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.

Savor Christmas Week in Las Cruces

By S. Derrickson Moore LAS CRUCES — There have been some real, soul-gratifying triumphs this year, but it’s also been a year of challenging trials for almost everbody I know. We’ve lost some leaders who made vital contributions to Las Cruces’ cultural community and many of us have said “adios” to dear friends and relatives. It’s a time when we seem compelled to take stock of where we’ve come from, where we’ve been and where we’re going. But for most (even those of us who haven’t managed to crank out a holiday newsletter or tackle a Christmas card list), all that can wait. It’s Christmas week in Las Cruces and most of the holiday hoopla is over. We’ve lived through the mercantile events: Christmas in July, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Many have celebrated several traditional spiritual events of the season, including Hanukkah, La Posada, Los Pastores, and all but one of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Festival events (the processions, masses, pilgrimage, dancing and feasts: closing day ceremonies will be Jan. 1). There’s the fun stuff: holiday school pageants, concerts, plays, movies, art exhibits, do-it-yourself arts and crafts workshops, Santa visits, outdoor markets, tree-lightings, Winterfest, holiday decorating, luminaria fiestas ... We rarely have snow to dash through in one-horse open sleighs, but there seem to be horse-drawn carriages around a lot this time of year. And we have chiles: lots and lots of red and green chiles. They’ll still be around, but pretty soon, the blessed Christmas quiet will descend. There’s one more big event: Christmas Eve on the Mesilla Plaza, but even though it’s now attracting thousands, there is something that’s always peaceful and soul-restoring about the gathering. I’ve discussed the phenomenon several times over the years with Lalo Natividad, who with his late partner Richard Weeks, founded El Grupo Cultural de Mesilla, which helped bring traditional Borderland celebrations back in the Mesilla Valley. He told me he savors the reverent, peaceful moments that come when the multitudes gathered for Christmas Eve join to sing his favorite carol: “Silent Night.” There will be lots of moments to treasure over the next week. Visits to churches for special services. Maybe a wreath or a little bouquet to honor a dearly departed soul who is gone from the Christmas table this week, but very vividly remembered. Memories are a vital part of this season: making new ones, reliving the best of Christmases past. If you pay attention, you’ll find them dancing in eyes of all ages: memories being formed, embraced and treasured. Even our excited kids and grandkids will have their subdued moments. When they go off to feign sleep and listen for reindeer hoofs on the roof. When the presents are unwrapped and everyone is taking inventory, or considering a nap. The caroling and party din will give way to mellower “oohs and ahs,” during drives to see the lights and admire neighbor’s decorations. There will be quiet walks on favorite trails and around familiar hoods. Trial runs for new toys, and skates and bikes and scooters. There will be quiet talks, in person and via phone and Skype. And moments of comfortable, companionable silence, when, if you’re fortunate, just being with loved ones seems holiday enough. There will be time enough to think about cleanups and undecking the halls, and departures and returns and post-holiday bargains and bills and storage. But not for the next few days. This is a time for family and love, for contemplation of the meaning of this blessed season. A time when peace on earth seems not just a dream, but an achievable goal. Merry Christmas. S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.

Is the world ending? Or is it a new beginning?

By S. Derrickson Moore LAS CRUCES — By next week at this time, we should know if the world has ended. I Googled “end of the world 2012” and got 2,370,000,000 hits. I thought about perusing the more intriguing sites: from “37 food items you should be hoarding now” to out-of-this-world rumors about Pic de Bugarach mountain in southwestern France. Reactions to the alleged Mayan-predicted doomsday on Dec. 21 led French police to ban access to a mountain “thought to open up on that day uncovering an alien spaceship that will carry humans to safety,” according to, which bills itself as “the official website for 122112 information.” But I’m going with the counter-programming movement. We’re voting for new beginnings. If you agree, join us on Team Rainbow at Nuevo Mundo Fiesta: A Celebration of Life, which will feature, weather permitting, a manmade 600- to 800-foot natural rainbow at 1 p.m. Dec. 22 in the sky over Young Park. Fred Stern and I conjured up the fiesta while strolling through a Downtown Las Cruces Ramble. Fred has made rainbows as large as 2,000 feet all over the world, including the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, a Palestinian-Israeli Peace Conference in Israel and Gaza, Colorado River Tribes protesting the placement of a nuclear dump site on sacred land and over the United Nations Building in New York City as a visual metaphor for world peace. Here in Las Cruces, he has created rainbows for Court Youth Center and Mesilla Valley Hospice. Fred makes the calculations and directs when and where his helpers, the Las Cruces Fire Department, “will pump water into the air to create an artificial rainfall, which will refract the sun’s light to create the natural rainbow in the sky, in the northwest corner of Young Park.” In addition to the rainbow, there will be activities for kids and entertainment provided by Bob and Melody Burns and other performing artists. In the spirit of a better future, the rainbow is being dedicated to kids. Donna Richmond, La Piñon’s executive director, sees the rainbow as “a tribute to children in crisis and all community service providers who serve them. We’ll have a table with information to hand out and invite other community providers to do the same to raise awareness.” If you’d like to help provide entertainment or activities for the event, there’s still time to contact Stern at 575-621-3065, or e-mail A few insider’s tips to get the most out of your rainbow experience: bring an umbrella and/or a raincoat if you’d like to walk through the rainbow. It’s also a great photo op if you have a yen to share still or video shots of your loved ones at the end of a rainbow-on-demand. Stern will be holding “rainbow rehearsal” at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday at Young Park, if you can’t make it Saturday, or are convinced the world will end before the Nuevo Mundo Fiesta. Whatever your views, it’s a wonderful time to say a heartfelt prayer or two, in the spirit of the Biblical pledge of a rainbow covenant in Genesis 9:13, after Noah and the floods, or, in this blessed season, of the profound path and covenant with humanity forged by the birth of a baby, more than 2,000 years ago. S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at 575-541-5450. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.

Do you have your wings?

By S. Derrickson Moore It’s my belief that you can never have too many wings on hand. This year, I felt like getting back to basics on the holiday decorations. Red and green. Blue and white. And lots and lots of angel wings. I’ve always been partial to angels. My artist mom felt that way, too. Thanks to her heavenly connections, I always got illustrated notes — not just money — during my baby teeth redemption activities, and I privately regarded my benefactor as a tooth angel, rather than a plebeian tooth fairy. I suspect Mom and I also shared feelings about our beautiful Christmas tree-topper angel. It was the first thing out every Christmas, and we stored her away each year with real regret. When I grew up, I decided there was absolutely nothing prohibiting me from incorporating angelic presences in my household décor all year round. I don’t go overboard, you understand. None of the kitschy excesses. Just two pairs of beautifully crafted, feathered wings (large and small) in my living room, and a couple of halos. And a couple of garden angels who winter over in my master bath. But during the Christmas season, I see no reason to limit myself. I have beautiful little handmade angels that my friend Cecilia Lewis brought back from a trip to Africa. I have folk art angels from the Caribbean, Mexico, South America and the Middle East. I have angels who perch on nativity scene bultos and nichos made by talented New Mexico santeras. And this year, I have lots and lots of angel wings after inadvertently pushing the wrong button on the copier. (Or could it have been an angelic mini- milagro?) During staff meetings, I concentrated on cutting out my fleet … so much so, in fact, that colleague and wag Lucas Peerman quipped that I was “winging it.” But I know he understands that I take angels very seriously, along with holiday decor. Some grinchy friends and relatives have even accused me of HDOCD (Hall-Decking Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). At the office, the little Christmas tree/Hanukkah bush is awaiting contributions from my colleagues and my giant Dilbert head is already wearing his Santa hat (accented with red and green chiles). My red chile lights are awaiting creative duty in my cubicle, if I can figure out how I managed to safely intertwine ’em with the vines last year. It’s a challenge, since I never seem to decorate the same way twice, and something always inspires a new theme: This year, it was a pretty little antique bell I found at Sweet Old Bob’s Antiques. We all know that every time a holiday bell rings, an angel gets wings, so it seemed like synchonicity when the paper wings started proliferating. I plan to include angel wings in Christmas cards and keep a steady supply on hand to offer as needed. I’ve given a few to kids and colleagues, who have made inventive use of them. I may hand them out to strangers, in the spirit of random acts of kindness. And send them to congressional leaders, with a reminder that we’d like to see more tidings of great joy and goodwill toward men. And women. And children. If you’d like to join the winging of the holidays movement, just google “angel wings clip art” and pick out and print your favorites. Ring bells. Distribute wings ... as awards or inspiration or a reminder of divine realms and higher powers. And know that when it comes to the true spirit of this blessed season ... well, you’ll be on the side of the angels. S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.  
N.M. cures holiday blues By S. Derrickson Moore LAS CRUCES — I’ve known some Grinches and Scrooges in my life. And I know many more sad souls with profound aversions to the holidays, who have been traumatized by tough experiences in Christmases past. Some bear wounds from childhood, from tragedies and disappointments so at odds with the joyous image of the season that their injuries remain painful into adulthood, scarred over but never quite healed. I’m doing my best to persuade them all to spend at least one holiday in New Mexico. I maintain that a festive week in the Land of Enchantment can be more therapeutic than a host of Dickensian ghosts or Dr. Seuss epiphanies. Forget the New Age world tours. Everything you need is right here in a three-step program. Eat. Pray. Love New Mexico. Usually, I coax them here with the trappings: the piñon scented nights, the rosy red ristras, the luminarias, the fiestas, the cozy adobes glowing against a sky so brightly blue that the world seems filled with summer-strength light and warmth even if we get some rare snow flurries. Proper nourishment is crucial to holiday rehab strategies. And what could be more natural in a place where the official state question is “Red or Green” and a popular official answer is “Christmas”? It’s vitally important, for Grinches or wounded souls alike, to get that green chile level up. There are so many green chile delicious delivery systems: tamales, enchiladas, posole, salsa, stew, relleños, green chile cheesecake and wontons … even green chile beer and wine. Once you’re fortified with vitamins, capsaicin and our celebrated chile-induced endorphin rush, you’re ready to get out in the world and enjoy all the sounds, sights and fiesta delights of the season. And there will be lots of unique options, particularly of you’re working with a culturally deprived soul who’s never experienced a New Mexico Christmas. If your victim has a sense of humor, a speedy and full recovery is almost guaranteed. It helps that you can lure ’em into many moving Christmas moments disguised in a festive camouflage that may not look like a traditional holiday celebration. One confirmed holiday depressive was almost instantly cured with a visit to my then-tiny grandson’s Hillrise Elementary School pageant, where a 12 Days of Christmas presentation involved roadrunners and assorted other unusual and amusing choices. We deck our halls, trees and our cactus and sometimes, even our tumbleweeds, with imaginative New Mexico ornaments: angels made of yucca pods, red chile Santas, kachinas, gourds, feathers, Mexican paper flowers ... My shock and awe holiday cure tour for years has started at La Posta, once famed for its creative Christmas display of tanks of piranhas flanked by poinsettias. But even without the man-eating fish, I defy anybody to leave uncheered by their colorful borderland Christmas trees, which always remind me of the swirling skirts of beautiful folklorico dancers. There’s lots to love in Mesilla: Billy the Kid Gift Shop’s annual rooftop manager scene, just above the head of a big portrait of the legendary William Bonney, himself. The heartwarming Mesilla Plaza Christmas Eve of carols and luminarias. And there are lots and lots of luminarias: Today at NMSU, next Friday at Winterfest in Downtown Las Cruces and an open house at White Sands National Monument, Saturday at Fort Selden State Monument and Elephant Butte’s Weekend of Lights Luminaria Beach Walk and Floating Parade of Lights. However chronic your holiday blues, or limited your resources, there’s something about a New Mexico Christmas that’s heartwarming, enlightening, loving and inclusive that can sneak in and imbue your soul with the true spirit of the season. Happy holidays. S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; 575-541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.