Taos County, New Mexico
Ida Segura Martinez

Subtly, without fanfare, she enriched, changed lives of those around her
By Kathy Cordova, For The Taos News

"If any one person impacts your life -- all your life -- they must have done something worthy of talking and sharing. Ida Martinez did just that for many of us," said Bertha Quintana's letter of nomination for a Taos Unsung Hero.

"Ida already has the gratitude and love of many. I feel she deserves your special recognition. She should have her day because we have already had ours by her being there for us." Her honor took many years to become a reality. Although she continually gave to others, she never asked for recognition in return. For this reason, many feel her worthy of the Unsung Hero title.

Ida Segura Martinez was born Aug. 20, 1925, in Black Lake to Abendenago Segura and Eloisa Tafoya Segura. "I was born on a sheepskin rug at the hands of my great grandmother-midwife, Erinea Sandoval de Trujillo," said Ida, the third of five female siblings. She enjoyed life with sisters Amanda Selph (Cerro), Angela Williams (deceased), Marian Martinez (Black Lake) and Irene Sanchez (Albuquerque).

During her sophomore year at Taos High School, an event occurred that changed Ida's life. She met Onesimo G. ("O.G.," "Nemo" or "Polkas') Martinez. "It was love at first sight, and continues into eternity," she said.

Her husband was drafted into the U.S. Army and she remained in Taos to complete high school. She graduated with honors, but turned down a grant to attend New Mexico Highlands University "with never any regrets" in favor of marriage. The couple wed June 15, 1943, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Taos.

When O.G. returned home from the armed services, the couple moved to Arroyo Hondo, where they made their home. Motherhood always remained very important to Ida, and she began this phase of her life at age 18. Eventually, she had 12 children -- eight are still living, one is deceased and the final three were stillborn. "I was verbally abused by many," Ida said of those who criticized her frequent pregnancies. Questions her critics posed to her included: "How are you going to educate those children? And what if you die giving birth and leave them orphans?" "One woman doctor told me when I went for a prenatal exam, 'Get out of my office. If you persist in killing yourself having children, I don't want to have you as my patient.' She died many years ago and I'm still dancing," said Ida.

Educating the children proved not to be a problem. The youngsters benefited from the role model of a mother, as a former substitute teacher, a 4-H leader, teacher's aide for the Community Action Program and instructor for the GED programs.

Each of the Martinez children found career success through formal and informal education. The oldest, Andy, owns a welding and mechanic business and enjoys blacksmithing. Daughter Loretta Trujillo, a massage therapist, also house sits, restores furniture, upholsters, sews and is an interior decorator. Son Martín graduated with honors from New Mexico Highlands University. He owns an accounting firm and also plays mariachi and other types of music for weddings, private parties, funerals, etc. Daughter Imelda earned a master's degree in library science and works for the U.S. Navy in San Diego. Ana Maria also lives in San Diego. She received a degree from San Diego State University and enjoys the dual careers of interior decorating and a licensed real-estate broker. Son Diego received his degree from the College of Santa Fe. He lives in Tucson and works for American Airlines. Daughter Claudia Trujillo studies at intervals at UNM–Taos. Her busy life includes caring for the elderly, weaving, quilting, beading and other crafts. Son Onesimo III (Debbie), also known as "Crick," resides in Albuquerque. His career as a plumber, carpenter and construction worker provided him with the natural tools to build his own home. The 20 grandchildren and three great grandchildren keep their matriarch happily busy and proud. But Ida's outreach to others in the community is equally impressive.

When the Home Education and Livelihood Program (HELP) in Ranchos de Taos closed its doors, Ida opened a program at the old Holy Trinity Church in Arroyo Seco to help people learn about their homes and their culture. She obtained funding from VISTA to keep the program alive. Then, she collected used clothing for the purpose of teaching the clients how to weave beautiful "rag rugs" on weaving looms. This enabled all participants to complete projects, despite the high price of wool. When the church was declared unsafe, Ida met with the late Jack Boyer to move her weaving classes to the Hacienda de los Martinez. Today, she demonstrates and teaches weaving and quilting twice a week and participates in the annual Taos Trade Fair.

Ida helped others learn about upholstery as well. She took a flower-arranging class and this skill helped her to make bridal and bridesmaid dresses and flower arrangements and corsages for weddings. A stint as a Fashion 220 consultant afforded her the distinction of top salesperson. The "glamour job," as Ida refers to this vocation, gave way to assisting others.

The Community Against Violence agency appointed Ida to house abused children before the organization completed its current facility. "Sometimes, I would have to get up in the middle of the night or early morning to receive them. It was very rewarding for me," she said. Oftentimes, the Martinez home housed people in need and added these persons to their growing extended family.

It was no coincidence that the great granddaughter of a midwife developed a knowledge of herbs and natural cures. "Many a night, I was awakened by young mothers and grandmothers saying, 'Ida, my baby or young child has such and such. What can I do?' First, I prayed over the phone for the situation. I learned many techniques and home remedies from my great grandmother. I would tell the people how and with what to use to soothe the child. I have massaged my neighbors, bringing relief from pain. My hands and my heart ache with the need to touch any who suffer," she said.

Always mindful of crediting others, Ida quickly tells anyone who comments on her wide range of activities that she could never have accomplished the work without the help of her spouse. "Many times, O.G. would help with the children or around the house so I could do what I felt had to be done for others," she said.

Ida credits her ability to help others and her enchanted life to religion and strong belief. She attends daily Mass, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and has a 24-year membership in the La Luz de Cristo Prayer Group. She attends the annual Catholic Charismatic Conference in Albuquerque and Glorieta, served as a mayordoma (caretaker) at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Arroyo Hondo and remains always available to serve the church when she's needed. A large part of her spirituality includes her attitude toward death. "The two most beautiful experiences of my life are the death of my son, Dionicio (Dennis), Oct. 18, 1980, at 32 years of age, and the death of my husband, O.G., Dec. 28, 2000, at the age of 81." She knew the possibility of both instances, she said, but believes the relationships continue into eternity. At the time of her husband's death, Ida wrote a poem in his memory:

"What privilege.
What joy.
What grace.
What blessing to love you
And be loved by you.
"You are ever near me.
I feel your love and presence.
Everything we had together
Is still here. I carry on
Sustained by strength unfathomed."

Most of her poetry, religious in nature, serves as a source of enjoyment. She recently earned the Prometheus Muse of Fire Trophy from the poetry convention for her poem "The Church."

Bertha Quintana summed up the perfect conclusion to the Ida Martinez Unsung Hero distinction. "Ida has set an example of high standards for her family and her community with sincere and active involvement," she wrote. "She has demonstrated those actions that keep a family, as well as a community, together."

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© Karen Mitchell