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Mora County Notebook: Wagon Mound native celebrates birthday

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By Ruth Fort

Zack Montoya, life- long resident of Wagon Mound, currently living in Albuquerque, celebrated his 100th birthday on this month. It was a grand birthday party with almost 200 family and close friends. Attendees came from as far as Hawaii, Tennessee, California, Colorado, Washington State and many communities of New Mexico.

He was surrounded by his four children, Carlos and his wife, Patti, Nora and her husband, Louis, Mary Ellen and Clara and her husband, Danny, his 11 grandchildren, including Trish, his primary care giver, his 23 great-grandchildren and his five great-great-grandchildren.

He was born in Wagon Mound on Nov. 5, 1913. His parents were Esequiel Montoya and Carlota Valdez Montoya. He was the second child of a family of 10 children. For awhile they lived on a ranch on the road to Roy and had animals and raised beans, corn and other crops.

They were self-sufficient excepting for a few luxuries like sugar, coffee, and clothing. They went to Wagon Mound to secure these items. When the crops were harvested they took beans, wool and so forth to pay their bills. All of the children had chores and worked hard and faithfully. This was a beginning of his work ethic.

He attended a one- room school for his early schooling. When Zack was about 8 years old, they moved back to Wagon Mound because the crops failed and they could no longer survive on the ranch.

He finished high school in Wagon Mound, graduating in 1933.

He married the love of his life, Eloisa, on Dec. 25, 1938, and they were married 74 years. They are still seen as a model couple, having worked 140 Marriage Enrichment Weekends all across the state.

Immediately upon high school graduation Zack began his long career as an educator with his first teaching job in Los Magotes. He taught in a one-room schoolhouse with children in grades first through eighth.

During his career he taught school, was a high school principal and retired in 1973 after serving as a superintendent for seven years.

Montoya served in the United States Army during World War II. In the Army he continued his educational career by teaching radar and English as a Second Language to his fellow soldiers. He was honorably discharged on Jan. 5, 1946.

He holds a bachelor of arts and master of arts degrees in education from the New Mexico Highlands University.

In 1973, he was inducted into the Northern New Mexico Educator’s Hall of Fame

In July of 2012, the Wagon Mound School Board of Education unanimously voted to name the district administration building the Zack and Eloisa Montoya Administration Building. The ceremony and unveiling took place on Sept. 3, 2012.

One of the many activities that Zack and his late wife, Eloisa enjoyed the most, besides spending time with their family, was traveling.

They traveled extensively in the United States and Canada. They also traveled to England, France, Germany Italy, Croatia, Costa Rica and several states in Mexico.

He was very involved in community organizations all of his life. He continued working for the community until recently.

He served on boards such as the policy board for the Health Centers of New Mexico and the Senior Citizens Centers.

Many organizations and people, especially Wagon Mound, have been blessed by his and his wife’s tireless generous work.

Today Zack enjoys reading the daily papers, completing word puzzles, watching television and visiting with family in Albuquerque, Los Lunas and Woodland Park, Colo.

He is a blessing to all.

Ruth Fort is a Mora County correspondent. She may be reached at (575) 387-6523 or ruthfortchacon@yahoo.com.