Saturday, December 15, 2012

Adios to beloved pioneers

By S. Derrickson Moore LAS CRUCES — We said adios to some major figures in Southern New Mexico’s arts and cultural community in 2012, some of whom were true pioneers in fields ranging from space and astonomy to the arts. Some of us were lucky enough to get to know some of these sterling souls. We’ll miss them, but their spirits live on in so much we have come to love about our unique Las Cruces style of life. • Space pioneer Lowell Randall died Jan. 3 at age 96 in Las Cruces. “Lowell was the last surviving member of a team of great pioneer rocket scientists who launched the U.S. space program,” said Joe Gold of Las Cruces, Randall’s biographer. A contemporary and New Mexico colleague of legendary rocketry pioneer Robert Goddard and Pluto’s discoverer Clyde Tombaugh, Randall’s career at a rocket engineer stretched from the 1930s through World War II and late 20th century space program research, and included duty as chief test engineer with the U.S. Naval Research Station at Annapolis, Md., and work with corporate and governmental programs throughout the U.S. to develop and test cutting-edge technology for a series of rockets, aircraft and intercontinental ballistic missiles, before his 1978 retirement from White Sands Missile Range. • Patricia “Patsy” Edson Tombaugh, community leader, educator, artist, and muse and cheerleader for her astronomy pioneer husband Clyde, discoverer of the planet Pluto, died Jan 12 in Las Cruces. She was 99. An educator herself and sister of another space pioneer, James Edson, she was also an accomplished artist and founder of arts and cultural organizations here. She was a PTA president and Brownie leader, a member of Women’s Improvement Association and American Association of University Women. She helped start the Las Cruces Community Concerts Association, the Unitarian Church of Las Cruces and the Astronomical Society of Las Cruces and was president of what later became the Doña Ana Arts Council. With Clyde, she went on lecture tours throughout the world to raise funds to establish a post-doctoral astronomy chair at NMSU. To the end, she good-naturedly lobbied for Pluto’s full planetary status, and she guest-starred with her family and was cheered by celebrities and scientists who expressed their devotion to the little planet in “The Pluto Files” a 2010 PBS NOVA special. She was there for the 2006 launch of the launch of NASA’s New Horizon Mission, schedule to reach Pluto, with Clyde’s ashes on board, in July, 2015. • Music lover and philanthropist Jack Ward, whose support inspired an annual choral festival that engaged vocal music enthusiasts of all ages, died March 11 at Memorial Hospital. He was 94. “Jack was always in the music building mixing with both students and faculty. He knew everyone and everyone loved him. Jack was part of the music program and we will miss him very much,” said Jerry Ann Alt, then-Director of Choirs for New Mexico State University. The annual Jack Ward Invitational Festival traditionally invites an area high school choral group to perform with NMSU’s Choral Department. Ward was also a recipient of the Doña Ana Arts Council (DAAC) Papen Family Award, and a dedicated volunteer. • Long-time Doña Ana County Commissioner D. Kent Evans, who died May 29 at the age of 72, was lauded for his community service, which included founding efforts for the Whole Enchilada Fiesta and the Conquistadors and support for Boy Scouts, 4-H and the Southern New Mexico State Fair and Rodeo. His career included 12 years in aerospace human resources and manned flight awareness in Cocoa Beach, Fla., before he moved to Las Cruces in 1975, where he worked with Lockheed and the Physical Science Laboratory at New Mexico State University and was also actively involved with Spaceport America. • Sharon Bode-Hempton, artist and arts advocate, and longtime head of Las Cruces city museums, died Aug. 1, She was 69. For 17 years, she served as director of a city system that initially included the Branigan Cultural Center, Las Cruces Natural History Museum and Log Cabin Museum (since relocated) and led efforts to expand and enhance the quality of area museums. She envisioned a downtown cultural corridor of city museums and galleries, a vision that has come to fruition in recent years. She worked to refurbish downtown buildings to house additional museums, including the Las Cruces Museum of Fine Art in a building next to the Branigan Cultural Center, and the Las Cruces Railroad Museum in the old Santa Fe Depot. She championed its move of the Las Cruces Museum of Natural History from Mesilla Valley Mall to its present location. (It opened in November in a renovated building). Under her leadership, city museums expanded venues for regional artists, increased the number of exhibitions and added interactive educational experiences, classes, lectures and other special events. An artist and collector herself, Bode-Hempton exhibited nationally and internationally. • Lynn Nusom, award-winning cookbook author, chef, restaurateur, travel writer and food columnist, died Aug. 1 at his home in Hillsboro. He was 74. He established an international reputation as an expert on the fiery foods and kitchen traditions of New Mexico and Arizona and created so many popular cookbooks, many of which were revised and republished in slightly different forms, that even he was uncertain of the total number. Many were bestsellers not just in New Mexico, but also throughout the United States. Among his most popular were “The New Mexico Cookbook,” which has sold more than 100,000 copies since it was first published in 1990, “Christmas in New Mexico,” “Christmas in Arizona,” “Sizzling Southwestern Cookbook,” “The Tequila Cookbook” and “Billy the Kid Cookbook.” He was also wrote food and travel articles for national magazines and was a weekly food newspaper columnist the Las Cruces Sun-News since the late 1990s, and before that, for the Las Cruces Bulletin for 13 years. He and his wife, Guylin Morris Nusom, a Las Cruces native, opened businesses that included a restaurant, Café Provençal (later named The Eatery), at the site of what is now Coas Bookstore. • Matthew Thomas Runsabove, 68, a longtime supporter of the American Indian Center at NMSU, died Aug. 20. He was Lakota (Sioux) and grew up on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota and graduated from St. Francis Indian Mission School and Haskell Indian Institute in Lawrence, Kan. He was employed as an electronics buyer as well as a social worker. He moved to Las Cruces in 2002, and shortly thereafter, co-founded Indigenous Nations for Community Action, a service organization, acting as executive director and president for several years. He helped to establish a tribal scholarship under the auspices of INCA for students in need at New Mexico State University. During the winter holidays, he would help get food baskets and presents to students at the university. • We said goodbye to two community leaders who in recent years were known best to many for their support of the Border Book Festival. • Community leader Roberto L. Frietze, whose historic adobe building in front of his Mesilla home was Border Book Foundation headquarters for many years. He died Aug. 13 at age 84. • Faride Faver Chávez Diener Miller Conway was a policewoman, detective, owner of a security guard business, a bail bond business, a licensed professional massage therapist and a talented bead artist, interior decorator and chef. She died Dec. 6. She was 73. In her later years, she was a frequent sight at Border Book Festival Foundation events, hosting and volunteering for the festival founded by her sister, author Denise Chávez. Adios to all the artists, cultural and community leaders and pioneers who did so much to enrich our lives in the Mesilla Valley. S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at 575-541-5450. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.


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