Josephine Vigil Martinez, of Chimayo, NM, passed away on June 9, 2023, at the extraordinary age of 104. Whenever she was asked what the secret to her longevity was, she would reply, “practicing my faith, treating others as I want to be treated, and having a sense of humor sure doesn’t hurt!” Josephine was somewhat of a local celebrity having appeared in feature interviews for KOB TV News and the Santa Fe New Mexican. NBC’s Today Show commemorated her 104th birthday with a special Al Roker shout-out.
Josephine was born to Ildefonsa and Jose Manuel Vigil in Chimayo’s historic Plaza del Cerro on October 26, 1918. Her childhood was spent in the company of her grandparents, aunt and uncles in the Plaza and with her parents and beloved siblings in their Potrero home and Vigil Trading Post adjacent to El Santuario. In 1944, Josephine married Seledon C. Martinez and established a partnership of 64 years.
Josephine’s roots in the Plaza and Potrero communities ran deep. She enjoyed sharing her fondest memories and historical accounts of events and fascinating people she grew up knowing and of the simplicity and beauty of life in Chimayo. She supported the preservation of Chimayo’s history for future generations. This devotion to the village of Chimayo was recognized by the Chimayo Museum/Cultural Preservation Association in 2015 when she was honored as a Tesoro/Living Treasure of Chimayo.
Josephine built her life on a foundation of Catholic faith. At age 7, she became the youngest member of Chimayo's chapter of the women's religious society known as the Carmelitas de San Buena Ventura. At 104, she was the last remaining member. In 1934, Josephine attended high school at Loretto Academy in Santa Fe where she earned tuition by cleaning Loretto Chapel’s famous staircase and altar floors. Later on, Josephine’s service to the Chimayo church community included membership in the Holy Family Altar Society, Church Council, Coro de Nuestra Senora de Dolores, and as a volunteer for the Santiago Fiestas.
Josephine held several jobs over the years including office manager and bookkeeper for Santa Fe Builders Supply and as a secretary for the Rio Arriba County Schools and the Santa Fe County Superintendent’s Office. Her business skills were put to use when she and Seledon founded and operated Espanola Sporting Goods store on Riverside Drive. Her favorite work experience was as a teacher’s aide at John Hyson Educational Center in Chimayo where she taught math and Spanish and mentored students in grades 1-4. She was invested in student success and continued to stay in touch with many of them long after they left school. Josephine participated in local civic service by serving as an election official for Santa Fe and Rio Arriba Counties for over sixty years.
Josephine enjoyed many passions. She was well-known for having a ‘green thumb’ for growing fruits, vegetables, and flowering plants. People frequently called upon her for horticultural advice or brought her their fading plants knowing she could revive them. She enjoyed canning preserves and making jellies from every fruit imaginable. Her homemade bread loafs were a favorite at the family table. As the wife of a coach, she enjoyed attending basketball games at all levels and watching her favorite NBA players on TV. She was an avid collector of unique elephant figurines and coins; she enjoyed maintaining photo albums; she loved playing checkers and card games, and was enthralled by puzzles especially the most challenging ones depicting flowers and animals.
Above all else, her family was her greatest love and source of joy. She was a devoted wife and a patient, supportive, and loving mother who instilled values and a strong work ethic in her children. Once she became a grandmother, her grandchildren and great grandchildren became an endless source of pride. She supported each of their academic and athletic endeavors by attending as many of their events as she could.
Josephine was a thoughtful, gracious aunt, cousin and a loyal friend. She enjoyed her relationships with her many nieces, nephews, and Cundiyo first cousins. She was genuinely interested in their lives and the lives of their children. The many friendships she established through her lifetime were enduring ones and brought her camaraderie and much happiness. She never let a day pass by without making visits, placing phone calls, or writing letters to stay connected to each of them.
Josephine was preceded in death by her husband, Seledon C. Martinez; daughter, Patricia R. Holguin; son-in-law, Melvin J. Daniels; parents, Jose Manuel and Ildefonsa Ortega Vigil; maternal grandparents, Victor and Refugio Ortega; paternal grandparents, Longino and Gelacia Chavez Vigil; beloved aunt, Neria Ortega; sister, Elma, and brother-in-law, Robert Bal; beloved nephew, Frank Bal; brothers Modesto Vigil; Orlando and sister-in-law, Isabel Vigil; father and mother-in-law, Severo and Julianita Martinez; sisters and brothers-in-law, Juanita and Bonifacio Vigil, Fidelita and Fidel Martinez; Pulita and Roberto Vigil, Romie and Tony Martinez; Euralia and Victor Vigil and several nieces, nephews, and dear friends.
Josephine leaves behind her children, Cecilia J. Daniels, Seledon V. Martinez (Geri), and Valerie J. Martinez; grandchildren, Randy Martinez (Gloria), Rhonda Evenhus (Jeremy), Ana Lucia Holguin, Sergio Holguin (Tara); great grandchildren, Michaela and Marisa Martinez, Kyle and Lauren Evenhus, Ada Jae and Felix Holguin; maternal cousins, Victor R. and Benny Ortega; sister-in-law, Roberta Panebianco; sister and brother in-law, Susie and Abel Martinez; goddaughter, Lillian Holmes; numerous treasured nieces, nephews, fraternal first cousins, friends, and her beloved cat companions, Gizmo, Hazelita, and Lone Ranger.
Serving as pall bearers are Randy Martinez, Sergio Holguin, Jeremy Evenhus, Kyle Evenhus, David Vigil, Danny Vigil, Victor Vigil and Raymond Bal. Honorary pall bearers are her granddaughters, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews, first cousins, and cherished friends.
A heartfelt thank you to Ambercare and nurse, Trish Gonzales, for the loving care provided to Josephine and the support extended to the Martinez family.
Those wishing to do so, may honor Josephine by making a contribution of any size in her name to the Chimayo Cultural Preservation Association, P.O. Box 727, Chimayo, NM 87522.
A Public Viewing will take place at DeVargas Funeral Home on Monday, June 19, 2023, at 6:30 pm; followed by a Rosary which will be recited by the Guadalupanas from Chimayo at 7:00 pm. The Funeral Mass is scheduled for Tuesday, June 20, 2023, at 9:30 a.m. at Holy Family Parish in Chimayo, NM. On Tuesday, June 20, 2023, a Burial Service will take place at the Santa Fe National Cemetery in Santa Fe, NM, at 1:30 pm.
The family of Josephine Vigil Martinez has entrusted the care of their loved one to DeVargas Funeral Home & Crematory of the beautiful Espanola Valley. www.devargasfuneral.com 505-747-7477