Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Real People
Martha and Joe Liebert
Martha and Joe Liebert


The Lieberts: a town treasure

—Karen Lermuseaux

I grew up in a small house in Bernalillo just down the street from Joe and Martha Liebert—a married couple who helped define life in Bernalillo to many residents. My parents, Gene and Faye, were close friends with them, and so our two families shared in the experience of watching Bernalillo grow from the 1930s to the present. I recently had the pleasure to talk with the Lieberts about their past over tea and Joe’s oatmeal cookies.

Joe Liebert was born in 1924 in La Jara, Colorado. His maternal parents, originally from Denmark, came to America as Mormon leaders and settled in the San Luis Valley of Colorado to become farmers. His paternal relatives—the Ledoux—were French trappers. Joe grew up in Taos where his family  lived until his parents divorced when he was fourteen.

He and his mother Jenny then moved to Bernalillo where she was assigned to a Works Project Administration (WPA) job teaching sewing and later cooking for the district schools. Joe recalls a brief period of adjustment with the locals, but his proficiency in Spanish helped quite a lot. Joe told me that my grandfather, Victor Lermuseaux, was a father figure to him during that time and ever since.

Joe’s friends included a group of kids from Corrales who went to school in Bernalillo. Joe said, “I liked driving my friends around in the 1933 Ford sedan with the suicide doors (doors that opened backwards) that my mother bought me. We had a lot of fun.”

Joe graduated in 1943 from Bernalillo High School as salutatorian of his senior class. He remembers: “I had no thoughts of going to college at that time. In fact, the military had already taken us to Santa Fe for our physicals. So, in less than one week after my graduation, we were headed to the Fort Bliss Army Post in El Paso.” In January 1944, he was shipped overseas and eventually was assigned to the medical unit.

In June, Joe’s Second Division landed on Omaha Beach and marched into France. He said, “I don’t really recall my thoughts about those wounded soldiers. I was just busy trying to get them off the battlefield and stay in one piece at the same time.”

Later that year, Joe was sent to the front line of the Battle of the Bulge in which his division was victorious in the most decisive campaign of the war. He had served more than two years in the army.

Joe happily returned to New Mexico and Fort Bayard where his mother was working. He worked as a maintenance man for a housing project, and then at the Santa Rita Mines helping to drill holes for explosives.

Joe returned to Bernalillo and lived with my grandparents’ family, as well as the Robert Esparza family at various times. He worked for the Seligmans in the local hardware store as he tried to decide the path his life would take. Joe and his mother also started and ran a small restaurant called Liebert’s Café for about two years, in Anastacio Baca’s building.

Joe attended the University of New Mexico (UNM) on the G. I. Bill, graduated in 1955, and became an industrial arts teacher. He received his Master’s Degree in 1960. It was during that time that Joe met his future wife, Martha Barr.

“I started talking with Martha and realized that she was the one for me,” he said. “So, later, I took all the fixin’s for tacos over to her apartment and made dinner for her and her roommate.” Martha laughed, “We ate so many, we were almost sick, but they were the best.” Maybe it was Joe’s good cooking that won over Martha, because, soon after, in 1957, they were married.

Martha grew up in North Dakota and graduated from Grand Forks High School. She went on to receive her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of North Dakota. She then traveled to New Mexico to attend UNM for her Master’s Degree, which she received in 1957. She married Joe, and they returned to his family home in Bernalillo.

She remembers, “I have loved history ever since my grandfather told me the history of the Sioux Indians.” She said, “He had been the State Historian in North Dakota.” Martha loved hearing those stories, and to this day still loves to listen and talk about local history—especially that of Bernalillo and Sandoval County. Martha was active in the Sandoval County Historical Society beginning in 1980, serving as president as well as acquiring several grants to maintain the Society, which moved to the Edmond J. DeLavy house in 1990.

As a young woman, Martha learned all she could about Bernalillo. She recalled, “I was fascinated to watch the local Indians bring their wheat to the mill near our home. They’d back up their wagon and dump it into the mill. Their poor horses looked so worn out. Later, the men would go and buy new yellow wheels to put on the wagons and then head back to their pueblo.”  

Martha raised three boys with Joe, and took an active role in community life. She began trying to create a town library to serve the area. She remembers collecting books from the old New Mexico State Archives and from friends, including from our current county commissioner Orlando Lucero who was a student at a college that was closing. She scoured garage sales and collected books from members of the Bernalillo Women’s Club, as well as from other people and businesses.

In 1965, H.J. Torres, mayor of Bernalillo at the time, offered her the north end of the new Bernalillo Town Hall for the library. My mother Faye told me, “I remember the many wonderful story hours, and taking the younger children to see the snakes and animals that Martha arranged to have brought to the library. She also organized great painting classes there.”

Eventually, the library’s collection of books was moved to the original Roosevelt Elementary School and named the Martha Liebert Public Library in honor of her hard work and foresight.

Joe taught drafting and woodworking classes at Valley High School in Albuquerque for 28 years until he retired in 1981. He had always kept a garden behind their house, and now he has expanded it. He told me, “My ‘Fun To-Do List’ and my ‘Work To-Do List’ are one and the same.” T&T Supermarket in Bernalillo carried Joe’s excellent garlic for many years.

Joe kept busy with the local Rotary Club and was a charter member, along with H.J. Torres, Swede Hill, and Al Briley. They attended conventions and were instrumental in developing scholarship funds for local youth. They named the streets of Bernalillo. Joe was also busy with the Westerner’s Club—a group in Albuquerque that presented historical programs.

The Liebert family has been an important part of my life as well as to many others in Bernalillo—from his mother Jenny’s cooking and sewing, to Joe’s woodworking and farming, to Martha’s cooking and creating the library, to playing with their children when we were young.

Today, Joe and Martha Liebert still live in Joe’s childhood home—the old Seligman house on main street Bernalillo. Joe remembers fondly all his friends and neighbors—with the Esparza family, the Romero family next door, Ramon Salazar, and Nene Navarro. Joe and Martha are active in the community, keep up with local politics and community news, and continue to be a pleasure to their many friends and neighbors. How lucky am I that my family and the Lieberts became intertwined in this little town we share.

D.R. Goff

Douglas R. (“D.R.”) Goff

Douglas R. Goff, 65, passed away on January 31, 2013, in his home in Placitas, New Mexico, from pancreatic cancer. D.R. was the son of the late James W. and Germaine T. (Richard) Goff of Granger, Indiana. 

He is survived by his sisters Geraldine (James) Papp of South Bend, IN, and Vicki (Rod) Goff-Kastlie of San Diego, CA; his brother James R. (Cynthia) Goff of Coweta, OK; and his longtime best friend and companion, Janet Jordan of Columbus, OH. D.R. graduated from St. Joseph’s High School in South Bend and attended Ohio University, majoring in photography. In 1968, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and assigned to West Point as an Army photographer. He continued to hone his photographic skills as a combat photographer after deploying to Cu Chi, Vietnam, with the 25th Infantry Division, where he earned the Bronze Star. 

Upon his return to the U.S., he hitched a ride from southern California back home to Indiana, but on the way passed through New Mexico. He was profoundly impressed by the beauty and light of the Southwest and vowed to return one day.  D.R. settled in Columbus, Ohio and established his own studio, Quicksilver Photography, where he developed a successful business in the Columbus area as a talented art and fashion photographer, known for his keen eye for composition and light. He eventually found this way back to New Mexico in the late 1990’s, where he established and served on the board of the American Society of Media Photographers (A.S.M.P.) of New Mexico.

D.R. had a very special spot in his heart for his two beautiful, loving dogs, “Ramone” and “Jacque.” D.R. was a fun-loving, big guy with an even bigger heart who had friends all over the world. He was often seen enjoying wine and discussion at the Merc wine-tasting, pumping iron at Defined Fitness, or enjoying a breakfast of eggs benedict at the Range. He had a sharp wit and a unique way with words, so much so that those who knew him will never forget him. D.R. graciously hosted his own wake the week prior to his death. He would often end a visit or conversation with “toodles.” Sorry to see you go, D.R. . . .


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