their depth if we’re not curious about them? What a loss to us if we aren’t.

The newspaper doesn’t give me enough space to chronicle the rest of Nailya’s accomplishments.

I’m thankful Nailya Almagambetova chose to join the Tri-City Table Tennis Club and that I had the opportunity to meet her. On the other hand, I’m not so thankful every time she fires a high-speed forehand slam past me at the pingpong table.

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