Leo Arellano, 93, died in the quiet of early morning Sept. 9, 2017, in his Albuquerque home with his wife, Marjorie, and children around him. He taught us in death, as in life, that family is everything. We sang favorite songs, prayed, laughed and cried — in short, celebrated and loved him to the very end.
Leo came to this world on Nov. 5, 1923. via the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado. His father, Felipe, was a sharecropper who worked hard and died young, when Leo was 7 years old. With only a second-grade education, his mother, Magdalena, became a community leader in the northern New Mexico town of Costilla, holding sewing circles during the era of FDR’s New Deal. Magdalena also died young, only seven years after Felipe, leaving Leo and siblings, Mabel, Nemey, Onofre and Olivia, orphaned during the depths of The Great Depression. Leo’s early life was one of hardship, as he moved alone at age 14 to Taos and was swindled of the little money brother, Nemey, sent from Albuquerque. Yet more than anything, it is a lesson in resilience and the will to overcome whatever misfortune one may encounter.
After high school, Leo served in the U.S. Army Air Corp, 9th Air Force, from 1942 to 1945, supporting infantry and armored forces through Normandy, France, and Germany. He received a master’s degree in business administration and went to work for Sandia National Laboratories, where he applied his skill with numbers during a 30+ year career as accountant, auditor and manager. Post- retirement, he became assistant secretary of the New Mexico Democratic Party, wrote his memoirs and created paintings of adobe churches.
Yet all those accomplishments pale in comparison to his role as husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. We marveled that he knew how to be such a wise and loving dad when he had lost his own father so young. His mother was a huge influence, which we know from the way he treated Marjorie, his wife of 70 years, sharing household responsibilities and taking an active role in caring for his children. Leo instilled in his family a love of his beautiful northern New Mexico, the Catholic faith, and simple things in life — lasting friendships, Sundays with family, gardening.
Leo was diagnosed late in life with Parkinson’s and for over two years benefitted from the services and many professionals of Hospice Compassus. We are especially grateful to his aide Manny, his “buddy” and fellow Taoseño, who got him ready each day, and to nurse Krystal, who competently guided his medical care. We are also thankful to extended family members who joined his daughter Bobbi, who was his primary caregiver, and other siblings and grandchildren in tending to Leo’s daily care these past months and years. Thank you, Lucille, Violeta, Antonia, Jeannie, Helen — for caring for our parents as if they were your own.
Leo is survived by wife, Marjorie; children, Patty (and Mori) [Jafari], Bobbi Arellano, Janet (and Paul) [Montoya], Larry (and Angela) [Arellano], Roma Arellano (and Jim) [Ransom], all of Albuquerque; grandchildren, Michelle Williams of Albuquerque, Jennifer Miller of Las Vegas, NV, Jaclyn Callahan of Tucson, AZ, Lauren Arellano of Albuquerque, Rebecca Grigorian of Orange, CA, Adam Barros of San Francisco, CA, Allison Roybal of Albuquerque, Daisy Ransom of New York, and Mia Ransom of Albuquerque; great-grandchildren Alex Williams, Nico Gabaldon, Christopher Gabaldon, Drew Miller, Luke Miller, Emery Callahan, Blake Miller, Brady Callahan, Camila Carrete and Catalina Carrete. Arellano is also survived by brother Nemey Arellano of Auburn, CA.
Services will be held Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, at San Felipe de Neri Church in Old Town. Eulogy is at 9:15 a.m., Rosary at 9:30 a.m., Mass at 10:00 a.m. Burial will follow at Vista Verde Memorial Park at 4310 Sara Rd., Rio Rancho. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in Leo Arellano’s name to the San Felipe de Neri Building Fund.