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Chester Nez

Chester Nez

Fond farewell to Chester Nez

—Carol Meine, Jemez Springs Public Library

With regret, I heard that Chester Nez, the last of the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers of WW II, died. The Jemez Springs Public Library event scheduled for June 14 was cancelled. However, his remarkable book, a memoir of Chester’s days as a code talker and the confluence of history and culture that led to the development of the unbreakable code, is a living legacy of the original 29 code talkers who turned the tide of the war in the Pacific. Coauthored with Judith Avila, the book is available in our library collection.

I hope many of our patrons and readers around the world will continue to honor Chester Nez and his fellow code talkers by reading his book.

Civilian Conservation Corps revisited

—Bob Gajkowski, Placitas Community Library

Recently, the Placitas Library’s History Project hosted Ms. Kathy Flynn of the National New Deal Association at the Placitas Library who provided her audience with an overview of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s many programs designed to revive the floundering U.S. economy of the Great Depression during the late 1920s and throughout his administration.

Among the best known and successful of these programs was the Civilian Conservation Corps, better known as the “CCC.” Early on, the Corps was set up to provide jobs for some of the hundreds of thousands of young men who were among the well-over fifty percent unemployed in the United States. Across the Nation some three hundred thousand men in their late teens as well as their fathers and, in some cases, their grandfathers were recruited, outfitted in much the same way as military “draftees” would be just a few years later and were put to work on public works projects.

Living in military-type camps, wearing military garb, subject to military-type discipline, each man earned enough to provide for his personal needs but more importantly, was able to send money home to support his parents and family. The Corps provided the means to learn skills, trades, and to gain an education. The projects that the CCC undertook covered a wide-spread and diverse area: road, dam, and bridge construction, national and state parks and wilderness areas infrastructure, forestry maintenance and conservation, the making of furniture and other equipment for the parks, local building construction for communities throughout the nation. Many of these CCC projects are still serving us quite well today. Just visit the Grand Canyon and take in the lodge and other buildings; or explore the New Mexico State Park system; or, closer to home, drive across the bridges along the gravel Highway 165 road to Sandia Peak. Even closer, admire the Corp’s handy work in the former Village school building that now serves as the San Antonio Mission Social Center here in Placitas. Some fifty-thousand men worked in the CCC camps of New Mexico; some worked and lived here in Placitas. 

On July 26, at 2:00 p.m., at the Placitas Library, noted New Mexican historian and author Richard Melzer will present a talk based on his book, Coming of Age in the Great Depression: The Civilian Conservation Corps In New Mexico. Based on his many personal interviews with members of the CCC, Dr. Melzer will give us an appreciation for their work and their accomplishments. Everyone is invited to attend this free event.

Local benefit for Horses for Heroes NM: Cowboy Up!

Cowboy Up! is a unique horsemanship, wellness, and skill-set restructuring program based in Santa Fe—free to veterans and active military who have sustained physical injuries or combat trauma (PTSD) during their time serving our country. There is a unique environment and opportunity for OIF and OEF Veterans (Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan) to recuperate, recreate, and reintegrate into society and the civilian world and labor force.

From day one, veterans are hands-on with horses, beginning with horse care and progressing to riding, working cattle, and more importantly, experiencing camaraderie with cowboys who are veterans themselves. The program is a nonprofit corporation and is endorsed by the NM Department of Veterans’ Services, New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, and their member ranches, Cimarron Maverick Club NM, Wrangler National Patriot Program, and Gold Star Mothers of America—Albuquerque Chapter.

A team of top-notch cowboy singers (R.W. Hampton, Jim Jones, and Doug Figgs), the New Mexico Chapter of the Western Music Association, and Arte de Placitas are collaborating to create a benefit for Horses For Heroes NM—Cowboy Up!, on July 27, at 6:00 p.m., at 221 Hwy 165 in Placitas at Homestead Village. The $15 tickets will be sold only at the door. Veterans from the program will be on hand to enjoy the show. Bring a lawn chair and a cooler.

Charles Eugene Little

 Environmentalist, author, Placitan Charles Eugene Little

Charles Eugene Little was born to John R. and Elizabeth (Taylor) Little on March 1, 1931 and died on June 20, 2014, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is survived by his wife of 43 years Ila (Dawson); three beloved children of his first wife, Katharine (Smith)—Dorothy (Pariot), Charles T., and Katharine (Tepe); two stepsons, Lorenzo and Andrew Traldi; grandchildren Julia (Griffenkranz) and David J. Pariot; Aidan Tepe; Arthur, Matthew, Oliver, and Rebecca Traldi; Meagan, Melanie, Drew, Maria, and Julia Traldi; and great-grandson Benjamin Griffenkranz; as well as many friends and colleagues.

After attending Fountain Valley prep school in Colorado, Charles graduated from Wesleyan University in 1955 with Distinction in Creative Writing. He served in the US Army in Alaska during the Korean conflict. He was an advertising executive at Foote, Cone, and Belding until 1963, when he became chief executive officer of The Open Space Institute and published its Open Space Action Magazine with the objective of preserving areas of natural beauty in the New York metropolitan region. His entire life’s work then became to devote his considerable talent and passion to the appreciation and protection of American landscapes, whether they are agricultural or urban natural areas; public parks or privately held areas of unique natural beauty. In 1972, he joined the Conservation Foundation in Washington DC, then became head of the Natural Resources Division of The Congressional Research Service, which he left in 1978 to establish the American Land Resource Association and edit its publication, American Land Forum.

Charles moved to Placitas, NM in 1994, continuing to involve himself in land-use issues and to write about them. He founded Voices from the American Land, a quarterly publication of poetry celebrating outstanding landscapes of North America. He is the author of many acclaimed books, among them Discover America (Smithsonian); Greenways for America (Johns Hopkins); Hope for the Land (Rutgers); An Appalachian Tragedy (Sierra Club); and The Dying of the Trees (Viking), a finalist for the LA Times’s nonfiction award in 1997.

Memorial services will be held at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church on Saturday, July 12 at 11:00 a.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Charles’s memory to the LPPC Columbarium Fund or to Voices from the American Land.

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