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Senior profile - Rosalie Lopez

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She won’t sit still!

By Lupita P. Gonzales
For the Optic

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No doubt about it, Rosalie Lopez is a mover and a shaker. Her life story reads like a catalogue of activity that has taken her from her birthplace in Leeton, Mo. (“Mizzurah,”  as she pronounces it) then to Windsor, Mo., across to Kansas, then back to Warrensburg, Mo., all across New Mexico, and even to Montana and Las Vegas, Nev., eventually settling for good in our own Las Vegas. It’s an odyssey, no doubt.

Born June 10, 1938, to Harry and Audra Burdell Cooper Baker, Rosalie was the youngest of four siblings — Danny Ferguson, Harriet, Virginia and Rosalie.

“Dad was a farmer at heart and a banker by trade. Mom worked at a telephone company,” Rosalie recalls. She giggles as she shows off her parents’ wedding certificate which has her mother’s birthplace listed as Albuquerque, Mexico.

The Bakers left Leeton when Rosalie was 2 years old. (She  admits that she signs everything as Rosalie, but people call her Rosie). From Leeton, the family went to Windsor. Her father was assigned to an Air Force base there. The family then moved on to Tonganoxie, Kan., where they had a dairy farm for a year and a half. From there, Mr. Baker’s work moved the family to Warrensburg. By that time, Rosalie was in the fourth grade. After graduating high school in 1956, Rosalie enrolled at the University of Central Missouri where she earned her degree in elementary education in 1961.

That same year, Rosalie married Murray Kugler, and the couple moved to Lordsburg, N.M. “I liked it there,” she said. Murray then took a job in Grants in 1966, teaching social studies. Rosalie enjoyed that jaunt, “I was just a mom,” she says. Then another teaching job moved the Kuglers, to Rexford, Mt. from 1966 to 1969. Then in 1969, the family moved to Las Vegas, N.M., where Mr. Kugler worked as a history graduate assistant at Highlands University.

The marriage dissolved after about 15 years, but the couple’s sons are a testament to the strong foundation laid by their parents. Their four sons are Danny, now an expert reliability engineer for Hewlett-Packard; Darren, a district judge in Doña Ana County (NM); Chris, an archaeologist in Sanger, Texas; and Barry, retired Air Force, now working at the Las Vegas Post Office.

Rosalie began to make her own trail, at first, working at the Bank of Las Vegas in 1969-70 as secretary to Gary Lawrence for a year. From 1970-71 she went back to teaching for a year at Valley Elementary School.

“I loved it in the Valley,” Rosalie said. Engaging in a bit of switcheroos, Rosalie returned to the bank as secretary to the president in ’72 and ‘73, and then she took a job teaching fourth grade at Villanueva. But Rosalie wasn’t sitting still.

She went on to Highlands and earned her master’s degree in educational administration and reading instruction.

In November 1975, Rosalie married Jose Lopez, who was born in Trujillo, N.M.

The couple lived in West Las Vegas and later moved near the County Fair Grounds. Their sons, Ramon and Carlos, were born in 1977 and 1979, respectively. Ramon now works as sports information officer at Highlands, and Carlos is a mail carrier for USPS.

Rosalie, meanwhile, took off from teaching, returning to school to earn her certification in early childhood education at Highlands. From there, she took on various assignments at Trementina Elementary, and she taught there from 1985 to 1990, when the school — the last K-8 school in New Mexico boasting such an arrangement — closed.

That didn’t stop Rosalie.

In 1990-91, Rosalie transferred to West Las Vegas Middle School while her husband occupied the position of West superintendent. She worked as a Title I reading instructor, then transferred to Don Cecilio Martinez Elementary, where she worked in 1997-98. Not done yet, Rosalie served as the middle school librarian at Tucumcari. Rosalie’s life was to take another turn in 1998, when Mr. Lopez’ health began to fail and they moved to Las Vegas, Nev. There, Rosalie took a position with the Clark County Schools as reading specialist at Helen Herr Elementary.  

Rosalie and Jose moved back to New Mexico in 2001, settling in Deming.

Mr. Lopez passed away in 2003, but Rosalie remained in the area for about three more years, crediting her son, Darren, for the support he gave her.

Darren — first a technical writer and after finishing law school acting as an assistant district attorney in Luna County — was there for Rosalie for about four years, while she did bilingual substitute teaching and volunteer work as a docent in the Deming schools.

Rosalie returned to Las Vegas around 2006. She refers to her activity as her “yo-yo existence.” She subsequently took on a position in Pecos for about four months, moving on to work as a legal assistant for attorney Ben Mondragon for about a year. She then moved on to Rio Gallinas School working as a part-time reading teacher and in the after-school program

Was Rosalie done yet? ... Not at all! Around 2008, Rosalie became active in various local humanitarian activities. She served on the Samaritan House board and was active in Habitat for Humanity. She developed an interest in the First Born task force, a group of 25 individuals who eventually established the program in October of 2011.

First Born is a home visitation service for first-time parents. The program is free and offers support through home visitation. Supporters visit the homes, provide curriculum for the parents in the area of early childhood development. Rosalie punctuates the fact that First Born is now active in 15 counties. Information can be found at www.Firstborn Program.org.

But, golly, everyone needs some off-time, right? Well, yes, Rosalie’s off time takes the form of a number of activities

She’s into quilting, so she has taken a class at Luna and works with 4-H quilting and Silver Threads. She and her group not only create admirable conventional quilts, but also other handiwork, such as quilted wall hangings, jackets, etc.

More off-time activity, Rosalie? Of course! Back in the 1980s, she began work with the Samaritan House board and later in 2008 she returned to work with the board, helping develop the Second Soup Kitchen held at the United Methodist Church, resigning in March of 2013. She has served as Deacon and with the Mission and Peacemaking Committee, Bell Choir and the Church School at the First United Presbyterian Church.

“For fun? I have grandchildren — that’s fun!,” she says. “I have eight grandchildren with the ninth, a girl, due this Wednesday.” She also has seven great-grand children, and some of them are older than the grandchildren.

She’s working on storybooks for the family now, “Creative Memories,” she calls them, personal stories.

Rosalie does not spend too much time on the Internet. She reads a lot, she says, but is worried that not enough parents today read with or to their children. “Spoken as a true former teacher/librarian,” she quips. And last, but certainly not least, she says, “I don’t ever sit still.”