Thoughts on the Death of My Mother

My mother was a proud woman. She had royal blood in her veins, and could trace her roots back to the arrival in Santa Fe of Don Diego de Vargas and his conquistadores in 1693, and back before then to families in Spain with Coats of Arms and castles that can be visited today. There are streets and buildings around Santa Fe with her family’s names on them. The family’s art is in many of the historic building and several museums.

She learned tincraft at her grandfather’s knee, but wasn’t allowed to practice the art until she returned from her 3 years as a production line worker at an aircraft manufacturing plant in Southern California during World War II. She was petite enough to be sent down the fuselage of a Mitchell B-25 Bomber to hold the tail section while it were riveted in place. She left Santa Fe a small-town girl at 21 and returned a confident woman at 24.

She married my father, Toby Younis, Jr., a politician, entrepreneur and business man in 1947. They were a perfectly matched pair, she filled with energy and he with patience. Between 1948 and 1955 she gave birth to four children, three boys and one girl. I was the eldest. My brothers died too early in life, leaving my sister and I.

My father died in 1960 when I was 11, leaving my mother to raised the four of us, with much help from her brothers and sisters. She went back to work as a teacher, and I still run into people who remember her from their classes at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic School. She worked hard at her job and at producing her tinwork, and I don’t ever remember wanting for anything. There was always food on the table, clothes and shoes in the closet, and love and drama around our house on Cortez Street. We had normal Thanksgivings, Christmases and Easters. Somehow, she always managed to provide.

While I learned to fish, hunt and sell from my father, I learned the meaning and value of hard work from my mother.

It was during this period that she earned world renown and many awards for her tinwork. I’ve seen it all over the Southwest, and in museums in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, New York, Washington, DC and the Vatican.

In 1984, the Delgado’s were featured in an exhibit in the Governor’s Gallery at the State Capitol in Santa Fe. I happened to visit during the period, and I took my equipment and documented the exhibit in photos. One afternoon, recently, as she lay in her bed, she and I reviewed the images together, and she explained the provenance of each of the pieces representing several members and generations of the Delgado clan.

After I entered the military, and when I was in Viet Nam, she re-married. He was a barber, and, I thought, a bit rough around the edges, but she was happy.

She survived him, as well.

Between 1969 when I left and 2010 when I returned to New Mexico, we didn’t see much of each other. I was raising my family on the East Coast, and I’d come to visit for a long weekend every year and we’d talk regularly on the phone. But, it wasn’t the well-developed relationship that some mothers and sons have.

In 2010 I realized how close she was to her end, and I interviewed her on camera. Last night, I spent time reviewing some of the raw clips, shot in her tiny workshop in Santa Fe. It, more than just a documentary of her life, captures her personality, and her sense of self confidence.

Upon leaving the hospital after visiting my mother recently, my daughter, Sean and I discussed my relationship with my mother. I thought she encapsulated it perfectly when she said, “You never met her expectations as a son, and she never met your expectations as a mother.”

On the other hand, I loved her, and I always felt she loved me, as imperfect as was our relationship.

She had a wonderful relationship with my son, Jason. He, like her before him, sat at her knee to learn tincraft. He’s the tinsmith in the family; charismatic, talented and a wonderful teacher of the art, just as was my mother. Their bond was multifaceted.

And, she influenced my daughter Sean, an architect by training, to begin painting retablos. She, now, too, a talented artist and teacher. They, both, members in good standing of the Spanish Colonial Art Society in Santa Fe.

I tell people that the “art” gene passed right through me and into my children. I see my mother’s heart and hands in all of them.

My sister, Rita Anne, was my mother’s primary caretaker later in life. It was hard work, and I admire and respect her for it. I could never have been as committed as she was to the effort. I hope she finds some catharsis in this and makes the changes that will provide her a happy and healthy rest-of-her-life.

Angelina was 94, led a rich, textured, full and fruitful life, and was surrounded, at her death, by people who loved her. She was a good woman, a wonderful teacher, an amazingly talented artist, a loving wife and mother and she will be missed by many.

Especially me.

Goodbye, Mom.

Maria Solame Angelina Delgado Younis Martinez
Born: October 22, 1919
Died: November 10, 2013

My mother and I in her home in Santa Fe. This photo was taken in 2010.

My mother and I in her home in Santa Fe. This photo was taken in 2010.

She is survived by her children, Toby Michael Younis and Rita Anne Montano; her grandchildren, Jason Michael Younis, Sean Leigh Wells, Ryan Marie McGarry, Erica Rae Younis, Toby Renee Younis and Santos Montano; and her great grandchildren, Amanda Hope Younis, Courtney Leigh Younis, Phoenix Richard Wells and Griffin Anderson Wells.

Illa ut requiescant in pace.