By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — This Memorial Day, I’ve been thinking about some of the artists and community leaders who will leave legacies that should be around to delight and enlighten future generations.
Anyone who writes a book, a poem, a play or a movie, who paints, sculpts or creates anything that can be preserved, has a shot at immortality.
Even the more ephemeral arts, like music and dance performances, will live on in memory.
As Oscar Butler, 93, talked to me about his farewell concert with the New Horizons Symphony Orchestra, I thought about what a lovely tribute it was to his late wife, Virginia Holman Butler, who died in April.
“She was a beautiful singer,” Oscar said of his wife of 70 years.
The concert will be a treasured experience for all who heard it, along with his visiting friends and family members and three of the couple’s children who played in the orchestra.
Oscar Butler’s story is really the history of much of our musical heritage and I couldn’t help nagging him to write his memoirs. He was part of a team at New Mexico State University that nurtured a choral department and later a symphony orchestra that produces some world-class performances and talents, continuing milagros, especially for a city our size.
Maybe it’s something in the water. Las Cruces seems to produce extraordinary souls who remain creative throughout long lives, well into their seventh, eighth, ninth, even 10th decades.
I think of people like Jackie Clark, who last year, at age 86, finished a two-year project designing and making 20 stained glass windows for Mesilla Valley Hospice Chapel.
It’s a wonderful memorial to the creative life here in high desert country, and a fitting tribute to Hospice programs, which offer loving, compassionate and sometimes even artistic ways to transition to the next realm.
In recent years, some of our most creative citizens and their families have collaborated to preserve capsules of our culture, our way of life and collections of our creativity.
Two of my all-time favorite adobe homes and compounds will someday become places that my grandchildren, great-grandchildren and even great-great-great grandkids can visit and enjoy as much as I have.
Educator and long-time state Rep. J. Paul Taylor and his late wife, Mary, a talented photographer and historian, left their beautiful and historic Mesilla Plaza adobe home and a remarkable collection of art and artifacts to the Museum of New Mexico system, which will maintain the home as a museum after J. Paul’s death. The place where the couple raised their seven children will be known as the Taylor-Barela-Reynolds-Mesilla State Monument.
And last year, Dr. Kent Jacobs and Sallie Ritter announced that, upon their deaths, their art collection and their 6,500-square-foot adobe house south of Las Cruces will be donated to the Museum of New Mexico to become a branch museum known as the New Mexico Museum of Art Jacobs-Ritter Compound.
Ritter, an internationally renowned artist and her husband, a retired physician who now writes novels and mysteries, said they wanted to help bring art and major exhibits south of Albuquerque, so there will be a memorial that not only preserves and celebrates the past, but also nurtures, inspires and showcases artists of the future.
This month, the Museum of New Mexico Regents came to Las Cruces to meet and visit both the Taylor home in Mesilla and the Jacobs/Ritter home in Las Cruces.
In the rose gardens of the Jacobs-Ritter home that will one day be an art museum, the regents’ president, Karen Durkovich of Santa Fe, acknowledged the treasures that both regional couples will bequeath for future generations.
It seemed like a perfect way to celebrate Memorial Day.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to www.lcsun-news.com and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.