JoAnn Martin of El Rito passed away March 17, 2017. She was 87.
A rancher, gardener and home maker, she was active with the church and schools of her community.
She was born at home in Albuquerque on Nov. 5, 1929 to Harold and Marcella Severns. Her father was a shop foreman who worked with a construction company.
She had one older sister, Mary.
JoAnn graduated from Albuquerque High School in 1947, then earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1951 and a Master's degree in 1953 from the University of New Mexico, both in physical education.
Her sister Mary married Bill Gentry, the legendary Albuquerque football coach at Highland and later Eldorado high schools, who won several state championships with his teams.
She taught PE in the Albuquerque schools until 1957, when after a five-year courtship, she married Patrick Martin of El Rito. She was introduced to him by her future sister-in-law, Barbara Martin, one of JoAnn's physical education teachers at UNM.
Patrick's father George had been the first president of the New Mexico Normal School, now Northern New Mexico college. His mother Margaret was a registered nurse in the village.
JoAnn lived in El Rito until the time of her death. Neighbor John Kent remembers how the Martin family and friends met the newlyweds when they returned from their honeymoon, waiting on the Ojo Caliente road to give them a party, complete with firecrackers.
She helped Patrick manage the family ranch where they ran Hereford cattle on fields in the village, pasture in El Rito Canyon and held a grazing lease with the Carson National Forest.
JoAnn became a Catholic and joined the parish of San Juan Nepomuceno.
The couple had two sons, Michael, born in 1958, and Timothy, born in 1961. Tim died in 2006. Both boys attended the Catholic parochial school in Abiquiú, until it was closed as they finished 7th grade. They graduated with honors from Mesa Vista High School in Ojo Caliente.
JoAnn was an important member of the San Juan Nepomuceno choir. She and her friend Jane García traveled to Abiquíu to learn church music from the Catholic sisters who ran the parochial school there. She also belonged to the altar and rosary societies.
She was a charter member of the Mesa Vista Consolidated School board, and served two terms in the late 1960s and early 1970s. She also served as secretary of the New Mexico School Board Association.
Her friend Jane García remembers the good times they had when JoAnn was running for school board with Jane's husband Fabián. The two couples drove across the large, very rural, school district, going door-to-door and sometimes stopping for picnics.
She and her husband Patrick were 4-H club leaders.
Patrick died of cancer in 1976, and JoAnn held the ranch together until their sons graduated from high school in Ojo Caliente and college at New Mexico State in Las Cruces. She insisted they finish their schooling. Her father had saved up money for higher education, but used his savings in a time of family crisis. Although he became a master carpenter, Harold Severns always regretted not attending college.
She and her sons continued to live in the old adobe house on the main street of El Rito. The Martin family home since 1925, it was built by the Jaramillo family.
In the 1980s, she was a member of Carson National Forest's grazing advisory board.
She and her son Tim served as church mayordomos in the 1990s.
In addition to helping with ranch chores, JoAnn maintained a large garden, canning and freezing her vegetables. She was well-known for her bread making skills.
Neighbor Susie Frost remembers: "I really liked her pot roast. God, was it good!" When Susie moved to El Rito in 1978, JoAnn took her under her wing. The newcomer was riding in El Rito Canyon and met up with Mike and Tim. Susie had vegetarian beans for lunch, and the boys had meat, Cheetos and other hardy, more tasty food. Famished, she shared their lunch, and then JoAnn invited her over for supper, starting a friendship of almost 40 years.
Susie remembers JoAnn's ability to nurture people: "her food, her kindness, just her presence."
JoAnn and her sons enjoyed cooking for family and neighbors at holiday times, after memorial masses and on Tree Day. Tree Day is a 50-year family tradition of going to the mountains with cousins, nephews, nieces and neighbors to cut Christmas greens. Since the Martin family acquired a part-interest in the San Gabriel del Rito Ranch, participants have cut trees in the woods, then enjoyed a meal organized by JoAnn in the old log cabin on the property.
She was an avid reader, a fan of the state's Bookmobile program. She enjoyed reading mystery stories, especially those by Agatha Christie. In her later years, she loved to sit in her rocking chair by the wood stove in her kitchen. Her neighbor Patty Kent remembers sitting and drinking tea with her there: "You could talk about anything with Jo. She was so smart. She was open to new things, open to new ideas, not typical of older people."
Her life was not easy. Ranch life is full of unwelcome surprises and setbacks. She became a widow at an early age, and lost her younger son to cancer.
Neighbor John Kent remembers her "fortitude against adversity. She always maintained."
She is survived by her son Mike Martin of El Rito; sister Mary Gentry (Bill) of Albuquerque; sister-in-law Barbara Martin of Santa Fe; cousin Susan Wright (Bob) of Florida; godchildren Melanie Ann García, Danielle Chandler and Elliott Martin; 22 nieces and nephews; 16 great- and 2 great-great nephews and nieces.
Services are as follows: visitation at San Juan Nepomuceno church in El Rito at 6 p.m., followed by a rosary at 7 p.m. on Wed., March 22; funeral mass at 10 a.m. at San Juan Nepomuceno, on Thurs., March 23, followed by the burial in El Rito's community cemetery. Afterwards, lunch will be served at the Río Arriba County Event Center near the Río Chama.
The family asks that donations in JoAnn's memory be made to the Tim Martin Memorial Scholarship Fund at LANL Foundation, lanlfoundation.org, 1112 Plaza del Norte, Española, NM 87532, (505) 351-1112.