Senior profile - Michael and Marlene Tenorio

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By Lupita Gonzales

At first glance, the travails of Michael and Marlene Tenorio might come across as a listing of poor grades on a report card, but this is not the context. It is a brief designation of the traits and forces that pervade Mike and Marlene Tenorio’s situation and inspire their own and others’ lives.


Their life together has been beset with seemingly insurmountable difficulties, but through their dedication, devotion and family, friends and faith, they have survived.
The family, residents of Camp Luna, have coped with recurring illnesses and have been bolstered through help from others.

Mike’s parents, Oclides Quintana and Santos Chavez Tenorio, originally hailed from Taos and Tucumcari, respectively, but met while students at New Mexico Highlands University. The Tenorios returned to Taos where they constituted the second generation of teachers in the family. Mike proudly noted that his grandparents and parents were educators, and that he carries the tradition into the third generation.

One of four siblings, Mike was born in Las Vegas in 1961, but as the family returned to Taos, he was educated there and graduated from Taos High School in 1980. His two sisters and a brother currently live in Albuquerque.

For a time, Mike felt a calling to become a priest, and attended the seminary for a while. As time went on, he decided to study chemistry and environmental science at Highlands. He earned his B.S. degree in 1987.

Marlene, the youngest of Luis and Lugarda Saiz’s 13 children (nine boys and four girls), was born in Vaughn in 1966. Her family originally came from Puerto de Luna.

She graduated from Santa Rosa High School in 1984, among the top 10 in her class.

She earned her B.A. from Highlands in business administration management in 1989.

Wasting no time, she went on to work on an MA in Public Administration.

First met at the bridge

So how did the two get together? Mike relates that although he and Marlene had known one another on campus, the telling moment was July 4, 1987. Having earned his degree, Mike wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted to do with his life. He had intended to return to Taos, but, still in Las Vegas, he decided to take in the Fiestas and was walking along Bridge Street, where by chance, Marlene, also, was on her way to the festivities at the park. They struck up a conversation, and in his words, “bonded immediately.”

Mike decided to stay in town for a while, looking around for a job. He found out there wasn’t much of a demand for an environmentalist, so he took on various side jobs,  “everything from carpet cleaning, dishwashing and working as a security guard.” On July 16, 1988, after their having met and “bonded,” during the Fiestas, they were wed at Puerto de Luna. Mike quipped, “I thought I was going to be a bachelor. I was 28 years old; she was 23.”

Daughter earns LPN

The couple has three children. Estrella, their oldest, recently earned her LPN at Luna and will be returning to college to work on her R.N. and a B.S. in nursing. Esteban has earned certification through the Culinary Arts program at Luna, and will pursue  an A.A. in the field. Enrico, the youngest, will be a junior at West Las Vegas this year.

Reflective of their parents’ direction and their own determination, all have excelled in their studies and have earned high status in their class standings. Mike indicates that he and his boys “eventually want to start a food truck or two, and ultimately a restaurant.”

Oversaw satellite programs

Marlene served as the director of the Hispano Chamber of Commerce for one year and subsequently was handicapped coordinator for Support Services at Highlands. She went on to a position as director of Adult Basic Education at Luna Community College in the early ‘90s, serving the northeast quadrant, which oversaw 13 satellite programs, until 2001.

Meanwhile, Michael had made his own headway into the educational arena, beginning as a full-time substitute teacher. It was here that Mike found his niche. He credits Ray Collins as his teaching mentor, citing Mr. Collins’s supportive statement, “Michael, you’re a natural teacher.” Thus, Michael became motivated and has been a teacher for 22 years. He has served 12 years at Valley Mid-School and the WLV Middle school about nine years.

Most of his focus has been science teaching, but he also has worked as head teacher, meaning that some of his time was directed toward assisting the administration. In addition, he served as football coach at Valley Middle School.

As a member of the New Mexico National Guard, first as a PFC and then as an NCO, Michael has provided instruction in military courses. In addition, from the late 90s until 2009, Mike worked with Upward Bound, a six-week summer program geared to providing foundational support for students who want to attend college.

In the interim, the difficulties began. In the mid-90s, Marlene was diagnosed with invasive lobular breast cancer, requiring chemotherapy. Subsequently, in 2001,she was diagnosed with neurological brain cavernous malformation hemangiomas (sacs of blood accumulating on the surface of the brain), and about a year and a half ago, it was found that the cancer had metastasized to her bones and that she was suffering from Stage IV bone cancer, necessitating intense chemotherapy.

Outpouring of help

Side-effects include a spine aneurism and loss of feeling on her left side. She currently uses a cane as a measure against falling.

Throughout all the obvious difficulties his wife has suffered, Michael has been a devoted partner, but the couple cites the outpouring of help from friends and family members, who would call and offer to drive Marlene to Santa Fe for her frequent radiation treatments.

For example, there were 17 days in a row of trips to Santa Fe for radiation treatment. Rather than Michael having to take time off work, family and friends would offer to take her. Both Mike and Marlene convey their heartfelt thanks for the support.

Strong Faith

As indicated, Michael felt a calling for the ministry in his youth. He and the family have followed this calling by becoming involved with the Youth Ministry at Immaculate Conception parish. Michael says that Father George Salazar is his spiritual mentor.

In addition, Marlene has been a member of the I.C. Catholic Daughters court. “We’re a very faithful family,” Michael asserts. “The faith, expectant faith. We leave everything in God’s hands and have basically accepted what the Lord wants to give us. We look forward to a life together in eternity.”