Sandoval Signpost


An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988
  Real People

Paul Sealy

Paleontologist Paul Sealey and the Bisti Beast Photo credit: Evan Belknap


Bisti Beast rib bones from Sealey’s find


One of Sealey’s prized ammonites, pulled from storage in the lab of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History

Placitas “fossil hunter” Sealey discovers new dinosaur

—Evan Belknap

Placitas resident Paul Sealey will be featured in the Dinosaur Century Exhibit at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History, starting May 19, for his 1997 discovery of a partial skeleton and complete skull of a new genus and species of tyrannosaur. Sealey’s find turned out to be one of the most complete tyrannosaurs collected from not only the San Juan Basin, but all of New Mexico. This new species, named Bistahieversor sealeyi—a combination of Greek and Navajo words meaning “Sealey’s destroyer of the badlands,” also known as the “Bisti Beast”—clarifies much of the evolutionary history of tyrannosaurs on the continent for paleontologists. The completed skull is currently on display at the Natural History Museum, but will be more thoroughly illuminated as of May 19.

In an interview with the Signpost, I asked Sealey for the story behind his discovery, how it was possible for one to stumble upon the skull of a tyrannosaur, and how that must be a very exciting moment. He described the process of prospecting thusly: “Well, you’re walking around, knowing what you’re looking for, and finding it… Erosion is what exposes [bones and fossils], but it is also what destroys them. You hope to find them at the right time.” After more pestering, lost somewhere between the Triassic and Cretaceous exhibits at the museum, Sealey admitted that, yes, finding a skull was very exciting.

An excerpt from his book in progress reads:

In 1996 I traveled to northwestern New Mexico to do reconnaissance in the Fruitland and Kirtland Formations. Several famous dinosaur hunters had made important discoveries in these formations… After finding several bones, I was walking up to a nose (a hill that protrudes beyond others) when I noticed bone protruding from the white channel sandstone. When I climbed on top of this nose, I saw many bones including several ribs, a partial limb, and pelvic bones. I sat down to log the find in my field book and take a GPS reading. I was not especially excited, nor did I realize the significance of this find, until I got up to take an inventory of the bones for my notes. As I was inspecting one of the bones, I realized it was a jaw with a tooth still in place. It’s an Albertosaur, I thought! Now the excitement appeared instantaneously.

Excavation of the “Bisti Beast” took two years, with much hard work from New Mexico paleontologists and eventually the New Mexico National Guard, who helicoptered the treasures to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History where the long process of preparation could begin.

Sealey, born in Albuquerque, has been collecting fossils in New Mexico since he was fifteen years old. He graduated from the University of New Mexico with Minor in Geology and a Major in Anthropology, and has since discovered Pennsylvanian plants and brachiopods, Permian trackways and nautiloids, Triassic reptiles and amphibians, Cretaceous dinosaurs, fossilized plants and turtles, ammonites, Paleocene mammals, Eocene mammals, giant tortoise shells, Pleistocene sloth bones, and Miocene and Pliocene elephant, horse and camel bones. He has authored or co-authored over fifty publications and is currently a research associate at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History.

Sealey commented on how the Signpost is always full of artists, and that people should probably know that “some Placitans do something else.” This is a good point, though Sealey is also an award-winning photographer, which somehow discounts his claim and makes us all have to wonder: do they?

The Dinosaur Century Exhibit at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History will add new fossils and new stories of New Mexico dinosaur discoveries every month through the end of 2012. For more information, visit

Grace Trujillo

Grace Trujillo

Happy 95th birthday Grace Trujillo

—Vivian B. DeLara

Grace Trujillo was born May 19, 1917 in Placitas, New Mexico. Her parents were Pedro and Aurelia Gurule. Aurelia was a midwife and brought many babies into the world. Grace had seven other siblings: Martin, Cloré, Pete, Josefita, Corina, Sophia and Lizzie. Corina and Sophia died as babies. Martin, Cloré, and Josefita died as adults. Pete and Lizzie are still living.

They all attended school in Placitas. Grace remembers that her teacher was Ms. Requela Baca. Grace attended school at the convent in Bernalillo for one year. She stayed at the Convent with the Sisters until she made her First Holy Communion. It would have been too hard for her parents to take her to the Convent every week. It took three hours to get to Bernalillo in their one horse drawn wagon. She remembers that the Placitas Presbyterian Church wanted to send her to Allison James School in Santa Fe, but her parents did not allow it.

She continued her schooling in Placitas until she graduated from the eighth grade. There were five graduates that year. Graduating from the eighth grade was quite an accomplishment back then. Her family was very proud of her.

Grace married young at the age of sixteen to a young man named Flavio Trujillo. She gave birth to seven daughters and four sons: Flavio Jr., Clyde, Benny, Danny, Reyna, Rita, Margie, Grace, Mary, Diana, and Dorothy. Her daughter Mary died at birth. During her married years, she found a job with the Bernalillo School System. Early every morning she would walk from her home to the Placitas Elementary School where she would build a fire in the potbelly stove before the children got there. In the evenings she would clean the school in preparation for the next day. She was paid $150 a month. She worked year round and in the summer she painted and repaired whatever needed repairing.

Her husband Flavio died in 1969 after 36 years of marriage. Grace was 51 years old. Grace continued working with the school and raised her last two children Dorothy and Danny alone. Even though Grace had a tight budget one year she purchased one hundred popcorn balls to give to her babies at Christmastime. She referred to the school children as her babies and would even give them milk money when some of the children didn’t have any. She loved all of them dearly. Ask anyone who went to Placitas Elementary in those years, and they will tell you what fond memories they have of her. She tended to a lot of their needs when she could.

Grace worked for the school for 31 years and retired in 1985. She was given a big retirement party and everyone whose life she had touched came to wish her well.

Grace still lives in the village of Placitas and continues to thrive. She loves to paint and draw and is really very good at it. Two daughters who live in Las Vegas and California come to visit her as often as they can. The rest of her children live in Placitas, Bernalillo, and Albuquerque, and they all spoil and take care of her like she deserves. If you know Grace, call her up or send her a card and wish her a Happy 95th Birthday as we all know she will have. Feliz Cumpleaños, Grace. We love you very much.

Tempi Sewell

Tempi Kay Blanton Sewell

of Placitas, New Mexico, died on April 6, 2012, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Born in Odessa, Texas, on December 31, 1955, to Bill and Ruth Blanton, Tempi never met a stranger or anyone in need—both two-legged and four-legged—to whom she wouldn’t open her home. She was an avid hiker, taking her dogs up and down the trails around Placitas. Tempi was preceded in death by the love of her life, Kevin Michael Sewell, in 2010. She is survived by her sister, Deborah Fowler; her three nieces: Mechelle Coate, Jennifer Fowler, and Dallas Fowler; her great-nephew: Brady; her two great-nieces: Aubree and Renee; and Kevin’s daughter: Stephanie Mueller. A celebration of life was hosted by Sue Spencer, on April 22, in Placitas. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to: The American Diabetes Association, Watermelon Mountain Ranch, or a charity of your choice.

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