Taos County, New Mexico
Frances Mares Martinez

Living Treasures Story by Jerry A. Padilla , The Taos News, October 12, 2001

Whatever I have done in my life, I never expected this," said Frances Mares Martinez about being selected a Living Treasure. "In my life, I never wanted a reward for anything I've done to help others."

Frances Mares Martinez was born Jan. 21, 1915, in Taos. Her parents, Adolfo Maestas and Preciliana Griego Maestas were natives of Talpa, but Martinez is Taos born and raised.

Widowed twice, Martinez's first marriage was with the late Teodoro "Pope" Trujillo. This union was blessed with five children -- Pete R. Trujillo (Bernadette) of Taos, Ted G. Trujillo of Albuquerque, Ernesto A. Trujillo, deceased, Cecilia M. Trujillo of Seattle, and the late Frank F. Trujillo.

Her second marriage was to the late Laviano "Larry" Mares. Currently, Mares Martinez and husband Carlos Martinez still reside in Taos.

Even though Mares Martinez was busy with raising five children, she devoted her time also to several nieces, nephews, friends and neighbors and her community. She has been described by those who know her well as always smiling and maintaining positive attitudes about life. The door of her home has always been open to anyone who might drop by, whether it was to share a meal, or provide a place to stay for friends and relatives passing through. "At times, this meant giving up her own bed and joining those camping out on the floor, something she's known to occasionally still do," said daughter Bernadette Trujillo.

There have always been former students who moved away and returned years later to visit. When in Taos, they always manage to stop by, thanking Mares Martinez for all the times she was there for them, if only to listen or when they needed her advice. Some credit her with being instrumental in their own life success. One young man has told her, "When I lost my mother, you were like a mother for me." Another young lady said, "When we come to you with our problems, and because you sit and listen and never judge us, we always leave feeling better."

Mares Martinez said, "I owe a lot to the schools, the Town of Taos and the Phil Lovato Senior Citizen Center." She worked 23 years with the Taos schools, 21 of those as Food Services director. She supervised 26 women who comprised the cafeteria staff of seven schools in the district. Mares Martinez has the distinction of a 12-year span of perfect attendance during her career there. In the 1950s, she was also president of the Parent Teacher Association at Taos High and on the advisory committee for the board. Mares Martinez also used to help with "Summer Round Up," going around the community to sign up children for school who would be six years of age by September.

After retiring, Mares Martinez completed a course through the University of New Mexico to be a law advocate. She devoted time at the courthouse as a volunteer preparing wills, dealing with Social Security issues, and with referrals to help Taos area people four years. Volunteering became a way of life. She often took on the paperwork for food distributions through Human Services, and later at the Ancianos Center program. Mares Martinez served 25 years on the Sierra Vista Cemetery Board of Directors, and has been a board member of the Abuelitos and Retired Senior Volunteer Program. Working with former Mayor Phil Lovato among others, Mares Martinez helped get La Loma Plaza designated an official state historical site, and is actively involved in the beautification and maintenance of this historical zone. Having been appointed by Lovato to the Taos Historical Site Committee, she served on it four years. A member of the VFW Auxiliary Post 3259 of Taos for 32 years, she has served as president, secretary, chaplain and has been on the council. Other service included involvement with the local unit of Educational Retirees, for which she served as secretary and treasurer for 12 years. With the Association of Retired Persons, Taos Chapter, Mares Martinez was secretary six years and has been a volunteer with the Holy Cross Hospital Auxiliary several years. Mares Martinez has been recognized through the years for her service by the VFW, New Mexico Conference on Aging, and New Mexico Association of Educational Retirees.

At age 86, she still volunteers three days a week at the Ancianos Senior Center and has helped out there 23 years. Still active in the community, Mares Martinez explained she's "been fortunate to have gotten to work with the administrations of Taos mayors Garcia, Cantu, Lovato, Santistevan, Jeantete and Peralta."

Her advice to young people is: "Get along well and help one another. Show love and respect for everyone, and God should always be a part of your life."

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© Karen Mitchell