Elvira Salazar, 97, a long time resident of Albuquerque, NM passed away on 7/19/2020. She was a strong New Mexican woman who was the first born of five sisters in Cordova, a small community neighboring Chimayo. She lived much of her life in New Mexico, but travelled the nation and the world. She watched things change in her lifetime, but took all changes in stride and wry amusement. She handled all things in life this way; with grace.
Born in 1922, her life in Cordova was somewhat rural. However, her parents, Emilio Cordova and Josefita née Romero, who have preceded her in death, were hard working and successful community leaders who felt that the greatest opportunities for success came from education. They had the foresight to prioritize education for their daughters, and the results of that foresight is apparent in the successful lives of all five.
Elvira was the first to be boarded at the McCurdy School in Española, as an opportunity for a better education than the old schoolhouse of Cordova could provide. She initially found it very lonely to be away from her parents and sisters, but she was able to acclimate to school life. Her ability to adapt served her well, and by the time of her graduation in 1940 she excelled in both scholastics and athletics, receiving accolades for her grades and her prowess in tennis and basketball. Her athleticism was such that she was known to shoot the occasional hoop with her grandsons even into her eighties! She continued her education at the Santa Fe Secretarial School and swiftly began earning her own living working for the Department of Public Welfare in Rio Arriba County. Her quality work earned her a promotion to a State position within a year.
For the entirety of her life, Elvira would maintain reserved pride in her independence. Still, she had to leave this position when she married Dr. Juanito “John” Salazar, her high school sweetheart, in 1943, as he was in the U.S. Army. His duties had them whisked away to Sheppard Field, Texas, immediately after their wedding. She continued to work independently at each base they were stationed at through the course of John’s enlistment. These early experiences further broadened Elvira’s world. As a young woman from a small town in Rio Arriba, she met and related with people from far more diverse backgrounds and locations than the small community she grew up in.
Once John’s enlistment was over, his continued education led to one more stint out of New Mexico. In 1948, the Salazars moved to St. Louis, MO so John could earn his doctorate at Washington University. Elvira continued working as stenographer there until 1950, when she gave birth to their first daughter, Dr. Emily Salazar.
Vera, as she preferred to be called by this time, had recounted this as a time of great excitement but terrible loneliness, as Dr. John was unable to join her in the hospital. While she felt frightened, she was very pleased with the birth of her first child and she took well to her new role as a mother, eventually becoming a mother of three!
With John’s schooling completed, the small family moved back to Albuquerque, and built a house to accommodate further familiar expansion, and made roots. This home remained the matriarchal base of the family where countless holiday meals and get-togethers were hosted. The neighborhood, colloquially known as Pill Hill, was known for its population of doctors and their families, and the Salazars were proud to blaze trails into a predominantly Anglo-Saxon neighborhood.
The Baby Boom was exploding at this time, and soon the Salazar’s introduced their only son, John Salazar II, in 1953, with Elaine “Corky” Salazar completing the clan of five in the following year. The neighborhood bustled with young Baby Boomers, and Vera found herself playing host to a bounty of youths as her charismatic offspring led the neighborhood in games and adventures in the home’s environs. John and Vera were also known to host swanky parties that would be attended by the other professionals from the neighborhood and beyond, dressed to the nines! To this day, many adults in the neighborhood fondly recall Vera’s hospitality and many would greet her as she read the newspaper on her porch.
Towards the end of the sixties, the Salazars separated. As a single mother, Vera worked at the New Mexico Scientific Laboratory as the Executive Secretary to the Director. Vera, her independent streak still as broad as ever, never remarried, but provided well for her two younger children. John and Corky helped to make sure that Vera would never spend her days alone. Vera never lived in the large home without at least one of the two living with her, providing her with decades of company and a lifetime without loneliness long after she retired in 1988.
In 1985, she found a new person in her life to bring her entertainment, as well as a new role in life that she absolutely excelled at. Vera had retired and was now there to help provide care for the first of two grandsons, Ehren Salazar-Marcrum, Emily’s son, who is also the author of what you are reading now.
“She would take me on her errands to the grocery store, the bank, and church, always with a small satchel of Oreo cookies. She would allow me to style her hair into a fauxhawk, or prod her teeth in a mockery of dentistry. She would walk me around the neighboring golf course, as she kept herself in shape well into her eighties, and would volunteer to carry the menagerie of insects I would collect from under rocks and twigs. She was fond of retelling that a passerby once witnessed her cargo of a small cage filled with crickets, snails, ants and mantids and remarked “Only a Grandma.”
When a second grandson, John Salazar III, was born to John II, 5 years later, she continued to demonstrate that she was more than just a grandma. She would care for the two of us simultaneously for many hours a week in our boyhood. She nurtured us with delicious tacos, enchiladas, pork chops, fruit pies and jams made from scratch. She would sing Doris Day as she brushed our hair. She read us stories and shared her past with us and did her best to teach us good behavior, though sometimes we were rowdy with each other. She taught us to share and be fair with each other, a difficult task, as we were both only-children. She was always and above all a patient and understanding person, which is why I always sought her wisdom and solace throughout my life.”
As her grandsons got older, Vera was able to join her daughter Emily’s family on trips to Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Italy. As her travels as a young woman had opened her eyes to people’s diversity, she took in the experiences of international travel with an enthusiastic curiosity. Her visit to Spain was especially important to her as it was the Motherland of her ancestors. Her first language was the Northern New Mexican variant of Spanish, and setting foot on her ancestor’s homeland gave her a deeper perspective into her heritage. The awesome sights of Moorish architecture and renaissance art captivated her, and she loved sipping champagne by the Mediterranean seaside.
When not travelling, Vera remained busy, taking pride in her home’s upkeep, attending services at the UNM Aquinas Newman Center, and enjoying the frequent visits from her grandchildren. Her grandsons would converge in her kitchen once a week for tacos, long after becoming grown men, and she would welcome any friends that would join us. She warmly welcomed her children’s spouses into the family, and she would connect well with friends and relations of her children and grandchildren. Her warmth has touched many lives. She loved Kaylie Mackenroth, her first grandsons’ partner, and strove to sing her happy birthday only weeks before her passing. By staying so close to her descendents, she was able to keep young at heart and spry of mind. Vera was of very speedy wit, and acted as a font of insight to us all.
Vera maintained vigorous health into her nineties, though she was no longer able to walk as far or sit as long. Her health only began to decline in 2017, when the motility of her legs lessened and she was relegated to being at home. In spite of her frustration with losing independence, she kept good spirits always and her descendents rallied and cooperated to ensure she had constant care. John II who lived with her, had retired and was her caregiver, with support from the entirety of her family doing all we could to provide her assistance, comfort and happiness.
She was receiving rehabilitation treatment for her legs when Covid-19 took root in Bernalillo County. She was safely quarantined in a rehabilitation facility when it struck, but she remained patient when her brief stay turned into a months-long sequestration. This was very difficult for her, as she was used to the companionship of her family. Though she was isolated, she and her caregivers were mutually fond of each other, and her family made regular and frequent phone calls, video chats and window visits in a simulation of proximity. Tragically, the security precautions of the treatment center were breached after three months, and she tested positive for the coronavirus a mere day before she succumbed.
Aside from her immediate family, she is further survived by Cande Mackey and her husband Howard, and Minnie Jaramillo, as well as her beloved nieces and nephews and their children and her cousins and their families. She was preceded in death by two sisters and their spouses, Ercelia and Ruben Tafoya, Adelita and Ernest Salazar, as well as her brother in law Mel Jaramillo. Due to concerns for safety caused by Covid-19, interment is being postponed until a service might be possible at the Mount Calvary Cemetery and Mausoleum in Albuquerque. Arrangements by Daniels Family Funeral Services, 3113 Carlisle Blvd. NE, ABQ 505 884-1188.
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