By Lupita P. Gonzales
For the Optic
At the risk of applying a trite and ambiguous phrase to characterize Ted Maestas, one can assert that he has always been a “go getter.”
Ted was born in 1936, to Candido and Alicia Maestas and grew up on the family ranch in Maestas Canyon, along with his brother, the late Joe Maestas Jr.
Ted attended school in Rociada until the fourth grade, then proceeded to Las Vegas City Schools, where he attended Commerce Street Elementary, then Castle Junior High, and in 1952, Las Vegas High School, graduating in 1955.
But the transition from Maestas Canyon to Las Vegas would eventually provide a number of incentives for young Maestas.
“When we moved in from the ranch, one day we were riding our bikes near the Las Vegas High baseball field and heard some yelling, so we rode over to the sounds,” Maestas recalls. “A big man came up to us, took off his helmet and started running sprints. When he was done, he introduced himself to us — Leveo Sanchez. He was a football player at L.V.H.”
Sanchez would later become a successful businessman, world traveler and president of the Highlands University Board of Regents. A lecture hall on the Highlands campus bears Sanchez’s name.
“We became friends and still are, as of today,” Maestas says. “He has been very supportive of what I try to do for HU and the H Club program.”
While in high school, Ted played various sports — tennis, football and basketball. Ironically, as a future standout in college basketball at NMHU, Ted remembers that, in high school, “We were all B Squad — never had experience as varsity. We were playing against other teams that had played for three years, but once we got to know what we were doing, we kept up.” Ted’s 6-3 growth didn’t occur until he entered college.
He further reflects, ”We were not given the chance to play due to discrimination or favoritism, so I sat on the bench for years until I was a senior.”
‘Should have won district’
He recalls that during his senior year in high school in 1955, he finally got to play in the AA Conference District Tournament against Santa Fe High and Clayton.
“We should have won district that year, but we’d had a hard game the night before. That same year at the St. Mike’s Tourney at the College of Santa Fe (now known as the Capital City Tournament), we beat Valley High (Albuquerque). We got better with every game.”
Ted’s big break came when he was a senior. He was offered a basketball scholarship by NMHU. Ted was college material.
He recalls that Mary Fulgenzi, the high school counselor, urged him to take his college exams. He also credits his former coaches, Clemens and Robinson with helping him along the way.
Ted entered college after high school, and there he met everyone’s expectations that he would be a standout. From 1955 to 1959, Ted wowed the crowds with his athletic prowess. In fact, a yellowed snippet from a late ‘50s edition of The Las Vegas Daily Optic in Maestas’ scrapbook, features a sports story titled “Ted Maestas — One of Top Athletes at HU.” The sports story referred to Ted as “the lanky native of Las Vegas” and “a talented basketball player.”
Maestas completed his undergraduate work with a major in recreation and a minor in physical education in 1959. He later completed his master’s, also at HU.
He taught for 31 years, the first four years at Pecos Independent schools, three years with West Las Vegas, and the remaining 24 with Las Vegas City Schools. But Maestas was not idle in other areas.
“I rodeoed a lot from the ‘80s until 2010 — team roping and steer stopping and even won a few events in those areas.”
H Club inducts 140 members
Ted has also volunteered his time to various entities — serving on the Las Vegas City Schools board, and, more recently, spearheading the Highlands University H Club. The organization debuted in 2000 and has inducted 140 members between 2000 and 2012.
Mel Root, who died earlier this week, was the president for the first three years, with Ted serving as vice president. Since 2003, Ted has been president of the organization.
“I made a commitment to all my coaches and teammates that I would remain as president until our building is completed,” he said.
“Until now, the H Club home base has been at Wilson Complex, but as of now, the site will be in the lobby of Stu Clark Gymnasium,” Maestas added. “We have begun setting up. We painted the south wall with ‘Wall of NMHU National Champions.’ We have six members who have won in these categories — one in baseball, two in wrestling and three in track. Pictures will be displayed, and within the next two years, we will be able to display pictures of all the inductees, according to the sport areas. It will be in a hall — the Wall in a hall!”
Ranch comprises 160 acres
Meanwhile, back at the ranch — literally — Ted continues the upkeep of the family property in Maestas Canyon, a legacy that dates back to the 1800s, when Ted’s grandfather, Juan Climaco Maestas, after having settled in Santa Cruz, N.M., made a journey over the mountains and decided to settle in the area. He homesteaded the 160 acres under a land grant agreement to become accountable for paying taxes, raising food and livestock. Now, it’s Ted’s responsibility to keep the ranch going. He maintains both his and his late brother Joe’s sections, a total of 160 acres.
Ted quips, “People think I’m a millionaire when they come to the ranch, but I take care of it and keep it up to make it look presentable. The ranch is a lot of hard work—upkeep, irrigating—wild game break our fences….” He further contrasts the upkeep of the family property to all of his activities with the H Club, “ I love it because I can work at the house and never finish, but I come here, and I can complete something.”
Proud father of three
Ted lives at home with his wife, Magdalena. He is rightfully proud of his three children for having completed their college degrees.
Trish, his daughter from a previous marriage, is a teacher at West Las Vegas High School. Reynaldo is a musician and a recruiter for medical students at the University of New Mexico, and Julio works for New Mexico Health and Social Services in Belen.
Ted also boasts of his grandson, Jordan Guenther, who works at the Department of Tourism in Santa Fe.
In recent years, Ted has weathered a few physical setbacks, double bypass surgery, a knee replacement, stents to open up arterial blockage, but he’s still kicking, and kicking strong.
And what would Ted like to do in his “spare time?” He says he’d like to travel a little bit and enjoy life. Until then, though, he wants to make sure everyone knows that HU is very fortunate to have such a good president in James Fries and a good athletic director in Ed Manzanares.