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Sandoval County recognizes seniors during ‘Older Americans Month’

Sandoval County Senior Centers are holding special events throughout May to honor and recognize local seniors as part of the nationally designated Older Americans Month.

The Sandoval County Commission at its meeting on April 16 will proclaim the month of May “Older Americans Month in Sandoval County.”

During the month, the County’s six Senior Centers will host ice cream socials, barbeques, a Cinco de Mayo celebration, and other events. The celebrations will be highlighted by the program’s annual senior picnic at 10:30 a.m. on May 15 at Bernalillo Rotary Park.

“Older Americans represent the finest qualities of our great nation,” said County Commission Chairman Don E. Leonard. “Our County will join national activities to honor our elderly and celebrate their many accomplishments.”

“Here in Sandoval County, our elderly demonstrate personal strength and compassion each and every day. They are redefining the experience of aging,” Leonard said. “Our senior residents are leading active lives by serving in their communities and reaching out to friends and neighbors. In turn, their good works and meaningful contributions are improving the lives of all County residents.”

Sandoval County’s multifaceted senior program provides services and assistance to residents aged sixty and older, and operates senior centers in Bernalillo, Corrales, Cuba, Jemez, Peña Blanca, and Placitas, as well as providing meal site services for Rio Rancho’s Meadowlark Center.

Services include the County’s Frail and Elderly Program, which provides homemaker, light housekeeping, and cooking assistance for qualified seniors and assists at-risk seniors and their caregivers in accessing services, promoting independence, and maintaining overall wellness. The County’s Volunteer Services Program matches senior volunteers with special needs children, provides companions for those who are frail and elderly, and helps organizations and businesses obtain employees or volunteers.

Other program components include nutrition services which provide both congregate and home-delivered meals and a transportation program which offers assistance to seniors who need help getting to medical appointments, shopping, or other activities.

Herculano Montoya

Herculano Montoya of Cienega at the Tiffany Turquoise Mine near Turquoise Post in Cerrillos, New Mexico

The Tiffany ties that bind

—New Mexico History Museum

What does ultra-chic Tiffany’s have in common with New Mexico? More than you’d expect. From late-1800s Tiffany-blue turquoise to a spectacular early twentieth-century silver service, Tiffany’s ties to New Mexico are among the surprises awaiting visitors to the New Mexico History Museum, opening May 24.

For the Tiffany tales’ beginnings, go back to 1837, when Charles Lewis Tiffany founded Tiffany and Young, a fine-goods emporium that introduced a novel idea of the time: the non-negotiable selling price. In that same year, Tiffany introduced the famous “Tiffany Blue Box”—a cherished trademark of Tiffany & Co.

In 1889, George F. Kunz, the company’s renowned gemologist, won an award in Paris for a collection that contained a sample of New Mexico turquoise. In 1892, Kunz announced that certain colors of turquoise had come to be considered “gem quality”—namely, the Tiffany Blue color. According to a New York newspaper, “That is a turquoise far and away the finest in America, and it came from these new mines in New Mexico. It is worth $4,000. … [I]t is probable that gems to the value of $200,000 a year may be obtained from this mine.”

Clearly, Kunz had recognized the possibilities of further branding the Tiffany Blue color by maintaining almost-exclusive rights to the turquoise he made suddenly valuable.

In that same year, 1892, James P. McNulty came to Cerrillos, New Mexico to mine turquoise, eventually landing with the American Turquoise Company (ATC), which owned the claims to a number of mines. The turquoise mined in Cerrillos at the time was of a very specific color, Tiffany Blue; and the ATC sold almost all of its turquoise directly to Tiffany & Co.

The sixty-six years New Mexico spent as a territory of the United States were turbulent. The Territory was haunted by the Civil War, Indian raids, political bulldozing, and characters like Billy the Kid. McNulty’s years working for the Tiffany mines in New Mexico created their own share of unruliness, including rattlesnakes, explosives, late salary payments, Indian attacks and, worst of all, lawyers.

In 1896, McNulty encountered a group of four men on the mine’s grounds, claiming to be picnicking. He accosted them, and escorted them from the property. One of these men, Mariano F. Sena, soon filed a claim in the local courts, saying the mine was part of an old Spanish land grant, and that the ATC had to vacate and pay him $50,000. The lawsuit dragged on until 1911, when it was finally resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court. By then, the ATC had spent so much of its profits on legal fees that debt began a slow suffocation, finishing the company off in 1917.

McNulty continued to oversee the operation of his own mines in Cerrillos until his death in 1933, frequently being the only person to actually mine the stone. Through his career, he sent countless cigar boxes packed with turquoise to Tiffany & Co., until the mine was finally exhausted. (Most turquoise used in the Native American jewelry sold on the Plaza today comes from nearby Arizona, but a few small claims are still mined in New Mexico today.)

Tiffany & Co.’s connection to New Mexico doesn’t end there. In 1918, the state of New Mexico presented a fifty-six-piece Tiffany silver service set to the battleship USS New Mexico. The set contains a humidor in the shape of a pueblo-style building, as well as a number of plates, each of which has a different scene—Coronado’s Expedition, 1540-1542; San Miguel Chapel—Oldest Church in the United States; and the First Locomotive through Raton Pass—1879.

The USS New Mexico served as the first flagship of the United States Pacific Fleet, and was a vital part of U.S. operations in the Pacific Theater of WWII. After the battleship was decommissioned in 1946, the service was used on the carrier Midway and the flat-top Bon Homme Richard before it was donated to the Palace of the Governors. For the first time in decades, the service will be on display at the New Mexico History Museum, minus two plates. Those plates, depicting the Santa Fe Trail and Taos Pueblo, will be loaned to the U.S. Navy for display on the new Virginia-class submarine New Mexico, to be commissioned in October 2009.

With an extensive collection of artifacts, bolstered by multimedia installations and real stories of people—from miners, cowboys, and gunslingers to the brave men and women who have served in our nation’s armed forces—the New Mexico History Museum brings life to the history of New Mexico.

Discover the history of the state at the opening of the New Mexico History Museum Memorial Day weekend.






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