Ella Silva turns 90
Ella Silva turned ninety in August. The story of her colorful life could fill many pages of the history of Bernalillo in the twentieth century.
Ella was born in Corrales on a large farm owned by her father, Alejandro Gonzales, the “Celery King.” She graduated from St. Joseph’s College in Albuquerque and taught school in Sandoval County. She and her late husband, James Silva, built their first Pottery House store in Bernalillo in 1933. They continued the tradition of trading with Native American artists which had been started by James’s father, a Lebanese immigrant who assumed the name Felix Silva to embrace his new culture when he moved to New Mexico at the turn of the century.
The Silva family traded with some of the great Indian artists of the century, including Helen Cordero, Allan Houser, Pop Wei, and Harrison Begay. At the same time they raised and worked hard for the education of their six children, Dolores, Betty, James Jr., Darlene, Rose, and Antoinette. In order to pay for the children's education, the Silvas closed the store and opened several nightclubs in Santa Fe.
In 1960, the family moved back to Bernalillo and reopened the store, now called Rose’s Pottery House. By 1970, they had bought the entire complex, which included a saloon, theater, trading post, drugstore, auto parts store, and gas station. Ella still lives in the adjoining house behind the complex.
When James died, in 1993, Ella’s daughter Antoinette moved back to help out. The complex has since seen several more incarnations, most recently the Range Café, that have further enhanced the historic building’s place as a local landmark.
Ella is proud of her children, seventeen grandchildren and twenty great grandchildren, who have all contributed a great deal to the community as doctors, lawyers, scientists, teachers, engineers, and merchants. Antoinette says that her mother Ella retains “a wonderful sense of joy. She can find humor in things you wouldn’t believe and continues to be a joy to be around. She is very positive and has always appreciated life and the people around her.”
Ella’s birthday will be marked by a daylong family celebration with an open house, music, and refreshments.