Cover photo for Clelia Frances Kay McCausland's Obituary
Clelia Frances Kay McCausland Profile Photo
1918 Clelia Frances 2022

Clelia Frances Kay McCausland

April 15, 1918 — May 6, 2022

C. Frances (Kay) McCausland, our loving mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, passed away on May 6, 2022 at the age of 104. She spent most of her life in Carlsbad, New Mexico, but lived in Albuquerque at the time of her passing. She is survived by her children, son Edward “Buddy” McCausland and wife Jeanie; daughters J.D. Wellborn and husband Chuck; and Joan Branch and husband Jim; son Mark McCausland and wife Susan; and five grandchildren: Westly Wellborn and husband Jim Medina; Damon McCausland and wife Deidre; Kerry Phillips; Tracy Krueger and husband Jim; Douglas McCausland and fiancée Kate Charlton; three great-grandchildren, Madison and Taylor Phillips and Maiti Quinn McCausland, with another on the way, and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her loving husband of 72 years Claude McCausland; her parents Antonio and Jennie Balzano; sisters Mary Standifird; Gemma Volpato; and Lena Asbury; brothers Celio, William and Johnie Balzano; and grandson Matthew McCausland.


Kay is the last from an era gone by. Her parents were Antonio (Tony) Giovanni Balzano and Giovanna (Jennie) Benedetto who were immigrants from Italy. Kay’s mother came directly to America by herself at age 23 without knowing a word of English. She was a bold young lady and passed her boldness to Kay and her other offspring. Kay’s father left Italy at age 13 where he traveled to South America first then North America. He spoke four languages and was a wonderful husband and father.  


Kay’s parents met in Colorado, fell in love, married, and bought a farm in Maxwell, New Mexico where Kay was born in 1918, one of seven children they would bring into this world. Kay was an excellent student and after high school, she enrolled at Highlands University which was then largely a teachers college. She graduated at the top of her class with a degree in education. There she met her fellow student and future husband Claude McCausland. He had been raised on a farm in Dexter, New Mexico where his family had moved during the Dust Bowl. With no funding available from either’s parents, Claude and Kay worked their way through college holding down various jobs in addition to attending school. Claude also learned to fly. They graduated in 1941 but while still students secretly married in 1939. The reason was Kay was working for the University and at that time married women were not allowed to work, so they eloped and married in Tempe, Arizona. As it turned out, the news of their secret marriage arrived back at Highlands University before they returned. So much for secrets.


After their graduation Kay and Claude moved to Carlsbad to teach. But it did not take long for them to decide to go into business. As it turned out they were both serial entrepreneurs and over the years created a number of successful businesses, with the two of them sharing management responsibilities. They proved to have excellent business judgment and jumped on opportunities when they saw them.


After learning to fly Claude fell in love with flying so their first business was in aviation.  Claude earned his Commercial and Flight Instructor certificates as well as his aircraft mechanic license and he and Kay started a flight school at a dirt strip two miles east of Carlsbad called Tracy Field in 1943. But after Dec 7,1941 the world was at war and in 1944 the government called, and Claude joined the Army Air Corps. While he was away Kay completed the needed paperwork for their flying school to become an authorized training school under the GI Bill that allowed veterans to take up flight training. When Claude returned after the war, he and Kay resumed the business which took a big leap forward under the GI Bill. As a result hundreds of veterans and other students learned to fly.


During World War II the US established flight training bases in 48 states, one of which was Carlsbad Army Air Field (CAAF). It was a bombardier school flying AT-11 aircraft and operated from 1942 to 1945. After it was decommissioned Claude and Kay moved their operation from Tracy Field to the base that became Carlsbad Municipal Airport, which they ran. They expanded their business to crop dusting, aircraft sales and charter flights which became McCausland Aviation.   


As air travel exploded in the late 1940s the couple found that people were flying to Carlsbad to see the Caverns where Claude and Kay were loaning cars to visitors to allow them to drive to the Caverns from the airport. Kay saw opportunity knocking, and contacted Hertz in 1947 to become a licensee but at the time Hertz did not allow rentals from airports. So, Kay & Claude “established” their official office at a friend’s gas station in Carlsbad but really rented the cars from the airport where the customers were.


As their business grew Hertz took notice that a small town in southern New Mexico was doing a large volume of business and scheduled a Hertz conference in Carlsbad. Officials from New York attended where Kay gave them a vision of the future of renting cars. The rest is history. Kay and Claude expanded their car rental business in the Pecos River valley to a fleet of 90 cars with offices in three cities where they replaced half the fleet with new cars each year.


Kay had yet another idea, to open a venture just of her own, a travel agency, and in 1963 opened World Wide Travel which became another very successful business. With that Claude and Kay traveled the world to dozens of countries, taking many Carlsbad residents with them as Kay organized their tours.


All the while Kay raised four wonderful kids who grew up to be successful and productive in their own right. Kay and Claude were most generous in their philanthropy and ardent financial supporters of St. Edward’s Church in Carlsbad. Kay was the first woman appointed to the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce Board. She was past president of Altrusa Club and a member of Catholic Daughters of America at St. Edward’s Church.


Claude and Kay eventually sold their businesses in 1994 and 1995 and retired to enjoy their life, kids and grandkids. In 2006 they moved to Albuquerque to be with them where they all lived.


Kay lived a full and exciting life through two global pandemics and two world wars. She had a keen mind and giving heart and made the world a better place for having been in it. We will miss her dearly.


A Celebration of Life for Kay will be held at Daniels Funeral at 7601 Wyoming Blvd. NE, Albuquerque, NM on Friday May 20 from 3 – 5 PM immediately followed by a wake. She will be interred at the Santa Fe National Cemetery on June 15 with her husband Claude, a veteran, who preceded her in 2011.  


In lieu of flowers, you may donate to the Claude & Kay McCausland Memorial Fund for St. Edward's School, Carlsbad Community Foundation, 114 S. Canyon Street, Carlsbad, New Mexico 88220.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Clelia Frances Kay McCausland, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Starts at 10:00 am (Mountain time)

Santa Fe National Cemetery

501 N Guadalupe St, Santa Fe, NM 87501

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