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She rides a tractor in local parades

posted Feb 13, 2015, 4:12 PM by Joyce Evans   [ updated Feb 18, 2015, 4:19 PM by Richard D'Ascoli ]
You might know Debi Ciolfe (last name is pronounced cho-FEE) as the recent recipient of the PSAR Affiliate of the Year award representing East County.
Debi, an escrow officer with El Cajon-based Oak Tree Escrows, Inc., also will be teaching PSAR members this year about zipForms 6, an enhanced version of the real estate industry’s leading forms software for contracts and other real estate transactions and business activities. The zipForms software, the official forms software of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), can increase productivity and help complete real estate contracts more efficiently while reducing risk.
But did you know that Debi has appeared in numerous local parades riding a restored 1948 Ford 8N tractor? A familiar sight in farm country, the N-series tractors made by Ford Motor Co. between 1939 and 1952, spanned the 9N, 2N and 8N models. The 8N models, introduced in July 1947, featured more power and an improved transmission and is regarded the most popular farm tractor of all time in North America.
Debi and her tractor have appeared at parades in Julian, Pine Valley, Alpine, Ramona, Lakeside, Poway and Vista at the Bates Nut Farm. The tractor was restored over a three-year span by her husband Tony. They are members of the Early Day Gas Engine and Tractor Association, Branch 22, of Campo.
Born at Travis Air Force base in Fairfield, Calif., Debi grew up in El Cajon and attended Emerald Middle School and Granite Hills High School (class of 1971). At age 13, she started working at H. Salt Esq. Authentic English Fish and Chips, a fast-food restaurant on Second Street in El Cajon. She continued working there at nights after working escrow in the daytime until age 24. “I was the fastest fish-wrapper in the county,” Debi said. “They sent me to other stores to train employees.”
At age 18, after graduating from high school, she heard about a job opening at an escrow company. “I had no clue what escrow meant,” said Debi. “But a friend told me to say in the job interview that escrow is a neutral third-party between the buyer and seller. I didn’t know what those words meant, but I said them and they gave me the job. In those days, we used typewriters and carbon paper.”
Debi is now in her 43rd year of working in the escrow industry. She joined Oak Tree Escrow in 2011. Previously, she had spent four years as county escrow manager with American Coast Title. “When I left the title company, I thought I was retiring, but I missed work too much,” Debi said.
At her 50th birthday party, held June 5, 2004, at the Lakeside Historical Society building, Debi and Tony’s friends were surprised when the event became a wedding ceremony officiated by a minister. “We planned it ahead of time as a good occasion to get married,” said Debi.
Tony and Debi had known each other for 30 years, including one date about 20 years earlier. For many years, Debi was a single mom raising her daughter Courtney, who today lives in Argyle, Texas, with her family, including Debi’s two grandchildren, ages 8 and 11. Tony is a retired electrician and a skilled craftsman. He assembled several stage props for PSAR’s recent Unfashion and Variety Show, including a yellow submarine made from PVC pipes and an empty 55-gallon barrel, a cut-out of a low-rider car and acrylic plexiglass cylinders with aluminum red and silver streamers to resemble fire flames.
A licensed antique appraiser, Debi enjoys collecting Americana antiques, including items with the Aunt Jemina image and farm equipment, some of which is stored at her parents’ 60-acre spread in Ocotillo Wells, Calif. Debi’s parents are ages 89 and 87, Tony’s mom, who lives in El Cajon, is 90.
Debi has been active in PSAR since joining Oak Tree Escrow. “I’ve made lifelong friends,” she said. “It’s such an encouraging organization. Everyone works together for the betterment of others. I’ve haven’t run into a selfish person yet.”

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-- Don’t forget to read next week’s story. Hint: At her lowest point in her real estate sales career, she had only $57 in the bank. The next day, she got a listing. Today, she’s a top producer.